We’ve Got Some Good News and Some Bad News

Sunday 26 October 2008, by Michael Ryan Wiseman

Two glasses walk into a bar… don’t stop me if you’ve heard this one because I would like to tell it again.

The glass that is half-empty says: Fourteen billion years ago there was a big bang, and it has been downhill ever since. In no particular order, famine, disease, war, disasters natural and otherwise- the list could go on- are all in plentiful supply on this world of ours. Let us not forget the shambles of a government that is currently presiding over the people of (insert name here). Those who have a democracy, which as they say is the worst form of government except for all of the others, have paltry voter turnout and apathy so great it seems, paradoxically, like they are trying not to improve matters. Get the picture? You only have to wait around for another five billion years until the sun expands and, in its death throes, swallows the earth. On the walls of every nursery should be inscribed, “Abandon hope all ye who enter here.”

The glass that is half-full says: The known universe is 14,000,000,000 years old. The earth is 4,500,000,000 years old. Our species is 200,000 years old. The agricultural evolution, which domesticated plants and animals and led to complex societies, art, and philosophy, is 10,000 years old. We didn’t even have a clear picture of, amongst many other things, our own anatomy until the scientific evolution ushered in empiricism 500 years ago. Only 200 years since the steam engine and the industrial evolution. 40 years ago we walked on the moon. Enter the information evolution: 20 years since the Internet- and we have been processing and progressing exponentially ever since. 10 years ago the probe we sent to Jupiter called back saying that there is water underneath the ice on one of its moons. Get the picture? Bands to tribes to villages to towns to cities to states to regions to one world together toward the universe. On the walls of every nursery should be inscribed, “Welcome to this, the best of all possible worlds.”

Which do you believe?

We have decided to hedge our bets, hence the introduction of a Good News Page. Of course, the fact that there is just the one page is something we all need to be working on.

Oh, and as for the punch line, it turns out both glasses are twice as big as they need to be.

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