Knowledge is preferable to ignorance.
“Long ago, when an early galaxy began to pour light out into the surrounding darkness, no witness could have known that billions of years later some remote clumps of rock and metal, ice and organic molecules, would fall together to make a place called Earth. Or that life would arise, and thinking beings evolve who would one day capture a bit of that galactic light and try to puzzle out what had sent it on it’s way…
We can recognize here a, shortcoming, in some circumstances serious, in our ability to understand the world. Characteristically, willy-nilly, we seem compelled to project our own nature on to nature. Man in his arrogance, thinks himself a great work worthy of the interposition of a deity. Darwin wrote telegraphically in his notebook “More humble, and I think truer, to consider him, created from animals.”
We emerged from microbes and muck. Apes are our cousins. Our thoughts and our feelings aren’t fully under our own control. There may be much smarter and very different beings elsewhere. And on top of all this, we’re making a mess of our planet and becoming a danger to ourselves. The trapdoor beneath our feet swings open, we find ourselves in bottomless free fall. We are lost in a great darkness and there’s no one to send out a search party.
Given so harsh a reality of course we’re tempted to shut our eyes and pretend that we’re safe and snug at home, that the fall is only a bad dream. If it takes a little myth and ritual to get us through a night that seems endless, who among us cannot sympathize, and understand. We long to be here for a purpose even though, despite some self deception, none is evident.
The significance of our lives and our fragile planet is then determined only by our own wisdom, and courage. We are the custodians of our life’s meaning. We long for a parent to care for us, to forgive us our errors, to save us from our childish mistakes. But knowledge is preferable to ignorance. Better by far, to embrace the harsh truth, than a reassuring fable.
Modern science has been a voyage into the unknown. With a lesson in humility at every stop. Our common sense intuitions can be mistaken. Our preferences don’t count. We do not live in a privileged reference frame. If we crave some cosmic purpose, then let us find ourselves a worthy goal.”
– Carl Sagan (1934 – 1996)