Phil Harris

Zeus and Thor are sitting on the tailgate of a pickup truck near the top of Mount Olympus. Thor is flinging bolts of lightning at hapless humans, who scurry frantically in all directions, looking for cover.

Thor scores a hit, causing one pitiful victim to do a triple back flip, landing with a bounce in a smoking heap. Zeus blows beer through his nose and falls on the ground in a fit of laughter. Immortal life doesn’t get any better than this, they agree.

It is a god-scale version of the good-ole prairie dog hunt, and there was a time when such tales seemed plausible for explaining tragedy. After all, there must be “someone” to blame when life becomes difficult and painful.

Having a grasp of the science behind natural forces like thunder and lightning is a good thing. Having such knowledge can sometimes give us half a chance to protect ourselves. Well, maybe the chance of not-being struck by lightning is not so much improved regardless of how much we understand it. That fate depends a great deal on being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Modern man has developed an annoying characteristic; an over-bloated, self-aggrandized view of his capabilities. Educated people have come to believe that we now belong on those god-pedestals of old. The thrill of understanding a few principles behind the forces of nature has caused man to lose all perspective on his puniness.

I used to enjoy watching scientific docudramas on cable television, but these last few years have made me less apt to waste my time. Many begin with stunning photography and interesting observations about whatever-it-is, but then they invariably launch into wild speculations; declaring how man has changed whatever-it-is and because of this, life will soon come to a tragic end.

This knowledge fueled ego-mania has killed all perspective of scale, especially when discussing the precarious nature of what makes our planet a life-enabling oasis in the Universe. For example, the atmosphere is indeed a very thin layer of gas, especially when compared to the bulk of the planet. But when you overlay the scale of that thin layer of gas onto the miniscule pile of flesh that is all of mankind, the atmosphere is pretty darned enormous.

The world today is filled with Screaming Mimi, sky-is-falling, doomsday seekers posing as scientists. I say they are posers, because they frequently leap far beyond the narrowly selected data which they choose to collect and study. They are not ashamed to extrapolate complex theories for what has occurred in Earth’s history. But worse, they will point to the infinitesimally small period of man’s presence and declare the data has changed dramatically.

Phil Harris

Phil Harris is a software engineer, author of Cry for the Shadows and blogs at Citizen Phil.

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