The Institute on Man and Science; Cosmos and Man
National Educational radio in cooperation with the Institute on man and science presents a series of talks drawn from the institute's annual conference held recently in Rensselaer Vale New York. The Institute on man and science is a nonprofit educational institution chartered by the New York State Board of Regents. The annual assembly of the institute is designed to focus attention on 20th century technology and the human relationships resulting from its application. The speaker on this program is Albert G Wilson an astrophysicist working at Douglas Aircraft. His topic is cosmos and man. Here now is Mr. Wilson. During the past few days I've been quite impressed with several of the points that various speakers have raised concerning the critical problems that we're facing in this decade of the 60s. Some of these problems may even overwhelm us
in the decade of the 70s. We've been reminded by some of the speakers of the critical unbalances that we have been creating these unbalances not only in the distribution of sustenance but in the distribution of hope. We've been reminded that the UN balances that man has created within his own society are now spilling over into the ecological context and we are even threatening our atmosphere the atmospheric balance that keeps our planet habitable. Now another picture has been painted for us of a society that is moving towards robbing increasing numbers of its members of our role and their society. Fewer people are
needed in the economic sector. Old people no longer have a place in the family. And young people find little satisfaction in devoting years preparing themselves to compete for a dubious position in a society whose meaning they don't understand and whose meaning they question. And the young people are no longer finding meaning in the role of being cannon fodder in the nor it is when they are given ad hoc jobs to make some more unneeded consumer products are not given a sense of relevance for their toils. Now the worst in my opinion is the diploma that tacit diploma that goals with a welfare payment this diploma informs the recipient that he's been graduated
to the sector of society that is no longer needed. Of course he knows he'll continue to be supported at least until society works out some pragmatic philosophy that can arrive at a realistic final solution. To quote a philosophy of a couple decades ago. Now in looking at the common ingredient and all of these depressing aspects of social trends we see that for many individuals there is coming a lack of rule lack of a needful relationship with society. In short a lack of meaning. Now the fact that society no longer needs large sub portions of itself to assure its maintenance and continuation is
only one phase of this growing crisis in meaning. That's marking our time because economic meaning is only the most recent source of meaning to dry up other sources traditional sources of meaning have been largely religious sources and these have been drying up slowly over a longer period of time. But before we turn to the broader aspects of this crisis of meaning Let's inquire just briefly what are the sources of meaning for man and for mankind. What do we mean by meaning. But without going into a lot of philosophical detail or great philosophical depth. I want to say that we will mean simply for an individual for society for mankind as a whole meaning
derives from a sense of identity. And from a sense of belonging. In order for there to be meaning there must be a role to be played. There must exist a set of relationships between the individual and the whole. Such as a relationship of neet between a member of a family and the entire family for meaning to exist there must be linkages between individuals or groups and the environment or some function in the ecology in general we can say in one phrase meaning implies a connection with context. But this isn't only spatial context this is temporal context. Meaning implies a relation with a past and relation to the future. I'm aware that I'm making a great leap here from the psychological subjective sense of meaning and to an objective physical
connection to context type of state. We've short circuited a long philosophical discourse. All we want to do that because the only thing we're trying to get across is that meaning does involve relationship to something larger something bigger in time and in space. Now we remark the destructive effect of many of our economic and social trends. On this sense of meaning for the individual. But there's a second critical though it's much less visible meaning problem with which all men in the 20th century are involved and this is the meaning of mankind itself. Man's cosmic meaning. The role of man in the cosmic order and the relationship between man and his works to the whole cosmos. It has this parallelism between the individual and society or the total of humanity and the
cosmos. And we can live without this second type of meaning being satisfied for longer periods and we can live without individual meaning but we cannot live without cosmic meaning and definitely And part of the questioning that youth is making today is concerned with this large contextual meaning for human society. And we can elaborate some theories of social evolution historical process CS and maybe based on our own aspirations or based upon historical information. But whatever system we work out a city of man or whatever types of dreams we try to put together these must all ultimately be tested for consistency with their contextual cosmic environment and with the contextual
cosmic prophecies. No amount of planning that humans do is going to be ultimately meaningful ific if it ignores the natural order. How the ancients were well aware of the necessity to relate their affairs to the natural order and to what they call the supernatural order. What we will call a cosmic context. Perhaps they were more aware of the necessity of doing this than we are because the cosmic context frequently invaded their lives in a cataclysmic manner. We somehow feel we are immune from this today because of our increasing control over nature. There is nothing to assure us that we are immune. What the ancients did to solve this problem they introduced into their religion a concept
of cosmology cosmology with a capital C which was a description of the relationship between man and the cosmic context and nature of man and the deity. Now this is an essential part of every religion. This cosmography will call it. I'm using the word cosmography for cosmology with a capital C for what it's been called in various times and sacred cosmology religious cosmology as contrasted to say physical or scientific cosmology will distinguish between these more carefully. But the main difference is the types of questions to which religious cosmography and the secular or scientific cosmology
address themselves. How the religious cosmography is concerned with such questions as What is all of this universe about us. How did it originate. What is its destiny. What is man and what's man's relation to this universe. These are certainly questions having to do with meaning. They are why questions in scientific cosmology on the other hand is concerned with questions such as What are the totality of the material bodies physical bodies that exist in the universe. What are the physical laws of physical process that govern these material bodies. We can ask how did the bodies originate. What are their evolutionary paths and what is the relationship between these bodies and their relationship to the whole.
