In 1633, Galileo Galilei was found guilty of heresy and sentenced to house arrest for the remainder of his life for asserting heliocentricity, for suggesting the Christian Bible was wrong when it implied the sun orbited the earth.1
Less than 400 years later, we know that our sun is just one of perhaps 400 billion star in the local galaxy, the Milky Way, and that the Milky Way is just one of perhaps 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe. Just 25 years ago, our sun was the only one we knew had planets orbiting it.
Now we know of 3,500 exoplanets – planets orbiting another star than the sun – within 20 light years of us; a mere stone’s throw as far as the galaxy or the universe is concerned. And astronomers haven’t really started systematically looking yet.
Provincial, vain and fantastically ignorant humanity has suffered a kind of interstellar culture shock.
WC wonders about the effect of the displacement of mankind from the center of a universe created for it?
Remember, just this past November 9, some 500 “flat-Earthers” assembled in North Carolina for the first annual Flat Earth International Conference. Data from Google Trends show that in the past two years, searches for “flat earth” have more than tripled. WC has a smidgeon of sympathy for the tin foil hat brigade, who cope with the rapidly changing understanding of the universe by firmly entrenching themselves in the past.
Mrs. WC has observed many times that only babies like change. Mankind’s sudden shift from being the center of a small, tidy universe to being a meaninglessly tiny speck in a universe to vast to comprehend, its discovery that it is not anything special at all, has to rattled out collective consciousness. Maybe the revivals of Biblical literalism are a reaction by citizens’ psyches to that mind-boggling change?
It’s not just the size of the Universe. of course. The age of the Universe has seen a similar explosion. WC’s Biblical creationist friends insist the universe is something like 6,000 years old. Science teaches it is about 13.8 billion years. That’s an adjustment of 230 million percent.
WC loves it. Others, not so much.
How much, WC wonders, of the appeal of someone like Trump can be attributed to the inability of some to cope with their place in the universe?