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Remember, Man, You Are Stardust
The Catholic Thing ^ | March 16, 2014 | Michael Baruzzini

Posted on 03/16/2014 3:27:05 PM PDT by NYer


“A man can be a Christian to the end of the world, for the simple reason that a man could have been an Atheist from the beginning of it. … But why our human lot is made any more hopeless because we know the names of the worms who eat [man], or the names of all the parts of him that they eat, is to a thoughtful mind somewhat difficult to discover.” – G. K. Chesterton

Cosmos is back on television again, in a reincarnated form hosted by Neil DeGrasse Tyson in place of the late Carl Sagan (host of the original 1980 series). The original Cosmos is remembered as a minor television classic, ushering in a new era of science programming and bringing the wonders of cosmology to the public in an accessible and enchanting way. The hopes for the new Cosmos seem equally high: the series has been heavily advertised and will be airing multiple nights each week, on multiple networks. The first episode even opened with a recorded message from President Obama.

Yet for all its promise, the first episode of Cosmos, which aired last Sunday, quickly disappointed, featuring an extended segment detailing the struggles of Giordano Bruno against the Renaissance authorities of Church and state that suppressed his “modern” ideas of an infinite universe filled with innumerable worlds – suppression that ultimately ended with Bruno’s being burned at the stake as a heretic.

Bruno has long been a favorite of anti-religious historians and is often dragged as a prop in current controversies. But the historical record shows that while Bruno may have held some ideas that later turned out to be scientifically prescient, he held them for bizarre and occult reasons; Bruno’s demise was ultimately the result of his obstinate and bizarre cultish teachings, not his advance of scientific inquiry.

Appropriately, the Bruno segments were animated, unconsciously reflecting the cartoonish version of history presented in the show more generally. Tyson adds a caveat that Bruno’s ideas were not scientific or evidence-based, a tremendous understatement. Even Galileo, whose story would have presented a far more respectable protagonist for the Cosmos agenda, found Bruno to be a crackpot. At best, Bruno could arguably be advanced as a martyr for free, if crazy, speech; he is most certainly not, however, a martyr for science.

The Bruno myth, however, does set up the basic message of Cosmos: the universe is a fascinating and beautiful place, and science is the best human endeavor to reveal it. It is science, not other “dogmatic” institutions, that reveal to man who he really is. In particular, Sagan is famous for his reminder to audiences that, “You are made of starstuff,” or in other renditions, “stardust.” He refers to the remarkable discovery that the heavier elements, including the carbon that makes up much of our bodies, was made in the fusion processes that power stars and energetic supernovae. It is, in fact, a fascinating link between our material selves and the processes that formed the cosmos in the aeons before.

 

Yet, perhaps to the chagrin of both some creationists and the anti-religious, man’s continuity with the material world has been emphasized since the writing of the first lines of Genesis. Recently, Catholics emphasized this material connection with a well known sacramental, blessed ashes on the forehead, and words that are reminiscent of Sagan’s, but preceded him by millennia: “Remember, man, you are dust…”

But which of these reminders is right: Cosmos’ presentation of the grandeur of man’s material origin in the stars, or Ash Wednesday’s call to humility in its reminder of man’s natural origin and destiny as dust and ashes? Both, in their way. As Walker Percy noted in his comments on the original Cosmos:

One is not offended by Sagan. There is too little malice and too much ignorance. It is enough to take pleasure in the pleasant style, the knack for popularizing science, and the beautiful pictures of Saturn and the Ring Nebula. Indeed, more often than not, I found myself on Sagan’s side, especially in his admiration for science and the scientific method, which is what he says it is – a noble, elegant, and self-correcting method of attaining a kind of truth.

As Cosmos portrays, the stars, like all of Creation, are radiant with goodness and beauty, as honest scientists recognize. Yet science alone is incapable of moving beyond recognizing the radiance of nature to its source. Creation transmits beauty, but it is not the source of it. Creation points towards a Creator, and man is made to know not only the goodness of what has been made, but more importantly the goodness of the Maker. This latter can only be known through a repentant humility.

Sagan and Tyson are right: the beauty of the natural cosmos is compelling, and science is the special way of uncovering one majestic dimension of that order and beauty. One hopes that the future episodes of Cosmos will recover this message. But if science can aid in uncovering a wonderful universe, it is incapable of accounting for why such beauty and wonder are, in fact, ultimately meaningful.

