Of collective ignorance and enlightenment

There was a gap of 2000 years between the time when the possible existence of “atoms” was broached and the time when it was proven. Around 450 BC, Greek philosopher Democritus claimed that  matter can be broken down into very small elements that cannot be seen by the naked eyes. However, he had no way to prove his claim. His idea was either mocked or ignored, and it was eventually forgotten. Fortunately, as centuries went by, stubbornly curious   scientists were born. Around the 1800s, John Dalton —aided by the right technology, was able to prove that matter can really be broken down in extremely small fragments that are invisible to the unaided eyes. These fragments came to be known as “atoms”. 

Imagine that. Two thousand years, and that excludes the era before Democritus first mentioned the idea. During all those years and centuries, humans were unaware and unbelieving  of atoms. After all, how can a chunk of granite be made up of invisible specks? But those millennia of ignorance finally came to an end.

For a very long time, people also believed that the earth was the center of the solar system, and that the sun and other cosmic bodies orbited around it. This belief was strongly  espoused by the Church, based on their interpretation of the Holy Bible. It was also supported by early scientists who had limited observation tools at that time. In a book published in 1532, the scientist Copernicus opposed this widely held belief and claimed that the sun, not the earth, is the center of the solar system. In 1616, the Church declared this view as heretical. Years later, another scientist,  Galileo, supported  the Copernican view. However, with the threat of being burned alive, Galileo recanted his statement. Three hundred fifty  years later,  in 1992 , the Vatican, with Pope John Paul II at the helm, issued an  apology to Galileo— and officially  accepted the heliocentric  view that the sun is the center of the solar system and that the planets, including the earth, revolved around it. 

History is replete with examples of our collective ignorance and eventual enlightenment. We were wrong. We violently resisted opposing views. Then, we realized our mistake, and then accepted —-grudgingly at first —- the correct, verified  view. 

There are still many unresolved questions regarding life, existence, this world and what lies beyond its boundaries.

One persistent question is this. Is there intelligent life in other planets, in other solar systems, in other galaxies? 

Any  claim that extraterrestrials do exist has been met with widespread scorn, and the reaction is understandable. The idea is just silly,  shocking or heretic to most of us. Many are quick to quote the Bible and other sacred  books.  But then, remember the conflict between the Church, Copernicus and Galileo. We know who eventually was proven right.

On the other hand, many will deny the existence of such sentient, rational extra-terrestrials  because there is no scientific  evidence for it. But remember, for two thousand years —- there was no evidence for atoms either. And there was no evidence, too, that the earth moved around the sun.

While the sensible thing to do  is   to make decisions based on the evidence at hand, we should be discreetly open to  possibilities. Instead of outright rejection, we can keep an open mind about these things. Maybe, we are in that “gap”. Maybe, we have not yet invented the technology that would enable us to see that far. Or the person who has the tenacity to dig into that  truth has not  been born yet.

My mind is going wild trying to imagine what truths will be revealed in the next two thousand years!

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