Cosmism: A Worldview for a Cosmic Civilization

By Darth Imperius/Master of Science in Space Studies/thesis work/manuscript:

Philosophical Justifications

Cosmism is motivated by a simple idea: That human beings should expand outward indefinitely into the Cosmos, both physically and with our minds. This idea may seem natural to the reader, but historically, it is anything but. In fact, ours may be the first civilization in history to make the idea of an open-ended, outward push toward the stars central to its worldview. Most previous civilizations have favored preserving the status quo, accepting a limited place in the universe, and viewing history in terms of cycles of rise and fall. Even in our own civilization, in the glory days of Apollo, there were many who complained that our resources would be better spent solving problems here on Earth. This suggests that the Cosmist idea is not obvious or natural to human beings, and must be continually justified and defended. Some of the philosophical justifications that Cosmists might use to support their agenda are described below.

New Frontiers

Humanity today is facing a new problem: All the land on this planet is claimed, which means that to start a new society one has to conquer an existing one. Meanwhile, the risk of global surveillance and totalitarianism grows. Cosmism should appeal to bold, ambitious, pioneer spirits who are dissatisfied with the mundane status quo and have the will to do what is necessary to open up the High Frontier. New frontiers will offer opportunities to try new ideas in social organization, civilization, religion, philosophy, culture, etc. The settlers who came to the Americas were able to escape a stifling social order and create a powerful and dynamic new civilization. And unlike that example, in space there are no natives to be conquered or displaced. The universe, as far as we can tell, is ours for the taking.

Spiritual Renewal

Space exploration may offer a renewed sense of spirituality through direct experience of the Cosmos (see “the Overview Effect” below). We can imagine temples, churches, mosques and Cosmist observatories in orbit, on the moon, Mars and beyond. There may even be “space prophets” similar to Edgar Mitchell. Cosmism should emphasize the potential for a dramatic shift in consciousness toward a larger, cosmic perspective on human problems and potential as we expand out into the universe.

Curiosity

Beyond our instinct to survive, humans have an amazing curiosity that has driven us to expand across this planet, develop science and technology, try new cultural ideas, and begin to explore the universe. Having largely mapped out and settled this planet, the next logical place for curious minds to turn is our solar system and beyond. In recent years, hundreds of planets have been discovered around other stars; surely our drive “to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations”, and to experience the “infinite diversity in infinite combinations” of the Cosmos will achieve its fullest expression in our push outward toward the stars.

Greening of the Cosmos

Humanity has an obligation to expand into space in order to bring life to what could be a lifeless universe. Life, according to this way of thinking, is a rare and beautiful thing (possibly even unique to our planet in the entire universe), which should take root on other worlds. As the only species on Earth capable of space travel, it falls to humans to push outward into the universe – not just for our sake, but for the sake of the entire biosphere. Marshall Savage expressed this idea poetically in his visionary work, “The Millennial Project: Colonizing the Galaxy in Eight Easy Steps”:

“Teetering here on the fulcrum of destiny stands our own bemused species. The future of the universe hinges on what we do next. If we take up the sacred fire, and stride forth into space as the torchbearers of Life, this universe will be aborning. If we carry the green fire-brand from star to star, and ignite around each a conflagration of vitality, we can trigger a Universal metamorphosis. Because of us, the barren dusts of a million billion worlds will coil up into the pulsing magic forms of animate matter. Because of us, landscapes of radiation blasted waste, will be miraculously transmuted: slag will become soil, grass will sprout, flowers will bloom, and forests will spring up in once sterile places. Ice, hard as iron, will melt and trickle into pools where starfish, anemones, and seashells dwell — a whole frozen universe will thaw and transmogrify, from howling desolation to blossoming paradise. Dust into Life; the very alchemy of God.”1

A Larger View of Terrestrial Problems

The larger perspective that space technology has given our species on our own planet, via continuous satellite observation, global communications and the sight of our small blue planet from the moon and deep space, is surely vital to our ability to solve the global problems that confront us in the 21st century. Seeing the Earth as one ecosystem, beyond the artificial distinctions of national borders, economic systems and ideologies, has been one of the great revelations of the Space Age. Studying the effects of environmental changes on other planets, such as Venus and Mars, give us warnings about what may await us on Earth. If problems such as global warming, environmental degradation, terrorism and nuclear war are to be solved, they will require leaders and citizens who are willing to think globally. As Bill Nelson, the Florida Senator who flew aboard the space shuttle Columbia in 1986, put it:

if the superpower leaders could be given the opportunity to see the Earth from the perspective from which I saw it – perhaps at a summit meeting in space in the context of the next century – they might realize that we’re all in this with a common denominator. It would have a positive effect on their future decisions concerning war and peace.2

Cosmic Obligation

In his seminal book Cosmos, Carl Sagan offered a more metaphysical, quasi-religious justification for human expansion into space: “We are the local embodiment of a Cosmos grown to self-awareness. … Our obligation to survive is owed not just to ourselves but also to that Cosmos, ancient and vast, from which we spring.”3 The Cosmos, for Sagan, is apparently like a god that has given us a cosmic role to fulfill!

1 Marshall Savage, The Millennial Project: Colonizing the Galaxy in Eight Easy Steps (Little Brown & Co, 2006), 15.
2 Frank White, The Overview Effect: Space Exploration and Human Evolution, Boston (Houghton Mifflin Company, 1987), 286.
3 Carl Sagan, Cosmos, (London: Abacus, 1995) 374.
 
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