To paraphrase Chesterton, knowing all the parts of man that return to dust, or the names of all the stars that formed the dust that made him, means little if man is nothing more than just one more clump of matter. Whether being made of the dust of stars has any significance at all, as Cosmos suggests that it does, depends on whether we can recognize in those stars the echoes of their Maker, and ours.


TOPICS: Catholic; Religion & Culture; Religion & Science
KEYWORDS: carlsagan; cosmos; neildegrassetyson
Michael Baruzzini is a freelance science writer and editor who writes for Catholic and science publications, including Crisis, First Things, Touchstone, Sky & Telescope, The American Spectator, and elsewhere. He is also the creator of CatholicScience.com, which offers online science curriculum resources for Catholic students.
1 posted on 03/16/2014 3:27:05 PM PDT by NYer
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To: Tax-chick; GregB; Berlin_Freeper; SumProVita; narses; bboop; SevenofNine; Ronaldus Magnus; tiki; ...

The Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope ( VATT ) on Mt. Graham, Arizona, probably the best astronomical site in the continental United States. This is the first optical-infrared telescope of the Mount Graham International Observatory (MGIO), a project which in the coming years will see the construction of some of the world’s most sophisticated and largest telescopes.

2 posted on 03/16/2014 3:28:38 PM PDT by NYer ("You are a puff of smoke that appears briefly and then disappears." James 4:14)
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To: NYer
We are golden.

3 posted on 03/16/2014 3:29:13 PM PDT by Genoa (Starve the beast.)
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To: Genoa

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w2w-YEOq2ko

Look at the wake ...


4 posted on 03/16/2014 3:39:19 PM PDT by Tax-chick (" ... and 17 tablespoons of failure. Stir.")
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To: NYer

Very cool!


5 posted on 03/16/2014 3:39:41 PM PDT by trisham (Zen is not easy. It takes effort to attain nothingness. And then what do you have? Bupkis.)
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To: Genoa

LOL!


6 posted on 03/16/2014 3:40:08 PM PDT by trisham (Zen is not easy. It takes effort to attain nothingness. And then what do you have? Bupkis.)
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To: NYer

7 posted on 03/16/2014 3:49:20 PM PDT by Jack Hydrazine (Pubbies = national collectivists; Dems = international collectivists; We need a second party!)
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To: NYer
We are stardust, we are golden
We are ten billion year old carbon
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden

By the time we got to Woodstock
We were half a million strong
And everywhere there was song and celebration
And I dreamed I saw the bombers jet planes
Riding shotgun in the sky
Turning into butterflies
Above our nation.

Woodstock
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

8 posted on 03/16/2014 3:49:22 PM PDT by metalurgist ( Want your country back? It'll take guns and rope. Marxists won't give up peaceably.)
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To: metalurgist
We are ten billion year old carbon

I thought it was "We are caught in the devil's bargain."

9 posted on 03/16/2014 4:03:18 PM PDT by Genoa (Starve the beast.)
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To: Genoa

That’s in the final refrain of the song


10 posted on 03/16/2014 4:24:00 PM PDT by Freestate316 (Know what you believe and why you believe it.)
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To: NYer
Bruno’s demise was ultimately the result of his obstinate and bizarre cultish teachings, not his advance of scientific inquiry.

In other words he held different obstinate and bizarre cultish teachings than the Church, and he was right about some of them. I'm not sure what the point is.

11 posted on 03/16/2014 5:06:49 PM PDT by Hugin
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To: Genoa

Glad to know I’m not the only one who saw that phrase and heard Woodstock


12 posted on 03/16/2014 5:10:04 PM PDT by lee martell
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To: NYer; KC_Lion
Yet, perhaps to the chagrin of both some creationists and the anti-religious, man’s continuity with the material world has been emphasized since the writing of the first lines of Genesis.

As interpreted by the Catholic Church, of course.

Meanwhile hypocritical Catholics continue to stubbornly believe in the virgin birth, the resurrection, the loaves and fishes, transubstantiation, and any number of other things that according to science simply could not have happened. What makes Genesis so different?

Simple. Rejecting Genesis is how Catholics prove to themselves they weren't born in a trailer in Alabama.

13 posted on 03/16/2014 5:18:59 PM PDT by Zionist Conspirator (The Left: speaking power to truth since Shevirat HaKelim.)
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To: Zionist Conspirator
And here is Genesis which I do not reject. I hope it formats with the corresponding days that are mentioned at the end.

