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Digital Subscriptions > Skeptic > 24.1 > Why the Human- Centered View Has Not Served us Well

Why the Human- Centered View Has Not Served us Well

“Humanity takes itself too seriously. It is the world’s original sin.” —Oscar Wilde

“Only the scientific view of the world corresponds closely to reality; the anthropocentric worldview is mostly just fantasy: piety in the sky.” —S. Jonathan Singer

COPERNICUS AND GALILEO STARTED THE unintentional scientific assault on humanity’s arrogant sense of self-importance in the universe by showing that the Sun was the center of our solar system, not the Earth, and that all the planets orbit it. We are not the center of movement of these neighboring bodies, as religious dogma held. Later, the stars were shown to be separate suns, most smaller, but some much larger than our own, and existing at distances beyond human imagining. With observations using more powerful telescopes, the known size of our galaxy grew, along with the understanding that our meager star system was far from the center of our Milky Way Galaxy. Later still, Edwin Hubble made the even more startling and humbling discovery that our galaxy was not “the universe”, but was instead only one of countless other galaxies, each consisting of hundreds of billions of suns.

As Bill Nye said during a presentation I attended a few years ago: “I now realize that I am a speck, standing on another speck, orbiting yet another speck.” Another recent assault from astronomy on our inflated sense of importance in the universe came with the Hubble space telescope photo known as the Hubble Deep Field. This photo was made over 10 days using 342 exposures for a total of 100 hours of exposure time on a dark area of sky just above the base of the “handle” of the Big Dipper. The area focused on was an area of sky covered by a dime held at 75 feet from the viewer. This spot was chosen because there are no visible stars in this spot of sky, even when viewed by medium-sized land based telescopes. The finished photo, however, was filled with some 3,000 very distant galaxies, each one containing hundreds of billions of stars. And now, the Kepler space telescope has discovered that most of the stars in our galaxy have planets. In short, the number of suns and planets in the universe is far beyond human comprehension, as is the size of the universe we inhabit. We are indeed specks in this vast expanse of space and matter. I can now no longer view the Big Dipper without being reminded of this fact.

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BEHE’S LAST STAND COLUMNS The SkepDoc: Is Low-Dose Radiation Good for You? The Questionable Claims for Hormesis, by Harriet Hall, M.D. • The Gadfly: Define Your Terms (or, Here we Go Again), by Carol Tavris ARTICLES Making Gasoline from Water: John Andrews and the Invention of a Legend • Online Gaming: A Virtual Experiment in the Dark Side of Human Nature • Duped by Data Mining • How Science Will Explain and Fix Fake News • The Cult of Falun Gong: A Dance Troupe and Victimhood Raises Big Money • The Opioid Epidemic Misunderstood • Why the Human-Centered View Has Not Served us Well • Behe’s Last Stand: The Lion of Intelligent Design Roars Again • Straw Man on a Slippery Slope: The Case Against the Case Against Postmodernism • A Disproof of God’s Existence REVIEWS Reviews of: The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting Up a Generation for Failure; The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe: How to Know What’s Really Real in a World Increasingly Full of Fake; Investigating Ghosts: The Scientific Search for Spirits; Bunk: The Rise of Hoaxes, Humbug, Plagiarists, Phonies, Post- Facts, and Fake News; Hoax: A History of Deception: 5000 Years of Fakes, Forgeries, and Fallacies; Truth’s Fool: Derek Freeman and the War Over Anthropology JUNIOR SKEPTIC Quest for the Truth about Dungeons and Dragons