Trillions of Stars and ‘Stardust Becoming Aware of Itself’

As I scanned my Facebook  news feed this morning, my attention was drawn to an article posted by a friend titled, “Astronomers Find Triple the Number of Stars Hiding in the Universe.” Then I saw an expanded version of the same story on NPR, “‘Trillions Of Earths’ Could Be Orbiting 300 Sextillion Stars.”

I was reminded immediately of one of my favorite quotes from Michael Dowd’s book Thank God for Evolution: “We are stardust now evolved to the place that the stardust can think about itself.”

I’m also reminded of a line from Contact, one of my favorite films, which beautifully and challengingly oscillates between the perspectives of faith and reason.  Toward the end of the film, Jodie Foster’s character is speaking to a group of children, and says, “I’ll tell you one thing about the universe, though. The universe is a pretty big place. It’s bigger than anything anyone has ever dreamed of before. So if it’s just us… seems like an awful waste of space.”

This latest news from the field of astronomy is only one more reason to stand in awe and wonder at the mystery of how much we know as a species as well as how that knowledge simultaneously invites us to humility regarding how much we do not know.

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