1In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the eartha2* and the earth was without form or shape, with darkness over the abyss and a mighty wind sweeping over the waters—b

Then God said: Let there be light, and there was light.c 4God saw that the light was good. God then separated the light from the darkness. 5God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” Evening came, and morning followed—the first day.*

 

14Then God said: Let there be lights in the dome of the sky, to separate day from night. Let them mark the seasons, the days and the years,g 15and serve as lights in the dome of the sky, to illuminate the earth. And so it happened: 16God made the two great lights, the greater one to govern the day, and the lesser one to govern the night, and the stars.h 17God set them in the dome of the sky, to illuminate the earth, 18to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. God saw that it was good. 19Evening came, and morning followed—the fourth day.

 

Then God said: Let there be a dome in the middle of the waters, to separate one body of water from the other. 7God made the dome,* and it separated the water below the dome from the water above the dome. And so it happened.d 8God called the dome “sky.” Evening came, and morning followed—the second day.

 

9Then God said: Let the water under the sky be gathered into a single basin, so that the dry land may appear. And so it happened: the water under the sky was gathered into its basin, and the dry land appeared.e 10God called the dry land “earth,” and the basin of water he called “sea.” God saw that it was good. 11f Then God said: Let the earth bring forth vegetation: every kind of plant that bears seed and every kind of fruit tree on earth that bears fruit with its seed in it. And so it happened: 12the earth brought forth vegetation: every kind of plant that bears seed and every kind of fruit tree that bears fruit with its seed in it. God saw that it was good. 13Evening came, and morning followed—the third day.

 

20i Then God said: Let the water teem with an abundance of living creatures, and on the earth let birds fly beneath the dome of the sky. 21God created the great sea monsters and all kinds of crawling living creatures with which the water teems, and all kinds of winged birds. God saw that it was good, 22and God blessed them, saying: Be fertile, multiply, and fill the water of the seas; and let the birds multiply on the earth.j 23Evening came, and morning followed—the fifth day.

 

24k Then God said: Let the earth bring forth every kind of living creature: tame animals, crawling things, and every kind of wild animal. And so it happened: 25God made every kind of wild animal, every kind of tame animal, and every kind of thing that crawls on the ground. God saw that it was good. 26l Then God said: Let us make* human beings in our image, after our likeness. Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the tame animals, all the wild animals, and all the creatures that crawl on the earth.

27God created mankind in his image;

in the image of God he created them;

male and female* he created them.

28God blessed them and God said to them: Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it.* Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that crawl on the earth.m 29* n God also said: See, I give you every seed-bearing plant on all the earth and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it to be your food; 30and to all the wild animals, all the birds of the air, and all the living creatures that crawl on the earth, I give all the green plants for food. And so it happened. 31God looked at everything he had made, and found it very good. Evening came, and morning followed—the sixth day.o

 

1.

light (day)/darkness (night)

=

4.

sun/moon

2.

arrangement of water

=

5.

fish + birds from waters

3.

a) dry land

=

6.

a) animals

b) vegetation

b) human beings: male/female

 

 


14 posted on 03/16/2014 6:00:40 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Zionist Conspirator
Meanwhile hypocritical Catholics

As opposed to the "young earther" Protestants? ?/SARC

Painting with broad strokes dopes not buttress your case.

15 posted on 03/16/2014 6:34:10 PM PDT by verga (Poor spiritual health is often manifested with poor physical health.)
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To: verga
Meanwhile hypocritical Catholics

As opposed to the "young earther" Protestants? ?/SARC

Painting with broad strokes dopes not buttress your case.

You've just proven my case. You regard "young earthism" as an inherently "Protestant" concept and reject it for that reason . . . because you're Catholic.

I don't suppose you've heard that thanks to science we now know that none of those miracles you think so much of could have happened?

16 posted on 03/16/2014 7:01:15 PM PDT by Zionist Conspirator (The Left: speaking power to truth since Shevirat HaKelim.)
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To: Salvation; KC_Lion
Salvation, it's really not a good idea for you and I to argue about this. I know from past posts that your bibles are "higher critical." But you don't know any better. The Catholic Church is your bible. The literal historical truth of Genesis 1-11 simply doesn't mean to you what it means to someone like me. It is for all practical purposes foreign to you, and you have no sentimental attachment to it. All your sentimental attachment is to the Catholic Church.

What do you have to say about the "commentary" in all those Catholic bibles you own . . . you know, the commentary teaching the documentary hypothesis and declaring Noah's Flood mythological? Why do you never show up when one of your co-religionists is attacking the literal truth of Genesis 1-11? And by the way, I notice that you only included Genesis 1 and not 2-11. Could it be that even a "conservative Catholic" like you doesn't believe any of that "outdated" stuff?

