Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I am an Earthling

I was watching Jill Tarter, director of SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute's Center for SETI Research, in her 2009 TED talk this morning and it made me realize that when I complete demographic information, for the race question, I should check “other” and write “Earthling.”

Several things led me to this conclusion. First, Astronomer Tarter showed a series of images illustrating the infinitesimal real estate planet Earth represents in the universe. Second, she mentioned that human-kind has only been around for the last couple of hundred thousand years of a 4.56 billion year old planet. And, as she points out, we are neither the purpose of nor the pinnacle of evolving life. We just think we are. (Kind of arrogant isn’t it – especially, to paraphrase Kurt Vonnegut, since we just got here.) Instead of being the point of evolution, I think we’re just a darn-lucky life form.

The main thing that made me realize that I was an Earthling, though, was not these facts – our minuscule significance in the scheme of space, time and life forms – but the facts in conjunction with a quote cited from President Obama’s inaugural address. I heard it said in the address, but it went by too fast then for me to grasp the significance:

…we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself…

Isn’t it time that we realized how fortunate we are -- how fragile we are? Isn't it time for all Earthlings to unite and perpetuate life in harmony with the universe of which we are part and parcel. Better that than to go the way of planet Krypton.