Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Obergefell v. Hodges

Obergefell v. Hodges is the name of the same-sex marriage case heard by SCOTUS today, April 28th, 2015.

On this, the day that the Supreme Court of the United States heard oral arguments about the “right” of Same-Sex Marriage, I thought two new thoughts.  But before I speak them, I want you, my reader, to be crystal clear where I stand.  One, I am 100% with the proponents of the right to same-sex marriage who want to be treated the same as traditional marriage couples in civil law, as it does no harm to anyone to allow them to share this “right” with opposite-sex couples.  And, two, this issue does not seek gay access to religious marriages; churches or congregations may continue to do as they want – let them marry gay couples or let them not marry gay couples – let them have their own internal struggles with this issue, and I am sure that many churches and surely many more congregations will fracture over this “right.”  So be it.  There you have it, FOR same-sex marriage in its CIVIL sense only, and FOR the freedom of religious institutions and religious practitioners to continue to discriminate (is this really a Christian thing to do?) against gays at the same time.  I am not threading the needle, I am NOT having it both ways, but no one is asking for private non-discrimination, only governmental non-discrimination.  If you, dear reader, think I am wrong, prove it; show me with a citation of a legal action to compel a church to officiate and/or to recognize a same-sex marriage.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

SETI – The Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence

OK, this short blog post is a reality check.  “Are we really alone?”  Is Earth-based humanity the only intelligent species in the whole universe?  OK, we are pretty sure that we will find life – elemental life, single-celled life – pretty nearby and soon, on Mars, on one or more of Jupiter's or Saturn's moons.  But how about intelligent life, more intelligent than us – from whom we might learn SO much that would solve SO many human problems – how about really intelligent life?

Some scientists and some non-scientists like to imagine that there are a million planets harboring intelligent life forms, more intelligent than us.  What about THAT?  Let’s do the Math.*  If you spread these one million planet civilizations evenly or randomly across our observable universe, what you get is one planet civilization 200,000,000 light years away from its closest neighbor.  Two hundred million light years away from each other!  We can barely detect these civilizations’ galaxies with our best telescopes, and what we can see happened 200 million years ago, so even radio communication is out of the question.

But maybe there is one next door, close by.  OK, maybe, why not?  You better hope that they’ll be friendly, and scientifically inclined, else we’d be to them like ants are to us.  Or maybe our science is just so … infantile, maybe we don’t know anything yet, maybe we can collapse the whole universe into a manageable bunch of chunks.  Maybe we are 100 Einsteins away from understanding anything.  Maybe.  And here’s the thing: if we have been visited or legitimately contacted by an alien civilization, not all the governments in the world could keep the lid on this story, no conspiracy of silence could possibly keep YOU from KNOWing about it.  The fact that the NY Times has not reported the biggest story this side of the Big Bang – way bigger than the Second Coming of Christ, bigger even than the beginning of the Rapture – is PROOF that it has not happened yet.

So, don’t get up your hopes, next thing you know … will be a … hoax.

But I am all for our continuing to try, what do we have to lose?  Ah, THAT is an entirely different question!

*    Doing the Math: The Volume of the observable Universe is 8 * 1030 cubic Light Years.  One of those one million chunks would occupy a Volume of 8 * 1024 cubic Light Years, a cube with a dimension of 2 * 108 cubic Light Years on a side, or 200 million Light Years on a side.  The average such cube would contain more than 100,000 galaxies, so one civilization every 100,000 galaxies!  Not too brimming with intelligence, eh?  But the likelihood that we are IT is even more remote.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

A Modest Proposal

The genus Homo appeared on planet Earth about 2.5 million years ago, the species Homo Sapiens appeared roughly 800,000 years ago, and the subspecies Homo Sapiens Sapiens (double-wise?  Hah!) (that’s US, modern humans) about 200,000 years ago (as I am no paleoanthropologist, I can be excused for mis-stating the dates, but that does not affect my argument).  We modern humans traded hunting and gathering for the domestication of animals and agriculture a mere 12,000 years ago.  The Industrial Revolution (beginning with steam power) began less than 300 years ago, and the wide-spread use of electricity took place over decades from the late 1880’s through the Great Depression (still on-going in many places in the world).  Before that transformative transition, all of your ancestors knew what the Milky Way* was and they could see it every night.  The advent of Cell Phone technology in the 1990’s and of “Smart Phones” (Blackberry, iPhone and Android) in the last decade signified the last nail in the coffin of our being able to differentiate work from play and rest, and our entire dependency on Industry, Electricity and Technology.  When you go on vacation today, even if you spend it on Tahiti; do you really go on vacation, are you really isolated in any real sense from your workaday world?  What is the difference between you and a robot that mimics you?  Today, we know the difference, but the tomorrow when we won't see the difference is not that far in the future.