The really BIG questions

I do not think that I will ever be able to take Pope “Benedict” seriously. Yes, he’s opened his mouth again and, yes, stupid has come out.

Scientific investigation should be accompanied by “research into anthropology, philosophy and theology” to give insight into “man’s own mystery, because no science can say who man is, where he comes from or where he is going”, the Pope said.

Theology? Give me a break. Theology pretends to do what philosophy and anthropology actually do. Theology starts with an assumption and attempts to fit the world into that assumption; it really is a non-subject. However, what about science? What can science say about “who man is”, “where he comes from” and “where he is going”. Fortunately science, unlike theology, does have a few words to say about all of these three questions. You just may not like the answers.

Who man is. Man is the male gender of the species Homo Sapiens. Homo Sapiens is a Great Ape (family Hominidae), sharing a common evolutionary ancestor with Gorillas and Orangutans. For the benefit of the Pope, Homo Sapiens also has another gender, “Female”, also known as “woman”. To be fair to the pope though, he’s probably not aware of this, being an 80-year old virgin head of a misogynistic theocracy.

Where he comes from. (for the benefit of this continued discussion, we’ll take the popes sexism as read) “He”, to paraphrase the late Carl Sagan, is star-stuff. Every atom of our bodies comes from the result of fusion in the cores of long-dead stars. After the formation of the solar system, the Earth cooled, and 4.6 billion years passed. Then, 80 years ago (give or take) the Popes parents did something that the pope dare not contemplate, and out popped the Pope. It is, of course, not surprising that the pope is apparently not aware as to how much science has to say about where we come from, as all the messy stuff in the middle is naughty. And the pope hasn’t done any of it (theoretically).

Where is he going For myself: to the kitchen, to make coffee, because my hands are cold and my boiler’s broken. But, ultimately, I presume that’s not what he meant: he means the biggie: what happens after we die. Well, not much really. If, like me, you want to donate organs in the event of a not-too horrific death, science can take bits out of you and stick them into other people who would otherwise risk becoming premature organ donars. Then about 10 billion years will pass, and the sun will stop processing hydrogen; the outer layer of the sun will eventually bloat out, becoming a red-giant, and warm the Earth to a nice toast.

 Of course, it could be that the pope is a secret  Steven Hawkins admirer, in which case he was asking, “Which planet are we going to”.  On that subject, I’ll go with Alastair Reynolds and suggest Epsilon Eridani.

See. Three nice simple questions with answers bought to you by science (well, okay one referencing Science Fiction, but Reynolds has a PhD, so that’s close enough for me).

 That was easy!


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