Death Is a fact

You may have read about it. NASA, in a test to see if we had the wherewithal to prevent an asteroid from crashing into earth and extinguishing all life, crashed a rocket into a small asteroid, Didymos. The test was successful. Didymos was nudged out of orbit. It was a small news story, swallowed by the headlines about war and politics, but to me it was quite significant. It was the first time I can remember that someone, some nation, did something to benefit not just themselves, but all humanity, indeed the entire planet. That’s really quite rare, it’s almost never done. Most of the time nation states act and move to benefit only themselves; that’s what’s holding back real action on climate change.
Climate change and nuclear holocaust are the two manmade threats to all civilization, even to all life. But the threat of a large asteroid colliding with earth is not man-made. It is astrophysical, built into the laws of the cosmos and of planetary orbits, and it has happened before. It is well accepted now that an asteroid colliding with the earth 65 million years ago wiped out the dinosaurs, and not incidentally changed the biosphere and the climate in a way that gave rise to early mammals, and eventually, human beings. In a sense we were all created by an asteroid, and we can be destroyed by one too. That fact is an example seemingly out of science fiction, that the scientists of earth—or at least of NASA—have the technological sophistication to change the orbit of an asteroid. Actually, it was science fiction before it was a real event. In the 1998 movie Armageddon, starring Bruce Willis, that was the exact plot. The Willis character leads a team of demolition experts on a spaceship to an asteroid, a team who sacrifice their life to blow it up with a nuclear bomb and save humanity. It’s not the first time science fiction has pre-imagined an actual historical event. There was the 19th century novel by Jules Verne about a trip to the moon, written a hundred years before the Apollo team actually did it. Jules Verne imagined submarines before they existed too.
It is trendy these days to question the notion of an absolute truth or an absolute fact. All truths are relative, some say. I have my facts and you have yours. There is no absolute truth, no inarguable fact. Well, an asteroid hitting the earth is a fact. NASA hitting an asteroid with a small rocket and changing the asteroid’s orbit is a fact. When I was in college, during the height of the Vietnam War, I attended a lecture by the famous left-wing philosopher Herman Marcuse. He spoke of facts from a philosophical, and probably somewhat Marxist, point of view. After the lecture, someone raised their hand and in a critical, mocking tone asked, “Dr. Marcuse, what is a fact?”
Marcuse replied quietly, “The Vietnam War is a fact.”
Some of my friends died in that war. Their death was a fact. Their names are inscribed on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C. Those names etched in stone are facts, too. Maybe social media and the maddening drumbeat of misinformation and propaganda makes us nearly believe that there are no longer facts, only beliefs. I think this view is a luxury of living in a wealthy, prosperous country, where we are insulated from the hard facts that most people in the world cannot escape from.
I’m glad that NASA hit the asteroid and showed that there are hard facts, scientific facts, and in a world of hard facts, it is possible to do some good for everyone. Will we learn that lesson in other, more controversial spheres?
What do you think?

3 thoughts on “Death Is a fact

  1. A while ago I was reading that before science was common, people only got their guidance from religious books.
    So if you wanted to be healthy for example, you followed the Bible.

  2. “I think this view is a luxury of living in a wealthy, prosperous country, where we are insulated from the hard facts that most people in the world cannot escape from.”

    Am glad to learn that NASA recently did something constructive, instead of “Preparing America for Deep Space.” I for one want nothing to do with the prospect – let alone the reality – of traveling or living there.

  3. Facts and or narratives/delusions.

    Once more it can be argue, that ‘facts’, whatever those are, are points of view/view related. For example ‘the Vietnam war’. Facts for who? Is there such a thing as a Russia-Ukraine war for a bird flying over Ukrainian territory? (Which in fact don’t fly over non-existent well defined and well bounded Ukrainian territory for that bird to begin with). In the French language, fact is being translated as ‘fait’, and this ‘fait’ simultaneously means ‘fact/fait’ and ‘a doing/faire’. In French it is simultaneously (or alternatively) noun and verb; a doing and the result of that doing. Facts are done, well, in French anyway.

    We tend to forget ‘ourselves’, when for example saying ‘there is a war in Ukraine’, as if ‘entirely’ outside of ourselves, forgetting or dismissing the ‘for who’. Vietnam war or Ukraine war are human being ‘exclusively’ points of view (inner maps)/view related.

    There was a French resistance man who was captured by the Nazi during World War 2, and he was eventually sent to Buchenwald concentration camp, after having been torture for months. He did survive the camp and later wrote a book about his experience. In this book as he recalls some things he said to himself while in that camp, he writes: ‘They all think they are in a concentration camp, prisoners and guards alike’; to this viewpoint, that view and the consequences/state of mind that comes with it. For him, there was way more than just this ‘I am in a concentration camp’ or we are right in the middle of a raging war.

    I call our ‘facts’, microscopic views/viewpoints, where in order to clearly and distinctively see ‘something’ one has to select the proper lens (focal strength), add some stain, make many adjustments until one clearly and distinctively see what one was looking for. As we do so, what happens to the rest? All else (the whole, the totality) kind of becomes out of sight or nebulous/blur, and is often thrown into the garbage can. Of course this ‘microscopic’ way of doing things has its usefulness within a specific context, but none whatsoever beyond that same context.

    What is the difference between these two statements; I am sitting on a rock’, and I live in Montreal. The first one as I am actually sitting on a rock, is concrete, the second one is abstract, for Montreal is part of our inner referential ‘maps’, by which we look from and at, being simultaneously (or alternatively) viewpoint and view. And so to some extent I live within my ‘own’ inner referential maps when saying such a thing, and in no way do I actually live in Montreal, for Montreal does not ‘exist’ outside those ‘inner’ abstract maps, my view being my viewpoint. We fail at seeing that many of our views are viewpoints/maps (abstract) related.

    What part of our ‘understandings’ are conceptual (abstract), what parts are ‘real/reality’? Is this Sunday morning December 11, 2022, 4:34am real or conceptual? Is it objective or subjective, facts or delusion? We look from the whole of our/the ‘western civilisation conception of time’, but look at a specificity/particularity of that same conception (whole or totality). Views (what we look at) is viewpoint (what we look from) related; inseparable, all the while being ‘conceptually’ separated. As we clearly and distinctively see dec.11……. the whole by which this dec11….came from is out of sight. Facts reveal, but they also hide, sometimes way more.

    Faith base or fact base narratives are ‘only’ a question of emphasis, whether we emphasize what we look from or what we look at. But the thing with ‘facts’ or what we look at, is that they require a lot of ‘pre-processing’, they require that we ‘artificially’ bound things up, they also are ephemeral, discontinuous points of focus that are outside of ourselves.(think of the content on our ‘smart’ phones or most medias). Faith base kind of emphasize a stable center by which to look from (within), and fact base its ‘polar opposite’; distinctively bounded, discontinuous, ephemeral points of focus (without).

    Dam if we do, dam if we don’t!

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