Friday, April 2, 2010

Reality check

I had the pleasure of recently reading a book by notable astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. His book is called Death by Black Hole. On page 292 of his book, he discusses how in 1054 A.D., a star in the constellation of Taurus suddenly became brighter. So bright in fact, that the star could be plainly seen during the day for weeks.

Tyson states that the star became brighter by a factor of a million if it were to be seen during the day time.

How many stars do you see out during the day time (besides the Sun)?

(And assuming you don't live where it's sometimes dark during the "day".)

Tyson also writes that both Chinese and Middle Eastern astronomers documented this event. Native Americans in the future territories of the United States made cave drawings depicting the event-- which turned out to be a supernova from some 7,000 years earlier. The light had finally reached Earth by A.D. 1054.

But somehow, the astronomers in Europe omit this event from their logs, even though they kept records of the Heavens much like the a fore mentioned astronomers.

Why?

Tyson argues that due to the authority of the Church at that time, no astronomer in Europe wanted to document a change in the Heavens. The could possibly undermine the authority of the Church. So, (let the Europeans of 1054 tell it)-- that supernova never happened!

That's the Dark Ages, for ya.

To ignore a bright light shining in your face is begging for darkness. Begging for ignorance.

I admit that ignorance can sometimes be easier to embrace. And, I will personally admit that I have embraced ignorance in the past. And I'm sure I'll make the mistake again at some point in my life.

But with a new endeavor to embrace skepticism, I try to ground myself to a system that can hopefully provide me with a reality check when I need one from time to time.

Embracing a delusion takes away your ability to "call in" and make a reality check. When that happens, you're far more likely to be exploited by someone with malformed intentions.

The following link is NOT FOR WORK, but I invite you to check out the post: The Armor of God" by Greta Christina. It's a long post, but I personally think it's worth the read. If not, at least a quick skim to get the gist of her argument. She's one of the first bloggers I've heard to use the phrase "Reality Check" in terms of religion and skepticism. So, I owe her the credit for the title of my post.
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