Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

November 27, 2013

LION AND THE LAMB: Three planetary riddles

By Ted Braun
Chronicle contributor

CROSSVILLE — This past week anthropologists reported on DNA tests they had made on the 24,000-year-old body of a four-year-old boy found in eastern Siberia. The DNA matches that of Western Europeans who migrated from Europe during the last Ice Age and also the DNA of 25 percent of living Native Americans. The body had been found under a stone slab wearing an ivory diadem, a bead necklace, and a bird-shaped pendant.

It’s too bad that we can’t find out more about the circumstances of that little fellow’s death: how devastated the parents must have been, and how they coped with the loss. Did they believe in a deity or in an afterlife? Did they have other children? The facts and circumstances will remain a riddle across the years of time.

A second riddle appeared this month. On November 5 astronomers reported on a new analysis of data from NASA’s Kepler spacecraft: there could be as many as 40 billion Earth-size planets in our galaxy. This finding is based on the discovery that one of every five sun-like stars in the galaxy has a planet the size of Earth circling it in the “Goldilocks” zone (not too hot, not too cold) where surface temperatures should be compatible with liquid water, and life could develop. 

Astronomers have discovered two promising planets 1,200 light-years from Earth. Dr. Lisa Kaltenegger of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics envisioned the pair as a “Darwinian test tube” and wondered if life might evolve “the same way or would there be very different life?”

It’s too bad that we won’t find out any answers to this during our own lifetime. The prospect of such life in other places in the universe will remain a riddle across the miles of space for many years. It will push us, however, to move beyond the traditional three-level cosmology of heaven, earth, and hell that has bound us in the past. For example, a church sign in our county recently proclaimed “God lives in heaven and in a thankful heart.”

The first two riddles deal with situations we can’t do anything about. The third, however, deals with a problem that calls for a human solution. It has to do with the future of our own nation and empire. The prospects at this moment are not good. Dr. Henry A. Giroux, Global Television Network Chair of English and Cultural Studies at McMaster University in Canada, has written the following analysis:

“At the heart of neoliberal narratives are ideologies, modes of governance, and policies that embrace a pathological individualism, a distorted notion of freedom, and a willingness both to employ state violence to suppress dissent and abandon those suffering from a collection of social problems ranging from dire poverty and joblessness to homelessness.

“In the end, these are stories about disposability in which growing numbers of groups are considered disposable and a drain on the body politic, the economy, and the sensibilities of the rich and powerful. Rather than work for a more dignified life, most Americans now work simply to survive in a survival-of-the-fittest society in which getting ahead and accumulating capital, especially for the ruling elite, is the only game in town.”

Planetary riddles are not easily solved, but we have an obligation to come to grips with the third one.  

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This column by local writers is dedicated to the theme that the lion and the lamb can and must learn to live together and grow in their relationship toward one another to ensure a better world of peace and justice.  Opinions expressed in “Lion and Lamb” columns are not necessarily those of the Crossville Chronicle publisher, editor or staff.  For more information, contact Ted Braun, editor, at 277-5135.