These are what and how questions. There is considerable overlap. We recognize that immediately between the primitive questions and the modern scientific questions at least in this general sense. But the thing we want to recognize is the source of these questions the scientific questions come to us from a process of observation and hypothesis forming testing. This has been described for us by some of the speakers this week. But the religious questions do not come from sense experience or rational thought alone. These questions seem to arise from an integrated total experience. They come directly from the psyche of man
and his aspirations to find meaning. We know this because primitive peoples did not have a lot of the scientific experience to ask these kinds of questions but the questions have been there in all cultures. So they're deeper than any particular type of scientific experience. Now because of these overlaps between the two types of questions the traditional cause Cosmo graphical and the specific physical cosmological questions example being origin and destiny questions these two areas have gotten confused. And this has resulted at least in the western world and a very peculiar and perhaps a tragic development. I sense a cosmography as an Enter Groll part of every religion.
It has supplied the meaning to me and through mists and through constructs relating heaven and earth man and God creation stories and so on. And these have sustained people through many centuries and giving them a feeling of importance and meaning. Now what happened. As has been pointed out in earlier lectures this week. We became confused between answers to the Cosmo graphical questions and answers to the physical cosmology questions and during the 16th century. There was a contradiction raised about the medieval cosmography God in a throne directly above Jerusalem relating to people giving them meaning omniscient
present on the present and relating to every detail. This went out with a telescope but the scientist really wasn't talking about this sort of thing at all. The theologian and the scientist got mixed up here and. We're still mixed up in the West. We've never straightened this dilemma out but there is one set of questions relating to meaning and another to physical structure. Soul. Today's crisis in meaning is in part at least traceable to this divorce between cause Knology cosmography and religion and the Western world and a religion with out a cosmology or a cosmography becomes ineffective and it gradually erodes away. Now where do we go from here of course is the question. If man's
cosmic meaning is going to come from a certain role that humanity plays in the cosmos. Or we get our meaning from knowledge of the relationships between what goes on here on Earth and the cosmos. What can we learn. From what scientific cosmology tells us about these relationships. Not that this will be sufficient it certainly is not sufficient at this time. But it's all that some of us can do at this moment. So let us take an inventory of the known linkages between the human universe and the outer cosmos which is revealed to us by our telescopes. We see that the interaction between the cosmos and our world occurs through gravitational fields.
We're long been aware of tides and the effect of tides have to be taken into account in human affairs. There are cycles of time associated with 24 hours others with 24 hours and 50 minutes the lunar day. This is the title day has a 28 day cycle which plays an important role in biological and cultural affairs. Professor Sears spoke the other day of biological clocks. In each living organism are certain clocks that seem to be somehow tuned to these cosmic intervals. There is some relationship between what's going on inside of us and these particular cosmic periods. This relationship. There's plenty of evidence for it but the nature of it is not understood at the present time relationship
between the affairs of men and what's going on in the cosmos brings to mind the ancient discipline of astrology strategy claims that the positions of planets and forces between the planets and human beings affect their destinies and their very dispositions. There is no evidence scientific evidence for this. There's no scientific evidence against it. It is a heritage from an older time. It has not been tested to our satisfaction at this day but we are developing more acute and strong months for detecting interactions of cosmic forces with the earth and with the biological mechanisms. So it may be within the few the next few decades we will discover that there are relationships besides
just gravitational relationships. A second important area in which the cosmos interacts with man through electromagnetic radiation of various sorts. We are all familiar with how solar radiation is the basis of all of life on Earth. More recently we've been studying the details of solar terrestrial relationships in particular how solar flares create magnetic storms and blackouts and community radio communication on the earth. And it looks as though a great deal more of our radio communication and the whole magnetic sphere about the Earth is related to conditions inside the sun. But there's a possibility it's not only the sun that is affecting what is going on on the earth.
