In Saturday’s and Monday’s DMs, we heard from scientist Marcelo Gleiser how, “Exoplanet discoveries reveal Earth’s profound rarity in the cosmos.” After studying about 1/3 of the known exoplanets in our solar system, Earth stands out as “a rare gem.”
In response to that DM, I heard from astrophysicist Joel Primack who, with his wife Nancy, wrote the excellent book, The View from the Center of the Universe: Discovering Our Extraordinary Place in the Cosmos. Together they also authored The New Universe and the Human Future: How a Shared Cosmology Could launch a Global Society, which draws lessons for human behavior from the new cosmology. Joel wrote:
I did some research a couple years ago showing that Earth is rare in a previously unknown way: Earth has just the right amount of radioactive heating from thorium and uranium radioactive decay! *
He sees the “Goldilocks principle” alive and well in this instance of Earth’s condition as well.
I happily include some of their striking observations in the chapter on “Father Sky” in my book on redefining healthy masculinity. What they share there also fills me with awe. How ours is “the midpoint of time for our solar system”—our sun is about five billion years old and within six billion years will grow hotter, expand and burn Earth to a crisp.
The most distant galaxies “are disappearing over the cosmic horizon” and even with advanced telescopes, future humans “will never be able to see as many galaxies as we can see now.”
Furthermore, the size of a human being is just right for the task at hand. Humans are “at the center of all the possible sizes in the universe” because creatures much smaller than we are could not have sufficient complexity for our kind of intelligence…but intelligent creatures could not be much larger than we are either.
We humans are significant–even “special”–in the universe. Special for our size, special for our intelligence and creativity, and special for the time in the history of the universe in which we are living. (Of course we are also special for the amount of havoc we can wreak, otherwise known as evil.)
*Tim Stephens, “Radioactive elements may be crucial to the habitability of rocky planets,” UC Santa Cruz News Center, November 10, 2020.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine, pp. 10-13.
See also, Fox, Hildegard of Bingen, A Saint For Our Times.
Banner Image: Pictorial message placed aboard Pioneer 10 (1972) and Pioneer 11 (1973) in case either spacecraft was intercepted by extraterrestrial beings. Created by NASA; vectors by Oona Räisänen (Mysid); designed by Carl Sagan & Frank Drake; artwork by Linda Salzman Sagan. Public Domain. Wikimedia Commons.
Queries for Contemplation
Your thoughts on the “Rare Gem” of our Earth and on the “specialness” of humanity, positive and negative? (And of course this is not to deny the specialness of all the other creatures we share Earth with and how together, as a “web of creation”—Hildegard’s words–we interact together.)
The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine
To awaken what Fox calls “the sacred masculine,” he unearths ten metaphors, or archetypes, ranging from the Green Man, an ancient pagan symbol of our fundamental relationship with nature, to the Spiritual Warrior….These timeless archetypes can inspire men to pursue their higher calling to connect to their deepest selves and to reinvent the world.
“Every man on this planet should read this book — not to mention every woman who wants to understand the struggles, often unconscious, that shape the men they know.” — Rabbi Michael Lerner, author of The Left Hand of God
Hildegard of Bingen, A Saint for Our Times: Unleashing Her Power in the 21st Century
Matthew Fox writes in Hildegard of Bingen about this amazing woman and what we can learn from her.
In an era when women were marginalized, Hildegard was an outspoken, controversial figure. Yet so visionary was her insight that she was sought out by kings, popes, abbots, and bishops for advice.
“This book gives strong, sterling, and unvarnished evidence that everything – everything – we ourselves become will affect what women after us may also become….This is a truly marvelous, useful, profound, and creative book.” ~~ Andrew Harvey, author of The Hope: A Guide to Sacred Activism.