Lord Martin Rees, one of the world’s most eminent astronomers, is an emeritus professor of cosmology and astrophysics at the University of Cambridge and the UK’s Astronomer Royal. He is one of our key thinkers on the future of humanity in the cosmos.
Never heard of him? Me either. I am indebted to Friend Sue Williams who introduced him to me this morning at church. (Sue is just one more reason I make it a point to be there Sunday after Sunday. I get to listen for God and listen to thoughtful people who are also in conversation with God.)
As you read his book, (Our Final Hour) or listen to his Ted Talk (Is This Our Final Century?) you quickly learn that Martin Rees knows a lot about the stars and the planets and the galaxies. But as most people who tend to “look up”, he also seems to know a lot about humanity: where we have succeeded and where we have failed.
Lord Rees, whose own work is very dependent on advances in technology, has come to the conclusion that what may have been our greatest achievement in this century has become the prelude to our greatest failure.
Here is his premise in the most simplistic of terms: Humanity has a mere 50/50 chance of surviving the next century because our technological knowledge and applications are so much more advanced than our emotional and spiritual maturity as a human race. It is as if the future of the world is in the hands of middle schoolers.
I have two young teen aged grandchildren. They are good kids. And like most of their friends, they are not yet fully formed. Their impulse control has yet to ripen. Their ability to make connections and anticipate consequences (intended and not intended) is hindered by their lack of real life experience. When they screw up they are sorry, but not fully aware that their actions may have altered their futures in an unparalleled way (and not only for themselves, but for all those that love them or follow them.)
They thrive on praise and as products of our progressive parenting have not always been mentored in how to fail. They don’t really understand (yet) that they will learn the most when allowed to fail–if they have enough motivation to actually learn from the failure before they try again.
What we need now, more than ever before, is the experience of age (a sense of history lived as well as read), combined with the wisdom of ethics and a strong commitment to compassion and empathy. This is no time to be self centered or too enamored with our own personalities.
When it comes to nuclear holocaust we must realize just how interconnected technologically, economically and philosophically we have become. And we must seriously consider how our action (or lack of it) will determine what happens next not just to us, but to everyone.
Do we need a Nanny McFee or a Mary Poppins in the strategy rooms with global leaders who seem intent on making this our final hour?
In the words of my own mother, “It’s time to put on your big boy pants fellas.”