I find your lack of understanding of the issues I'm raising frustrating. If we keep up our arguments, I'm really afraid I'm going to get frustrated and say something I'm going to regret.

Why don't we just continue to benignly ignore one another? That's probably the best policy for both of us.

17 posted on 03/16/2014 7:08:54 PM PDT by Zionist Conspirator (The Left: speaking power to truth since Shevirat HaKelim.)
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To: Salvation

Oh, and you just completely ignored the fact that the article at the top of this thread promotes evolution. Why don’t you respond to that?


18 posted on 03/16/2014 7:10:10 PM PDT by Zionist Conspirator (The Left: speaking power to truth since Shevirat HaKelim.)
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To: NYer

Monty Pythom Galaxy Song:
Whenever life gets you down, Mrs.Brown
And things seem hard or tough
And people are stupid, obnoxious or daft
And you feel that you’ve had quite enough

Just remember that you’re standing on a planet that’s evolving
And revolving at nine hundred miles an hour
That’s orbiting at nineteen miles a second, so it’s reckoned
A sun that is the source of all our power

The sun and you and me and all the stars that we can see
Are moving at a million miles a day
In an outer spiral arm, at forty thousand miles an hour
Of the galaxy we call the ‘milky way’

Our galaxy itself contains a hundred billion stars
It’s a hundred thousand light years side to side
It bulges in the middle, sixteen thousand light years thick
But out by us, it’s just three thousand light years wide

We’re thirty thousand light years from galactic central point
We go ‘round every two hundred million years
And our galaxy is only one of millions of billions
In this amazing and expanding universe

The universe itself keeps on expanding and expanding
In all of the directions it can whizz
As fast as it can go, the speed of light, you know
Twelve million miles a minute and that’s the fastest speed there is

So remember, when you’re feeling very small and insecure
How amazingly unlikely is your birth
And pray that there’s intelligent life somewhere up in space
‘Cause there’s bugger all down here on Earth


19 posted on 03/16/2014 7:12:10 PM PDT by minnesota_bound
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To: Zionist Conspirator

I did via creation


20 posted on 03/16/2014 7:13:44 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: minnesota_bound

The Last Question by Isaac Asimov
http://www.multivax.com/last_question.html

Excerpt at the end of the story:
Matter and energy had ended and with it, space and time. Even AC existed only for the sake of the one last question that it had never answered from the time a half-drunken computer ten trillion years before had asked the question of a computer that was to AC far less than was a man to Man.

All other questions had been answered, and until this last question was answered also, AC might not release his consciousness.

All collected data had come to a final end. Nothing was left to be collected.

But all collected data had yet to be completely correlated and put together in all possible relationships.

A timeless interval was spent in doing that.

And it came to pass that AC learned how to reverse the direction of entropy.

But there was now no man to whom AC might give the answer of the last question. No matter. The answer — by demonstration — would take care of that, too.

For another timeless interval, AC thought how best to do this. Carefully, AC organized the program.

The consciousness of AC encompassed all of what had once been a Universe and brooded over what was now Chaos. Step by step, it must be done.

And AC said, “LET THERE BE LIGHT!”

And there was light——


21 posted on 03/16/2014 7:16:36 PM PDT by minnesota_bound
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To: metalurgist

um no....written by Joni Mitchell who sings the definitive version


22 posted on 03/16/2014 7:22:48 PM PDT by xp38
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To: Zionist Conspirator
Reading the mind of another Freeper is a form of "making it personal."

Discuss the issues all you want, but do not make it personal.

23 posted on 03/16/2014 8:01:30 PM PDT by Religion Moderator
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To: Zionist Conspirator
You've just proven my case. You regard "young earthism" as an inherently "Protestant" concept and reject it for that reason . . . because you're Catholic.

Can you show me an Catholic Young Eartehrs? The answer is no!

Mind reading is against the rules on the Religion forum and as I said painting with broad strokes does not buttress your argument. My rejection of the young earth theory has everything to do with facts nothing to do with who formulates it or promulgates it.

I don't suppose you've heard that thanks to science we now know that none of those miracles you think so much of could have happened?

My belief is based on faith informed by reason.

24 posted on 03/16/2014 8:17:42 PM PDT by verga (Poor spiritual health is often manifested with poor physical health.)
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