The Centre Of The Universe

A column by Boris Johnson in the UK Daily Telegraph caught my eye the other day. It shone a cold, hard light on man’s seemingly innate tendency to place himself at the centre of everything.

Reflecting on the recent earthquake in Japan, Johnson notes the reactions of some that it was actually some sort of punishment from God, Gaia, or whoever, in retribution for mankind’s reckless obsession with drilling the earth’s crust/burning fossil fuels/not burning fossil fuels and fissioning uranium instead/Fox News/James Delingpole/insert your favourite vice here. Of course, man’s anthropocentric tendencies have been around since recorded history began. The ancient Greeks developed a cosmology that had the whole universe revolving around the earth; the holy books of the world’s major religions are filled with accounts of exclusive covenants between God and man (generally, local man, for anthropocentrism was typically extended further, into tribalism). For centuries, the Christian church merrily burned anyone who suggested we are but one among many. Pity the poor Polish monk five hundred years ago who discovered it was all bullshit. And the Italian astronomer who verified this discovery using the newly-invented telescope.

I guess, when you don’t have the foggiest how the world works, you look about you for “forcings”, and human activities seem the logical place to start—to another human, at any rate. Vast, chaotic systems that primitive man had zero chance of comprehending suddenly became explicable. There was a price to be paid, of course: man’s wickedness had angered the Gods, who demanded repentence and sacrifices—administered, naturally, by an elite, self-selected priestly caste, who became rulers and overlords, and whose own private conduct bore no relationship to the austerity they preached.

Human nature, you see. It’s happened before. It’s happening today. And sure as sunrise, it will happen again.

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36 Responses to The Centre Of The Universe

  1. Kitler says:

    I belong to the highly specific anthropic principle in that the Universe has been created just for me….
    We also do not know where in the Universe we are as we can never see a good portion of it only map the bit available to us and to make matters worse we may be just one of an infinite multitude of Universes. Just consider what we mean to the Universe which is 26 billion light years from side to side and getting larger by the minute and in my case about 6ft tall.

    Exactly – Oz:

  2. Kitler says:

    Ozboy…..It’s happened before. It’s happening today. And sure as sunrise, it will happen again.
    You paraphrasing Battlestar Galatica?

    No, I was never a sci-fi geek. I wasn’t originally going to use “sunrise” but on reflection I decided one rude word per post is all I can afford and still be taken seriously – Oz 🙂

  3. Amanda says:

    ‘One rude word per post’ :

    A boor would allow himself three rude words per post, and a lazy man would allow maybe two. A gentleman allows himself one, as he should. : )

  4. Amanda says:

    That bit about the lack of austerity in their own life: you wouldn’t — couldn’t possibly be thinking of, e.g., Al Gore, could you???

    Never… 👿

    Nor our own ex-PM, Kevin “the great moral and economic challenge of our time” Rudd who, having told the rest of us the sea was about to rise by six metres, the other week went and bought himself a beachfront mansion on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. Or our current Climate Change Minister (!) Greg Combet, who snapped up a similar pad for himself, or… but why go on? – Oz

  5. Amanda says:

    Oz: Never mind ‘oh, the humanity!’ (of Herbert Morrison fame).

    Oh, the hypocrisy!

  6. Kitler says:

    Just a warning people flash player has a major vulnerability in it which is being exploited as we speak, been trying to get youtube to work all evening and can’t because of it, adobe promises a fix march 21st. It bruggers around with the registry so if you can not play video’s you know why. I downloaded malwarebytes a tool and found I had a worm on my machine. Taken care of now. Probably going to have to reimage the bloomin machine to fix it.

  7. Kitler says:

    I forgot the exploit is coming via email attachments so be careful delete anything you do not know whom it’s from.

    Amen – Oz

  8. meltemian says:

    Thanks for the warning.
    I use malwarebytes every week or two just to make sure.

  9. Kitler says:

    meltemian I just downloaded it before I saw your reply it really is a good product but can give lots of false positives so always review the list before deleting.

  10. Kitler says:

    Oz the centre of the world and the entire universe is the Omphalos at Delphi in Greece it is the navel of the world. Delphi is where the Sibyl made predictions for the future while high on laurel leaves or something.

    Pure hubris, mein katzenführer. The notion that all of humanity is but a tiny cork being tossed about on a vast ocean has always been too much for most people to bear – Oz

  11. Kitler says:

    Oz you really have missed on not being a scifi geek there is a scene in the hitchhikers guide to the galaxy radio series where the talking book explains everything you need to know about the universe ….”Space,” it says, “is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mindbogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space, listen…”

    OK, well I am a big fan of Douglas Adams. And The Thunderbirds. But that’s about it – Oz

  12. Dr. Dave says:

    Sorry y’all, but I felt the need to insert a little existential music:

  13. farmerbraun says:

    OZ:Pure hubris, mein katzenführer. The notion that all of humanity is but a tiny cork being tossed about on a vast ocean has always been too much for most people to bear .

    Farmer Braun: that’s the trouble with the human brain- it will imagine; next thing you know it is looking for meaning. Before you know it, superstition provides possible answers; and then Hello- here comes religion. Still, it stops us from over-running the place doesn’t it? Superstition, that is. If we got scientific , and abandoned the superstition, we might be quite a threat to a number of life forms on this planet.

  14. farmerbraun says:

    @ DR Dave and his existential music:
    “I’d think twice about that pard’ner”:

  15. Kitler says:

    farmerbraun… this kind of hubris.

