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Your Government In Action
post Dec 21 2005, 08:28 PM
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QUOTE (JRehling @ Dec 21 2005, 02:48 PM)
I allow that what stars are, and what object the Earth orbits are now basic life facts. The presence of Moon craters is not, any more or less than the top ten fashion designers active today comprise a basic life fact. Nor is it a basic life fact how many galaxies there are (even that there are more than ten).

I think a basic Internet truism is that you know you have a good argument when people argue against some trumped-up version of what you are saying instead of what you have actually said.
I am reminded of an episode of thirtySomething in which a successful adult remembered the "city gang" members at his school, and what it was like when they were all 15 years old. He said, "I got to be Class President and they got to have sex." Don't be so sure that all of the city gang members are missing life while all of the Class Presidents are experiencing life fully.

Pretend for a moment that astronomy and academia are the world you live on, and consider visiting other people's worlds, not just as you see them from 35,000,000 km away.

You know that interest in astronomy and space science is still a minority in this world. Which is even more ironic when you realize how vast the Universe is compared to us wee little bugs on one tiny little dust mote.

And if you are concerned about some of us not having any interests or knowledge beyond those two fields, fear not. I have many interests, but this forum is focused on space, so that is what I discuss (mainly). And as far as I am concerned, the Universe and all its implications are most important for humanity in terms of our survival and growth. As Richard T. said, when I hear someone spouting ignorance about the Cosmos, I am saddened, not amused.

As for the fear of what science ignorance could bring for society, read this quote from George Orwell's 1984 between Winston Smith and O'Brien:

'But you do not! You are not even masters of this planet. What about Eurasia and Eastasia? You have not conquered them yet.'

'Unimportant. We shall conquer them when it suits us. And if we did not, what difference would it make? We can shut them out of existence. Oceania is the world.'

'But the world itself is only a speck of dust. And man is tiny helpless! How long has he been in existence? For millions of years the earth was uninhabited.'

'Nonsense. The earth is as old as we are, no older. How could it be older? Nothing exists except through human consciousness.'

'But the rocks are full of the bones of extinct animals -- mammoths and mastodons and enormous reptiles which lived here long before man was ever heard of.'

'Have you ever seen those bones, Winston? Of course not. Nineteenth-century biologists invented them. Before man there was nothing. After man, if he could come to an end, there would be nothing. Outside man there is nothing.'

'But the whole universe is outside us. Look at the stars! Some of them are a million light-years away. They are out of our reach for ever.'

'What are the stars?' said O'Brien indifferently. 'They are bits of fire a few kilometres away. We could reach them if we wanted to. Or we could blot them out. The earth is the centre of the universe. The sun and the stars go round it.'

Winston made another convulsive movement. This time he did not say anything. O'Brien continued as though answering a spoken objection:

'For certain purposes, of course, that is not true. When we navigate the ocean, or when we predict an eclipse, we often find it convenient to assume that the earth goes round the sun and that the stars are millions upon millions of kilometres away. But what of it? Do you suppose it is beyond us to produce a dual system of astronomy? The stars can be near or distant, according as we need them. Do you suppose our mathematicians are unequal to that? Have you forgotten doublethink?'

Winston shrank back upon the bed. Whatever he said, the swift answer crushed him like a bludgeon. And yet he knew, he knew, that he was in the right. The belief that nothing exists outside your own mind -- surely there must be some way of demonstrating that it was false? Had it not been exposed long ago as a fallacy? There was even a name for it, which he had forgotten. A faint smile twitched the corners of O'Brien's mouth as he looked down at him.

'I told you, Winston,' he said, 'that metaphysics is not your strong point. The word you are trying to think of is solipsism. But you are mistaken. This is not solipsism. Collective solipsism, if you like. But that is a different thing: in fact, the opposite thing. All this is a digression,' he added in a different tone. 'The real power, the power we have to fight for night and day, is not power over things, but over men.'

The entire novel is online here:


If you think this is an exagerration or paranoia, just see some of the recent news.

"After having some business dealings with men, I am occasionally chagrined,
and feel as if I had done some wrong, and it is hard to forget the ugly circumstance.
I see that such intercourse long continued would make one thoroughly prosaic, hard,
and coarse. But the longest intercourse with Nature, though in her rudest moods, does
not thus harden and make coarse. A hard, sensible man whom we liken to a rock is
indeed much harder than a rock. From hard, coarse, insensible men with whom I have
no sympathy, I go to commune with the rocks, whose hearts are comparatively soft."

- Henry David Thoreau, November 15, 1853

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Guest_Richard Trigaux_*
post Dec 21 2005, 08:40 PM
Post #32


Thanks ljk4-1 for alway quoting interesting science articles!
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post Dec 21 2005, 09:23 PM
Post #33

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QUOTE (Richard Trigaux @ Dec 21 2005, 12:11 PM)
????? blink.gif ??? blink.gif  I must confess I am a bit lost in your argumentation, and I especially don't see where is the point.

It's odd, then, that you have been trying to rebut what I am saying.

I'm saying that people are listing long complaints of all of the astronomical trivia that regular people often don't know. And while the lists include some very basic things, they also include things that, honestly, it is not important that every person know. Great if they do, fine if they don't.
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post Dec 22 2005, 02:48 PM
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Boys - dont make me come in here!!! I've delted a few posts that were all rant-like and silly.


Doug (with stern look on face)
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post Dec 23 2005, 11:34 AM
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I thought that JRehling was reacting to the faintly smug attitude of some of the posts earlier in the thread. My grandmother had only the vaguest idea what a star was, but I didn’t consider her an idiot.
Admittedly, for a politician to think Neil Armstrong landed on Mars is pretty sad, but not necessarily more disturbing than for one (nobody specific, you understand) to believe the earth is 6000 years old.
But on the subject of ignorant politicians, my homeland of New Zealand once had a Prime Minister (one George Forbes) who insisted during a cabinet meeting that two-thirds of something was more than three-quarters. And this was during the Great Depression, when it would have been helpful to have a leader who understood basic arithmetic…
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