Monday, June 27, 2022

Dinosaur Thinking.

I finished reading a strange book late last week, just a day or two before the Supreme Court decided that domain over a person's body doesn't belong to that person if that person is a woman. 

The book was called The Monster's Bones and you can order it here.

While the book was interesting on many levels, most interesting--and most high-level--from my point of view was its look at a world when major new evidence emerges that upsets how the mass of people have thought of that world and what they believed for millennia.

That may encapsulate the period we're living through now. New learning, new evidence, new conclusions have been revealed. That newness upsets the dominant complacency. Therefore a good portion of our planet rebels against it.

I'll try to clarify that.

Strange as it seems to us now, there was no conception in the world of dinosaurs until about the early 19th Century. The world as we westerners knew it was a world defined by a book of myths and legends and propaganda we call the Bible.

That Bible said, man (not hu-man) had dominion over Earth. That man was created in god's image. And that man, therefore was perfect. God, being perfect made man perfect. God wouldn't have made creatures before man and they wouldn't have died out, because as Einstein said, and I misuse it here, "God does not play dice with the universe." That is, why would god create something, only to kill it off?"

Around 1830, miners in the United Kingdom and farmers in the peat bogs began uncovering giant bones of never-before-seen creatures. Were they dragons? Giant forerunners of the ox? What were the skeletons of sea creatures doing hundreds of miles from the sea?

A reappraisal was coming.

We knew nothing, 200 years ago, about plate tectonics, continental drift, and we determined the age of our planet (to the exact day) by following hints in the Bible. The best thinkers believed our planet was about 10,000 years old. They were off by a factor of 4.5 million.

In fact, the very word dinosaur wasn't coined more than 175 years ago. Because they simply didn't exist.

Soon, finding those bones, led to more bones. And those led to more bones. Paleo-paleontologists reconstructed the bones. Giant statuary made it to the Crystal Pavillion in London. Natural History museums in the great cities of the western world were on an arms race--or a femur's race--competing for bones that would attract viewers to their exhibits.

Along the way, Darwin raised his hand. We weren't divinely created, he showed. We evolved.

As seminal as Copernicus supplanting the thinking of Ptolemy, mankind's place in the universe had the rug pulled out from it. We were no longer First, Only, Best. We were just next.

That's mind-blowing.

Much of our world still hasn't adjusted to all this non-bible, science stuff. They want their orderly universe back. White European men on top. Everyone else making those men rich.

The point for me and you to think about is how as a species we react to new ideas.

Imagine if you were digging in your garden one morning and found a basketball-sized glowing orb. You take it to a university. There, scientists discern that it's made of elements they've never seen before and they date it to ten-billion years ago. How would you take the un-trueing of everything you've ever known? How would you take finding out humans are just one more set of sentient beings in the universe? 

That's what we're dealing with now. 

Much of our world doesn't accept that they are no longer preeminent.

A giant swath of the world who believes, still, that most of the world was ordained by god, according to press-releases written by agents of god (the apostles.) They set things up millennia ago as TRUE. And the final and irrevocable word.

For many in the United States, that final and irrevocable word comes from the Bible or the Constitution. Nothing we've learned in the intervening years can undo the wisdom of those texts. To not abide by god's word is the devil's work. 

That's what we're dealing with now.

People who want the comfort of old absolutes against the frenzy of modern, and constant, discovery.

There are many today who regard The Flintstones as historically accurate. There were many, not long ago, who ratiocinated the death of the dinosaurs by saying 'they were so large, Noah couldn't get them on the Ark.'

The great scientist, university professor and writer Vaclav Smil wrote something I read the other day. I have the intellectual hubris to expand upon it.

I'm not an optimist or a pessimist. I'm a scientist.

I'm not a conservative or a liberal. I'm fact-based.

I'm not set. I am fluid. I decided based on science and facts.

That, I think, is enlightenment thinking.

Not theocratic thought, based on the illusion of a deity.

It's I think, therefore I am.

Not, I'm told, therefore I believe.


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