The world is as it is

The Astronomer Royal

The British Astronomer Royal points out here that the sun has been shining for over 4 billion years, and has over 6 billion to go before it explodes and earth is vapourized. If you represent earth’s lifetime by a single year January to December, the 21st century is a quarter of a second in June. We are less than halfway through the process of evolution. Whatever creatures witness the demise of the solar system will be as different from us as we are from bacteria. We are still, he says, at the beginning of the emergence of intelligence in the cosmos. The last three centuries have seen acceleration in (probably) human-induced changes in the planet’s environment. Some species become extinct, new ones will evolve. Humans like us may or may not survive, but will certainly evolve.

I remember at primary school (Langwathby C of E since you ask) standing in the playground, Settle-Carlisle railway to my left, and thinking that life on another planet does not necessarily mean life as we know it. And I still think that. We have haemoglobin to carry oxygen in the blood, octopuses have other stuff for the same purpose – and they are on the same planet. The creature in Alien that grew in John Hurt’s belly (yes, yes, I know it was only a story) had acid in its blood vessels. Our thinking is altogether too selfish, too human-obsessed. Things could be otherwise. We are like pimples on the backside of the cosmos. Hurricanes, earthquakes, wind and rain come and go. The earth will cleanse itself. For those that accept the notion of God, ‘God is working his purpose out as year succeeds to year’. For those that don’t, the laws of nature are doing the what-comes-naturally. In the context of evolution, this has interesting theological implications. It’s not over yet.

Make the most of what you’ve got when you’ve got it, because you might not have it much longer. Live each day as ‘twere thy last. In an earlier post here I wrote about a ‘good death’. One of my more elderly (in years but not in mind) parishioners told me that her idea of a good death was slipping off a stool with a glass of Jameson’s in her hand. This has interesting theological implications too. Raise your glasses. The standard Anglican response to any difficult issue has much to commend it: ‘Let’s have another glass of sherry‘. Or whiskey.

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