If last month’s election taught us anything it’s that nobody really knows anything. For many years now I’ve been saying that the sign of an educated person is s/he admits how little s/he knows. Socrates may have beat me to that idea, but there are still people whose intellect appears so great that we should pay attention. To my mind, such as it is, Stephen Hawking is one of those people. I don’t understand his formulas, but some of the concepts I can grasp. So when Prof. Hawking says we have approximately 1000 years before we make our planet unfit for human life, I think we should take notice. In just a decade we’ve gone from a Wall-e White House to a Dumb and Dumber one, and old mother earth is due to take a beating. Hawking, according to a story in The Washington Post, advises us to look for another planet to colonize.
Colonization seldom ends well. I wonder how the rest of the universe feels about us moving into the neighborhood. We dump our waste into anything pristine enough to carry it away so that people can make some of their number wealthy so that they can feel better about themselves. We can’t go one year without a war somewhere in our world and we kill one another just because we look different. We can’t even elect a president who’s smarter than any random undergraduate. Not exactly the kind of invasive species you want living next door. Any system can be gamed—capitalism most of all—and if it were up to me I’d prefer to have thoughtful neighbors. Perhaps the universe is politely saying to Dr. Hawking, “not in my backyard.”
What I find truly amazing here is that religion gave us the entitlement. Believing that the gods are like us, or that one deity made us in his white, male image, we’ve figured out this world’s ours to destroy. Just like entitled kids with too many toys. Daddy can always buy you another. So now we’re in the market for a new planet. One that’s not too hostile, but easily exploitable. A capitalist planet, but one that doesn’t mind a bit of help from former communists. You see, once we’ve figured out how to exploit another planet, there’ll be no stopping us. I have great admiration for Stephen Hawking. It’s just this time I think that we need to set our own house in order before we start inviting ourselves to somebody else’s home.