Recently astronomers are becoming aware that there are exist two universes. We've been thinking in terms of one universe which is concerned with planets and planetary systems which is concerned with galaxies and clusters of galaxies. But in the last few years we recognize a second universe. We can call the second universe the explosive universe. It's a universe of stars that explode so I'm called Novi and supernovae a supernova is an exploding star that within a few days is radiating as much energy as all the rest of the stars in the Milky Way put together energies 100 billion times the energy of the sun. More recently we have found objects called quasars which belong to this explosive universe.
There have been explosive galaxies at least in the nuclei discovered in the past five years. So it looks as though we're going to have to revise our fundamental ideas about the universe. The idea about stability long time stability are going to have to be looked into and re-examined. We believe that our own sun is up longer than normal or slow process universe not the explosive universe but in our neighborhood there may occur from time to time an object that does belong to the explosive universe a supernova may occur in our own galaxy within a few hundred light years. The last time not the last time but a recent time. When this happened was in the year 10 54. There was a supernova in our galaxy that exploded. And some very peculiar things
happened. On Earth. At that time. We know where this the remnants of this object are today it's a cloud. Call the Crab Nebula because the remaining filaments have sort of a crab like structure. Chinese and Japanese records point to this explosion that occurred where a star suddenly became as bright as the planet Venus in the sky. But in Europe there's no record at all of the supernova of 10:54. Recently some colleagues of mine in the southwest desert looking at glyphs and cliff dwellings found some peculiar markings showing the crescent moon with a large circle nearby which calculation show that the path
of the moon did pass very close to where this supernova was in the sky and it may have been that the primitive peoples in our Southwest also noticed this supernova and marked it and the rocks were rock walls of their cave. But why was it that it was not noticed in Europe. A few years ago Arthur Morgan reported that he had been studying the flood levels of the Danube River. And every century there was a high water mark. But someone in an old castle had scratched a mark that. Was an all time high water mark for the floods of the Danube River and the date marked on this was ten fifty four. And he concluded that. This might have had something to do with a supernova but at that time there was no reason for thinking so. About a
year and a half a goal Colgate came forward with a theory which showed that an explosion of a supernova results in a tremendous blast of X-rays very high energy X-rays and these if the supernova is close enough to the earth could play a very important role on biological evolution. It could even be a source of the beginning or end of a species of life. But such nuclear such radiation can also form nuclei in the atmosphere. And if Europe was facing the supernova at the time this blast of X-rays came and nuclei would have been formed in the upper atmosphere they wouldn't have seen the supernova but. The clouds came and the rains came. The other side of the world. This did not happen. It's a possible explanation but theory and
observation are beginning to piece together that certain cosmic events even remote from the solar system may play a very major role in what is happening here on Earth. A minor contribution to this inventory of linkages between our own. World and the cosmos has been found recently in the in the fall of cosmic dust as affected by the position of the moon. We now can correlate actual rain conditions with the phases of the moon which farmers have known for centuries but which scientists now believe in too. Now a most important question concerning a possible role for man in the universe is a question of the existence of other life and other intelligence in the universe. How common is
life outside of the earth or the solar system. Are we alone. This is a favorite question for science fiction writers and it's one that intrigues all of us. Even fair maybe a few days after the first bomb was exploded. Asked the question where are they. Well a few years ago when a new radio telescope was put into operation at Green Bank West Virginia this question was looked at seriously for the first time the radio telescope was pointed at various nearby stars with the idea that we might eavesdrop on an alien intelligence some communications that they were indulging in either operational signals or some talk. And of course we have the UFO question. And just this year it's been announced the discovery of a new cosmic phenomenon known as Pulse stars.
These probably have nothing to do with an alien intelligence although they are eliminating certain kinds of curious signals which we cannot discount completely as not arising from. An intelligent source this is under study. Well with just this inventory you see our present state of knowledge concerning human cosmic relationships is derived from physical science doesn't give us very much in the way of materials for discerning cosmic meaning. So what are we to do. We must accept the path out of this meaning morass is to pursue the unifying principles that link physical and nonphysical process as the two worlds that man himself bridges. You have heard Albert G Wilson an astrophysicist working at Douglas Aircraft as he discussed
- Cosmos and Man
- Producing Organization
- Institute on Man and Science
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- For series info, see Item 3566. This prog.: Cosmos and Man. Albert G. Wilson, astrophysicist, Douglas Aircraft.
- Media type
Producing Organization: Institute on Man and Science
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-33-22 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
- Chicago: “The Institute on Man and Science; Cosmos and Man,” 1969-02-10, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed September 21, 2021, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-rx93d07q.
- MLA: “The Institute on Man and Science; Cosmos and Man.” 1969-02-10. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. September 21, 2021. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-rx93d07q>.
- APA: The Institute on Man and Science; Cosmos and Man. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-rx93d07q