Is it me, or are we losing all sense of proportion when it comes to money? And, relative to our collective sense of proportion, have we become so snug in our technological progressions that terminal arrogance has become the norm?
I raise the first question because people seem too blasé. Both the budget deficit and the national debt have acquired speeds well in excess of escape velocity. Both now seem well on their way to achieving their own orbits.
I remember when a MILLION of something, especially DOLLARS, was a LOT. A million of them set you up for a life of luxury.
Gradually the requirement became a BILLION. A million no longer cut it. Now it’s become a TRILLION. A billion has become mere pocket change.
I suspect that a good part of the reason for this is the fact that the numbers are so huge that we just can’t get our arms around how humongous they actually are.
This article has nothing to do with politics. It’s not about Bush or Obama. It’s not free market versus socialism. I’m simply trying to put a TRILLION dollars into a relatable perspective.
So, for simplicity’s sake, let’s look at the stimulus package Congress approved for George Bush. It was huge; but it was mere chump-change compared to the more recent ones.
That package amounted to around $750-billion. How much money is this? We know it’s a lot. But, realistically, how much is it… really?
From the first day of year 0001 AD to now (3-1-2009) comes to 733,979 days. Spending $1-million on each of those days, guess how much you will have spent.
It comes to $732,979,000,000! That is seven hundred thirty-two BILLION, nine hundred seventy-nine MILLION dollars. Let’s just call it $733-billion.
At that spending rate, you will have spent about $733-BILLION over a period of 2,008.162-years. And you’d still be short (by $17-billion) of the $750-billion Congress authorized Bush to borrow and spend in just 60-DAYS!
If you multiply $733-billion by 4, you get, neatly rounded, 2.93-TRILLION dollars… spent on the Iraq war in just six and a half years.
Spending a $1,000,000 a day, we would have had to begin spending it in 6041 BC in order to have spent $2.93-trillion dollars by 3-1-2009
On the criminal side, Bernard Madoff duped his handpicked investors out of $50-billion over a few years—petty cash compared to the investment banking bailout.
Using our $1,000,000 a day spending model, we’d have to go back to 1872 (about 137-years) to begin spending it in order to have spent $50-billion by March 1, 2009.
Put another way, were you to inherit $50-billion (forget interest) at the age of 21 and you got to live to the age of 80, you could indulge yourself in a spending orgy of about $820,000,000 a year. That’s BILLIONS! Every year. For your entire adult life.
Now, let me get to that second question at the beginning of this article concerning our penchant for collective snugness of attitude regarding our place in the cosmos.
About a year and a half ago, a young man (around 25, I suspected) opined about our technological genius and how it, quite “probably,” had weakened Mother Nature’s evolutionary power over us humans.
Of course, I ricocheted off the wall. Yes, I should have realized that he was merely the victim of youthful ignorance. I should have been more patient with him; but I wasn’t.
Then, last Thursday, someone else broached the same notion. Only, this time, the broacher was not some starry-eyed youngster. A highly educated, former colleague was now doing the supposing.
Unlike the younger man, he wasn’t as absolute in his contentions and he was much more specific about the topic, being careful to restrict his evaluation to the arenas of medicine, biology, and chemistry.
Without going into specifics, I have to admit that he had a point, but it was one based on a very narrow interpretation of the facts. We had an interesting exchange.
However, ALL members of the “science” community would do well to THINK things through more carefully BEFORE going off at the mouth; declaring us humans scientifically omniscient.
We should heed the words of a brilliant man of science, Edwin Hubble (1889-1953). He summed up humankind’s perspective on scientific discovery rather succinctly.
He said; “Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure science.”
Unfortunately, he said this AFTER a few of the brightest intellects in our scientific universe had made themselves appear a tad foolish.
I’ve spent my entire adult life in scientific research and engineering. I know a thing or two about physics, too. And, I’m telling you; scientists need to bite their tongues whenever they’re feeling cocky about what we “know.”
For example, in 1888, an astronomer named Simon Newcomb told the scientific world; “We are probably nearing the limit of all we can know about astronomy.”
In 1894, a very smart Nobel laureate physicist named Albert Michelson told the masses; “The more important fundamental laws and facts of the physical sciences have all been discovered. The possibility of any new discoveries supplanting them, in any consequence, is exceedingly remote.”
And in 1901, Lord Kelvin of the Kelvin temperature scale fame, told the science community, “There is nothing new to be discovered in physics, now. All that remains is more and more precise measurement.”
Stupid and arrogant statements, as we can see here, are not the exclusive purview of politicians, lawyers, judges, and myriad self-proclaimed experts on God’s will.
The human race is—and I mean this respectfully—a lot dumber than it likes to admit. We’re not innately stupid. It’s just that we often lack adequate perspective.
Looking foolish, not to mention downright stupid, is the grand prize for forgetting this invaluable nugget of wisdom.
We have to remember that our ONLY perspective is the HUMAN one. This is either because we humans are alone in the universe or because we’ve not yet discovered others. Given the cosmic scale of our universe, I suspect the latter is the case.
Even though many people assume a fetal position and begin sucking their thumbs at the mention of us evolving from “monkeys,” the fact is that we share about 98% of our DNA with chimpanzees.
We evolved differently and where we’re different, we’re radically different. We can talk, chimps can’t. Humans become self-aware, lower animals (chimps or otherwise) don’t.
Humans are smart. We—many of us, at least—can do abstract math, but no matter how diligently we try to teach them, chimps are never going to learn algebra.
Compared to all other animal species, including chimps, humans are a smart lot. But, everything we “know:” biology, physics, chemistry, social science, and everything else are ALL Earth-bound.
We simply have no other “intelligent” life forms with which to compare ourselves.
Yet, for all practical purposes, we exist in an infinite universe where multiple random occurrences can be a reality. As smart as we are compared to our distant cousins, the chimps, how smart would be an advanced intelligent life form compared to us?
Precisely what is it that we “know?” That on this rock called Earth, inanimate matter formed into living beings is a fact. That, human consciousness arose, at least here it did, is also a fact.
But, despite all of our scientific analysis, no matter how diligently we’ve sought answers, in spite of the aggregate of human scientific “smarts,” we still have no idea how or why.
Only with respect to EARTH and our own solar system, do we know what is essential for life. But without comparative perspectives, we have no idea of what is essential for life to form elsewhere.
The next time scientists, including me, decide to declare that we’ve reached the end of scientific discovery, we might consider that at one point a “flat” Earth was an “indisputable” fact.
Once upon a time, the entirety of scientific wisdom knew, intuitively, that Earth was the center of the universe. At some point, all scientists and philosophers knew that the Sun revolved around the Earth.
Cut me a break ALREADY. Relative to scientific discovery, I suspect that there is a great deal of iceberg beneath that little tip of “knowledge” that we claim as “ours.”
For all we “KNOW,” Stephen Hawking was correct when he, humorously, announced the possibility that “Black Holes are where God divided by ZERO!”
Joe Walther is a freelance writer and publisher of The True Facts. You may comment on his column by clicking here.