This post is inspired by some very bad science. I don't think it will be difficult for the reader to see that we're looking at bad science. In fact, the reader might accuse me of attacking a paper tiger. I admit to it. But it's a very big paper tiger. I will apply to it some inflammatory rhetoric, and the fires of its burning will be visible from space.
Space...that proverbial final frontier. Because "space" is the word we use to describe everything beyond Tellus. "Everything we haven't explored"...the final frontier.
Professor Gabriel G. de la Torre, a young Spanish neuroscientist, has published a study about "space consciousness". Now, I don't know what language he originally wrote his précis in, but I can report that he uses the word "consciousness" many times. It's very awkward. What does "consciousness" mean when he uses it? I don't know. But apparently it's not "awareness", because "space awareness" is what you achieve once you give your life to a "new approach to the concept of cosmic consciousness". Yep. Sounds like good, hard science, with nirvana at the end.
His beef, it seems, is that humans are not ready for first contact with extratellurian intelligences.
According to George Dvorsky at io9, who payed to read the paper, Torre "found that many of the [university] students [he surveyed]— and by virtue the rest of society — lack awareness on many astronomical aspects. He also learned that the majority of people assess these subjects according to their religious beliefs."
Wait, wait, wait. So you're saying, 1. people don't know a lot about space and the noble space sciences, and separately, 2. people perceive reality through their religious lens. Brilliant, Mr. Torre. Thanks for taking the time to figure that out.
Here's some gold from the study. This text is indeed a study, a study in bad writing. Like using the word "study" four times in a paragraph. Torre uses "consciousness" the way I used "study". Five times now.
...by virtue of self-consciousness, man is not only conscious of trees, rocks, bodies of water, and his own limbs and body, but he also becomes conscious of himself as a distinct entity apart from all the rest of the universe. Further, by means of self-consciousness, man becomes capable of treating his own mental states as objects of consciousness. The prime characteristic of cosmic consciousness is, as its name implies, a consciousness of the cosmos, that is, of the life and order of the universe.The prime characteristic of a religious cosmology, is, as its name implies ("implies"?!), that it is a religious cosmology, that is, a view of the life and order of the universe.
More on that later. Torre's conclusion was this:
On the basis of the results of our study, most transcendent factors for existential concerns continue to be related to religion instead of ecology or cosmology. It is strongly recommended that we try to develop a roadmap for contact that includes education as the most important factor.First of all, homeboy is trying to steal the word "cosmology". A religion is a cosmology; in fact, I would venture to say that all cosmologies, including Mr. Torre's, are religions. Behold, the confusion is massive. The quick-read definition of cosmology at Merriam-Webster is definition two in the section for full definitions.
Mr. Torre's blind spot is that he associates religious belief and astronomical ignorance simply because they are both common, the way an oceonagrapher might bemoan the statistical correlation between the world's passion for soccer and the world's ignorance of undersea life.
The "scientific" establishment feels no need to justify what is far from proven, that religious passion is ignorant, illogical, delusional, and basically all-around unscientific. Our friends would benefit from an objective study of history, and of current scientific goings-on. Perhaps Nancy Pearcey's The Soul of Science would be salutary. But that's not going to happen. Their starting point is that there can be no god greater than Man.
One of the things that is most amusing about SETI generally, and Torre and Dvorsky specifically, is how small their god is. Man must prove himself worthy of the greater life that surely exists up in the heavens. One day we might build a rocket-powered tower to launch us into the godsphere, but meanwhile, if we are holy enough, if we achieve the right consciousness, perhaps the Alien gods will come down and visit Man. If we are judged worthy who knows what celestial blessings they might bestow upon us, and might they not even exalt us to be with them?
My friends, do you remember when I promised you "more on that later"? Well, that was what I meant. Today, with this post, I establish my hostility toward Mr. Torre and his ilk. Tomorrow, in part two, I tell you why space exploration belongs to the religious of the world.