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Looking to Heaven for the Answers

by Noah Lugeons

The other night I was standing on my back porch and glancing up at the thumbnail moon.  New York City is likely the worst place in the world to live for an astronomy buff, but on a clear night we still get eight or nine visible stars.  I glanced from the moon to one of them and I found myself in a familiar reverie.

I don’t know what star I was looking at or how far away it was, and odds are that if it was bright enough to see through the New York light pollution it was way too big to harbor intelligent life, but I found myself imagining it anyway.  Perhaps there was a tiny ball of rock floating around that distant star that had at least the first dustings of unicellular organism.  Perhaps spinning around that celestial furnace was the answer to whether or not we are alone in the universe.

And of course, perhaps there was more.  Perhaps this star was home to some intelligent species; one that might have grown elsewhere and now colonized a small patch of atmosphere somewhere around the point of light I was glancing up at.  In fact, it’s possible that on their way to my eyes, those exact photons had passed right by some being with an intellect I cannot fathom.

Floating around that star or some other there might be a species that has figured out the cure for illness, the secrets of interstellar travel, the antidote to war.  Perhaps when our ancestors lifted their eyes to the Milky Way and hoped for knowledge,  the knowledge was actually up there to be found.

Theist or atheist, we all look to heaven for the answers.  Science has a better track record of actually finding them so I’ll bet on them.  But I often think of these reflections when religious people claim that science robs you of your sense of wonderment.  When I look to the heavens, I’m in no less awe than they.

  1. Derrick
    June 14, 2013 at 4:09 PM

    I think the most amazing part of staring at the stars is realizing that you’re looking millions or billions of years into the past. The life that exists around that star you’re staring at may be there at this exact moment, but the light you’re staring at is old enough that you may be looking at the planet when it only had sludge with life-like particles in it.

    Or maybe you’re looking at a civilization that went extinct 300 million years ago but you’re looking at them as though they exist right now.

    Of course, the reverse is also true. There may well be intelligent life out there right now, and they may very well be looking at us trying to figure out if our planet holds intelligent life. But if they’re 65 million light-years away, they’re going to be looking at dinosaurs.

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