Astronomy and Civilization in the New Enlightenment pp 99-109

Part of the Analecta Husserliana book series (ANHU, volume 107) | Cite as

Coming of Age Under the Night Sky: the Importance of Astronomy in Shaping Worldviews

Chapter

Abstract

A worldview, an individual’s or whole society’s conceptual framework for making sense of the world, evolves as it wrestles with such questions as “Why do I see what I see?” While telescopes and spacecraft dramatically expand worldviews in space and time, astronomy began shaping worldviews long ago. Those who watched carefully saw the universe as predictable and orderly rather than magical and chaotic – a conclusion which increased psychological security in individuals and desire for order in society. Spurred by Kepler, astronomy values humbly refining models to fit data. Spurred by Galileo urging critics to look through the telescope, astronomy promotes seeking over believing–something which unites rather than divides people. In challenging anthropocentrism, in tracing the roots of humanity to the ashes of exploding stars, in revealing an image’s “pale blue dot” to be Earth, astronomy encourages a “we belong to nature” feeling, as can the beauty of the Milky Way in the night sky. Studying planets made inhospitable by runaway greenhouse effect, investigating the stability of the Sun and nearby aging stars, and monitoring hazards posed by space debris help humankind confront real threats. Complementing astronomy’s concern with civilization’s premature end is its search for the beginning of the universe. This has long enriched discussion of, and cosmological arguments for, what many individual worldviews are built around: belief in a Creator. Astronomy continues to inspire. Contrast what seeing a comet in the night sky once meant – fear – to what it can mean today: a cause for celebration of humanity’s growing up. And someday astronomy may provide an answer to what untold generations of night sky watchers have wondered, “Are we alone?”

References

  1. Boyce, Mary. 1979. Zoroastrians: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  2. Bronowski, Jacob. 1973. The Ascent of Man. Boston: Little, Brown, and Company.Google Scholar
  3. Cook, Stephen P. 1990. Coming of Age in the Global Village. Russellville: Parthenon Books.Google Scholar
  4. Cook, Stephen P. 2009. The Worldview Literacy Book. Weed: Parthenon Books.Google Scholar
  5. Jaynes, Julian. 1990. The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.Google Scholar
  6. Rees, Martin. 2003. “Our Complex Cosmos and its Future” in The Future of Theoretical Physics and Cosmology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Sagan, Carl. 1994. Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  8. Sagan, Carl. 1996. The Demon-haunted World. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  9. Sandars, Nancy K. 1972. “Introduction” in The Epic of Gilgamesh. London: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  10. Schaefer, Bradley. 2006. The Origin of the Greek Constellations. Scientific American, November: 96–101.Google Scholar
  11. Steel, Duncan. 1999. Eclipse. London: Headline Book Publishing.Google Scholar
  12. Wilson, Edward O. 1998. Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Project WorldviewWeedNM

Personalised recommendations