Thursday, September 24, 2015
When asked by the Mason’s to write about a symbol and it’s meaning, I chose one of the most enigmatic in cinematic history. The film 2001: A Space Odyssey begins with a group of australopithecines in an African desert struggling to survive in finding food and battling with rival clans of their species. Seemingly from out of nowhere a rectangular black monolith appears. The australopithecines are confused by what they see. Regardless of what they did see, after encountering the monolith they gained the capacity to use tools. This made them better hunters and better able to fight off rivals. This first part of the film is called The Dawn of Man as the australopithecines were the first primates to walk upright and are thought to be a link between chimpanzees and humans.
The film then leaves the earth as a US spaceship is flying towards the moon to investigate a strange sighting there at the US moon colony. A cover story about an epidemic in the colony was created to keep the Soviets away. When the people on the spaceship arrive at the strange sight we see that it is the same monolith that the australopithecines saw. They discover that the monolith is sending radio signals to Jupiter. In this segment, human’s use of tools has advanced greatly but groups of humans (represented by the US and the Soviets) are still in conflict with each other.
After encountering the monolith on the moon, the US sends a top secret mission to Jupiter to investigate what it is sending radio signals to. The spaceship is controlled by the ultimate human tool, the supercomputer HAL. As the ship nears Jupiter, HAL malfunctions and kills all but one of the astronauts on board and lets the air out of the ship. The lone survivor on the ship, played by Kier Dullea, has no choice but to investigate the monolith alone after disconnecting HAL.
As Dullea approaches another monolith in orbit around Jupiter he has a psychedelic experience while being transported to a strange room where he ages rapidly. As he approaches the end of his life he encounters the monolith and is then transformed into the star child floating above the Earth. The ending is ambiguous and has had people debating it ever since. When asked about the ending, the director Stanley Kubrick said “If you understood the ending, I failed.”
At every moment in the film where the monolith appears, the next step in human evolution is complete. This seemingly inanimate object has the power to direct evolution. The film 2010: The Year We Made Contact (without Kubrick as the director) addresses some of the ambiguities about what happened to Dullea’s character and why the computer HAL turned homicidal. This time a joint US-Soviet mission returns to Jupiter and encounters HAL, Dullea and the monolith. Exactly what the monolith is is not addressed to leave something to the imagination, and a possible sequel. It could represent a supreme being, it could simply be a tool of a more advanced alien society to achieve some positive aim, or it could mean nothing at all. This ambiguity is what makes the monolith so fascinating.
Wednesday, January 15, 2014
The website and YouTube channel Science Hive has been created to answer basic questions about science, especially about biology. It's creator, Bee, is featured in the video above. In it she gives a good definition of the difference between living and nonliving things. In her next video whe gives a good explanation of mutations.
Sunday, February 17, 2013
This post is about a scientific conflict which still has ramifications to this day. Charles Darwin had exactly the same birthday as Abraham Lincoln, February 12, 1809. Both men were considered ordinary until their ideas became well known in the late 1850's. Both were very cautious about pursuing their proposals because they knew that they would encounter a lot of resistance. An astrologer may attribute these similarities to their sign, Aquarius, while another explanation could also be coincidence.
Naturally they did meet resistance when they pushed their ideas of abolishing slavery (Lincoln of course) and the evolution (Darwin's Origin of Species). Of course these two men do not deserve all of the credit for these revolutions happening. There were many abolitionists and scientists who worked tirelessly for years to lay the groundwork for a revolution in thought and action. The abolitionists were aided by the industrial revolution which made slavery obsolete. There is a whole field of philosophy on scientific revolutions on why and how they happen.
In the case of evolution there were discoveries in geology which showed that the earth must be far older than the Bible says (calculated to be about 6,000 years old) and that there were lots of mass extinctions of animals for which the Bible could not account. Darwin's evidence he obtained on the voyage of the HMS Beagle and described in his book The origin of Species. Journalist/Scientist James Burke does an interesting review of how Darwin's ideas were used to change society after The Origin of Species was published in 1859 in ways that he never intended.
Religious Conflict with Evolution?
In general, would you say the theory of evolution conflicts
with your own religious beliefs, or is mostly compatible
with your own religious beliefs*? %
Conflicts with my beliefs 42
Is mostly compatible 43
Don’t know/Refused 16
*order of response options was rotated
Views on Evolution
Which of these statements comes closest to your views on
the origin of biological life: biological life developed over
time from simple substances, but God guided this process,
biological life developed over time from simple substances
but God did not guide this process, God directly created
biological life in its present form at one point in time*?
God directly created life 43
Developed over time, God guided process 24
Developed over time, God did not guide 18
None of these/Don’t know/Refused 16
*order of response options was randomized
Source: VCU Life Sciences Survey 2010
Figures may add to 99 or 101 due to rounding
The series Drunk History gives a good summary of the Scopes Monkey Trial.
The Civil War in a Larger International Historical Context