Boxing Pythagoras

Philosophy from the mind of a fighter

Archive for the tag “astronomy”

On the Origin of Intelligence

Quite often, in recent months, I have found myself caught in the middle of heated debates between proponents of special human creation, on the one hand, and astronomical optimists, on the other, in regards to the existence of intelligent extraterrestrial life. Proponents of special human creation quite often argue that human consciousness and intelligence could not possibly have arisen naturally, that it is impossible for such things to be properties of solely physical processes, and that they are therefore justified in claiming that it is entirely inconceivable that intelligent extraterrestrial life could exist in the universe. You can find this view very commonly espoused by Young Earth Creationists, Old Earth Creationists, and Intelligent Design proponents, alike (for example, check out this recent article by noted Young Earther, Ken Ham). On the opposite side of the fence, you’ll quite frequently hear both amateur and professional astronomy enthusiasts proclaiming that the physical cosmos is so inordinately vast that it is absolutely inconceivable that intelligent extraterrestrial life doesn’t exist in the universe. Such advocates often spout off statistics regarding the number of stars in the observable universe, facts about the abundance of the primary chemical building-blocks of life, and various iterations of the Drake Equation.

Almost invariably, I find myself getting yelled at by both sides of these arguments, because I disagree with both of their positions.

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Star Light, Star Bright

Stars are not just static, twinkling lights in the sky, as Mankind thought in antiquity. Stars are giant, dynamic balls of plasma, nuclear furnaces which are constantly changing and churning. Stars have a “life cycle,” much akin to what we find in organisms on Earth: they are born, they mature, they grow, and they eventually die. A star’s light is not just a constant, unchanging beam pointed at the Earth. Starlight tells a story. It communicates to us tales about the life of that star, every photon like one letter in a massive epic poem.

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A Short Review of “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey”

The first episode of “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey” aired, last night, on FOX.  The show, hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson and produced by Ann Druyan and Seth Macfarlane, is a 21st Century re-imagining of Carl Sagan’s incredible effort to bring science to the general public. I have been very excited for this premiere since I first heard whisperings that a new “Cosmos” was in the works, and I am very glad to say that I was not disappointed.

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