Volume > Issue > Lost in the Cosmos: A Discussion of Death, Deep Space & Man’s Ultimate Destiny

Lost in the Cosmos: A Discussion of Death, Deep Space & Man’s Ultimate Destiny

MAN, MONKEYS & MOVIEGOERS

By Pieter Vree & Jason M. Morgan | October 2019
Pieter Vree is Editor of the NOR. Jason M. Morgan, who writes the NOR’s Cultural Counterpoint column, teaches history, language, and philosophy at Reitaku University in Japan.

The tenor of our times is both Calvinist and Promethean. Mankind has achieved astounding feats of technical skill over the past century, and his scientific prowess has convinced many that he has stolen fire from the heavens and is able to make his way in the universe alone. But mankind also remains deeply Calvinist. For all his successes, man still seems undeserving, at least to some. Just as man was setting his sights on outer space, a nihilism based on man’s utter worthlessness, or total depravity, engulfed the culture at large. Astronauts were declaring giant leaps for mankind while anti-human humanists were pulling the rug out from under such grandiose proclamations.

Prometheanism and Calvinism — it’s a strange juxtaposition. And yet it perhaps defines our cultural condition as no other set of terms.

Recently, NOR editor Pieter Vree and NOR columnist Jason M. Morgan sat down to discuss this phenomenon and whether man is homo asterum, “star-man,” or just homo asterisk, a forgettable Darwinist blip.

Pieter Vree: In your latest column, “Denizens of a Pale Blue Dust Mote” (Jul.-Aug.), you explore some of the consequences of astronomer Carl Sagan’s contradictions. On one hand, Sagan lauded man for breaking free of his earthly chains and propelling himself out among the stars, or at least heading in that direction with the lunar landings, the Voyager probes, and other space-exploration initiatives. On the other hand, Sagan, in explaining his interstellar photograph, Pale Blue Dot, took pains to belittle man as deluded by his sense of grandeur and his “imagined self-importance.”

Jason M. Morgan: Right. Sagan essentially portrays man as some randomly evolved, non-centrally-located, and ultimately meaningless scrap of material fluff in a universe that came from nowhere and was bound for the same.

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