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Upon reading recently about the latest discoveries in the infinitesimally large cosmic view of dark matter, dark energy, the virtual infinity of galaxies - each consisting of billions of stars - in the infinity of space of the expanding universe; and in the microscopic view, of the infinitesimally small universe of particle physics; fascinating as all this may be, one must question the relevance of these topics to the state of the world in which we live today.
I am not questioning the importance of human curiosity in all matters as the motivating force of human progress, but I do question the amount of labor, time, resources, expense and attention given to matters not of immediate or foreseeable significance when menacing problems of great urgency are crying out for our full attention. It may be enlightening to know how human civilization may eventually continue on another planet or in another galaxy after the death of our solar system and Earth in a few billion years, or how the cosmos was formed from the time of the Big Bang, but if we don't fully attend to vital matters here and now, there may be no flourishing civilization or livable Earth in the short term of centuries or decades.
The physical sciences and related industries consume a big chunk of our gross world product. The on-going Large Hadron Collider project in Europe, designed to search for the very smallest particles of creation, has some estimates approaching one trillion dollars long term. Projected costs of large-scale telescopes on the drawing board are close to $2b, not counting operating and maintenance costs. Space research is another big, open-ended cost. Some projects, such as mapping the status of Earth's resources, would have unquestionable current value. The big question is how much of this really contributes to human progress or sustenance, and how much of it is an inflated expense of labor and money that serves the personal interests of scientists and - primarily - that of our profit-hungry industrial empire. Is this just another branch of the military/industrial complex?
Along with the military/industrial and science/industrial complexes, we can add the pharmaceutical/industrial and food/agricultural/industrial complexes, the entertainment/industrial complex, etc. In each case, the original creative ingenuity that started the industry has been eclipsed by the ambition of opportunistic business prospectors who followed. Of course, without the cooperation of insightful developers, the industry would never get off the ground, but at some point when greed in pursuit of profits overpowers the mission to benefit humanity, industries tend to expand beyond need and reason.To increase demand, people must be encouraged (conditioned) to be consumers, like a herd of milk cows.
We now live in an economic climate where the creative, compassionate instinct for human achievement that potentially exists to some degree in all of us, and which is the foundation of a flourishing society, is subservient to a more base instinct of individual avarice. Science and knowledge are subservient to unbridled industry. Our common social foundation is depreciated. We have little government. The Earth suffers. Civilization suffers.
Instead of looking up at the sky with large telescopes to find a god of the future, or with powerful sub-atomic colliders to find the destiny or purpose of mankind, let us look at our feet and turn our attention primarily to the problems we find there.