Pale Blue Dot

So I've made over 60,000 hits with Pale Blue Dot on YTMND. It's a site where people upload a picture (often an animated gif), a sound and some text to typically amuse but sometimes to make a point whether it be political, religious or otherwise. I've got a lot of feed back in the comments to the site and it's obvious I need to clear some stuff up. But before I do that - here's the picture (furthest "sun-beam" right and just over half way down) and the quote.

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"Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there — on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known."

Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot



To me that is an incredibly moving quote. It makes our trivial differences even more preposterous than ever before. But if you post it on YTMND you get over 1000 comments - most of which are postive - but a sizeable portion tell you that you are going to hell.

I'm going to write a longer response - but for the time being let me make some points.

1) I am not trying to disprove God. Not Odin, Yahweh, Allah, Ra, The Godhead or even Thor,or I'm only trying to give an insight into how one (brilliant) atheist thought, as a guide to how atheists see beauty in the world.

2) I'm not calling religion small minded. I am calling the faith that Whestone (and admittedly many like him) hold to be small minded. I know that may offend people. But if your faith can not take a little criticisms then you have to wonder how strong it is in the first place. I found the statement that all "Infidels" (Whestones olde worlde word for atheist, despite the fact that the majority of people he "quoted" were all deists) realised they were going to hell on their death bed ridiculous, offensive and laughable. But religious beliefs (or lack off) should be no more protected than political or ideological beliefs of any kind.

3) The quote is about how we need to come together to survive on our little pale blue dot. And that means we have to learn how to take criticism from each other. The target, if anyone, of the site was against the people who just wanted to outright ban whestone. A stance I do not believe in.

Anyway - I need to work. But I will put more thoughts here later.

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

As I said on your YTMND, there is NOTHING 'quaint', 'small-minded', or 'simplistic' about believing in God. And whether or not you meant that comment to be directed at everyone who is religious, or just at Whetstone, it certainly sounds like you're insulting all religious people, so until further notice, 1'd.

However, if you had simply started with a slide telling everyone that you were going to share with them how atheists see beauty in the world, and then led into the Sagan quote, I probably would have 5'd you. As long as you're not criticizing my beliefs (or as long as it doesn't sound like you are), I can still be open to your idea of beauty. You tolerate me, I tolerate you.

Lave said...

"As long as you're not criticizing my beliefs (or as long as it doesn't sound like you are), I can still be open to your idea of beauty."

Can I criticise a Liberal's beliefs? A Republican's? A Democrat's? A neo-facist's? A communist's? A scientist's? A doctor's?

Of course I can! It is necessary for progress and mutual understanding. Why is religion (and only religion) immune from criticism?

And besides, I was trying to separate Whetstone from the majority of religious people - a large amount of the people complaining about his site are religious - his views are atypical.

Though you are making me begin to doubt that.

Anonymous said...

Gah, let me clarify. There's a difference between criticizing someone's beliefs, and disagreeing with them but still being willing to respect them.

Yes, I can criticize a person's beliefs all I want, but that's rude. A far more appropriate tactic is to respectfully disagree. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and everyone has their own reasons for having whatever opinion they choose to have.

In fact, it's a little contradictory to suggest that we need to put aside differences, but then go and call over half of the world small-minded, quaint, and simplistic. And until you make it explicitly clear in your YTMND that you are referring to whetstone and a handful of people, instead of the beliefs of billions of people, you are blatantly contradicting yourself.

"...quaint, small-minded religious ideas..."

"...implies that his simplistic world view..."

"...not tied down by such a small world view as his..."

/\ As can be seen in your YTMND, you are quite clearly attacking not only Whetstone, but the beliefs and views of millions of other people as well. If you want to attack whetstone, fine. But leave all the other Christians out of it.

Anonymous said...

"As I said on your YTMND, there is NOTHING 'quaint', 'small-minded', or 'simplistic' about believing in God. "

There is something retarded about you, though. It SAYS Whetstone. How much clearer does it have to get?

Whetstone has simplistic, small minded fundamentalist beliefs. I respect religious people a lot, but that doesn't mean I have to respect a bigot and and idiot just because he claims to be a Christian.

Anonymous said...

Whetstone has the SAME beliefs as every other Christian...I've seen his YTMNDs...so he's small-minded, quaint, and simplistic just for sharing them? Go back and look at his YTMNDs again. He doesn't suggest anything in them that isn't widely accepted by mainstream Christianity.

Lave said...

Thanks to the anonymous post two above this. Spot on.

You see I see "criticism" and "respectfully disagreeing" to be the same thing.

I respect your beliefs as much as I respect a torie's, a republican's, a commie's, a racist's and another atheist's. If you say something I disagree with then I will say that.

The meme's of your ideas should be no more protected than anyone else's. I want my ideas attacked. I want my flaws shown, the gaps in my logic brought up. I'm a scientist. It pushes my ideas forward. I will say when I'm wrong. I will change my opinion on things.

I want to get closer to truth - not protect my ideas from it.

And I am beginning to think that was religion is about. It seems those that believe it, on some level, realise the ridiculousness of their claims - and as such attack anyone who may point that out.

bengoldacre said...

fuck man that quote is so good. where did you pick up the christians? good work!

Lave said...

Hey! I replied on the main page - because I'm an attention seeking whore.

But basically I called a fundamentalist Christian "small minded," and on the ridiculous world of the Interweb that's kind of a big deal it seems.

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