The below image of the Earth and our moon (the starburst is our planet and the tiny dot under it, the moon), recently taken by the Cassini spacecraft orbiting Saturn 900 million miles away, is more than a little unnerving. We are so alone.
The image is hauntingly like the last winking light you might expect to experience just before the oblivion of death, and recalls for me something John Updike wrote in 1985:
The non-scientist’s relation to modern science is basically craven: we look to its discoveries and technology to save us from disease, to give us a faster ride and a softer life, and at the same time we shrink from what it has to tell us of our perilous and insignificant place in the cosmos. Not that threats to our safety and significance were absent from the pre-scientific world, or that arguments against a God-bestowed human grandeur were lacking before Darwin. But our century’s revelations of unthinkable largeness and unimaginable smallness, of abysmal stretches of geological time when we were nothing, of supernumerary galaxies and indeterminate subatomic behavior, of a kind of mad mathematical violence at the heart of matter have scorched us deeper than we know.