  16. Dr. Dave says:

    Farmerbraun. I neglected to dedicate the “Swearvin’ in my Lane” song to the memory of Owsley Stanley who was sadly sacrificed on the treacherous roads of Australia. But you Sir, dare to challenge me with an ancient POCO song? Let’s see how you like this! Cimarron is a little piece of spit town at the bottom of a mountain pass not but two hours from where I live. This song became one of POCO’s best sellers:

  17. farmerbraun says:

    @ Dr. dave:

    Mate, I was raised on Buffalo Springfield, alright mate? 🙂

  18. farmerbraun says:

    So seeing as how we’re doing existential come hubris:-

  19. Ozboy says:

    Just cracking a home-brewed Guinness as the sun sets…

    This round’s on me, folks. Happy Saint Paddy’s Day t’yez all :mrgreen:

    So good to be back!

  20. meltemian says:

    Oh for Goodness Sake!
    I spent ages trying to get things NOT to embed, and now when I want it to it doesn’t!

    Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone anyway.
    The daughter-in-law’s Irish so I suppose the grandchildren are as well.

    G’day Mel,

    Sorted it out for you. There are some detailed instructions on YouTube embedding in the Music Room

    Éirinn go Brách – Oz

  21. meltemian says:

    Thanks Oz’ – I will check the instructions.

  22. Dr. Dave says:


    Let me see here…it appears it’s like 7AM tomorrow morning where you are and about 3 in the afternoon yesterday where I am. Today is St. Paddy’s day for me although I have only a bit of Irish blood in me. I think I’ll take off early and go fetch a corned beef. The little lady hates corned beef but I can polish off a whole one in about two days by myself (with scrap help from the dogs). I’ve heard that corned beef isn’t even “Irish” – but it is in the USA. Being a sissy I’m more inclined to fetch some Harp Lager. I used to like Guinness but as I have gotten older I have become suspicious of any beer in which you can stand up a spoon. Even creepier is that you can drop a quarter in a glass of Guinness, drink it to the end and the damn coin will be gone!

    A lot of folk disparage us Yanks for drinking “yellow beer”. I’ve sampled some of those room temperature dark brown urine samples passed off as “English beer” and decided they can keep it along with their climate and bubble & squeak and bangers & snot and other unsavory culinary favourites. OK, OK…I’ve also had a few fine English Ales. But as for Australian beers I’ve only had two; Foster’s, of course and one I used to buy many, many years ago called Tasmanian which came in a can that was either made of steel or aluminum-titanium alloy.

    Top o’ the mornin’ to ye Dave… I always had a sneaking suspicion you were of Dutch ancestry. Dunno why? 😉

    The stock beer I brew is an English style top-fermented ale, finished with Pride of Ringwood hops (grown in Scottsdale, in Tasmania’s north). I do a couple of lagers as well (usually finished with Heersbrucker hops), but they’re mainly for summer. Next time you’re down this way I’ll give you the guided tour. Be sure to mark your schedule blank for the following day – Oz

  23. Dr. Dave says:


    You crack me up. I’m 100% Dutch on my Dad’s side. My mother said that she didn’t know “damned Hollander” was two words until she was old enough to vote. I’m warning you…one of these days I’ll take you up on your offer and pay a visit to the great OZ state of Tasmania. No worries…no time soon. I could easily go the rest of my life without ever seeing Europe, but I would be sorely disappointed if I never got to visit Australia. I always think of Tasmania as the “Minnesota” of Australia.

    Seriously…do you remember a beer called “Tasmanian” from about 30 years ago? It came in a can which can be best described as a small oil drum. It was a very “hoppy” lager. It was also cheap. When I was fresh out of school I bought my beer at a little local liquor store at the end of the block. The proprietor and I were on a first name basis. He was always getting in shipments of foreign beers and he’d pop one open for me to sample. There were two that really stuck out. One was a heavenly lager from British Columbia called Yukon Gold and the other was dirt cheap, oil can Tasmanian.

    Home brewing of beer captures my imagination and holds my interest even more than AGW! A local brewery makes Santa Fe Pale Ale which I first tasted 20 years ago while visiting Taos during a holiday ski trip when I lived in Texas. Even today, it remains one of the finest ales I’ve ever tasted.

    It’s the water down here…

  24. Amanda says:

    Oz, my friend, I don’t see a Reply box in the Juke Box area in which to put my musical suggestion. So I’m putting it here:

    Music Room now open – Oz

  25. Amanda says:

    And by the way, I hope y’all appreciate the fact that I picked the upload with the boring view instead of the highly risque one also available…!

  26. Kitler says:

    Dr Dave you have obviously not been drinking the right English ales, and yes they do chill them these days. You should try Theakstons old Peculiar, Spitfire Ale, Ruddles County, Newcastle Brown Ale, depending on where it is brewed and what water they use makes a big difference to taste, that is why most beer in the South East of the UK really sucks badly, it’s chalk.
    Personally going to a beer festival is fun because we brew incredibly strong ales in the UK.

    Planning a beer hall puss, Herr Kitler?

  27. Amanda says:

    Kitler: Bishop’s Tipple, yum. Ditto Timothy Taylor’s Landlord ale. Full-bodied but not too much, not too hopped and not too malty. (BTW, wheat beers are just not my thing at all.) I used to live near in hop-garden part of the garden of England: the Weald of Kent. It’s paradise.

  28. Amanda says:

    near … in.

    I meant: I lived in the part of Kent where they grow hops. I did not however live in a hop garden!

  29. Amanda says:

    Oz: oooh, a joke worthy of me! (They groan but smile all the same.)

  30. Dr. Dave says:


    Newcastle Brown Ale is available at my local grocery. I shall have to pick some up and give it try. I hate to admit it but I am possessed of rather pedestrian tastes in beer. I actually love ice cold Coors. I enjoy a lot of other beers and ales but not all of them. I can’t stand wheat beers. I like Samuel Adams Boston Lager, but I just can’t drink some of their other brews. A neighbor gave me a 12-pack of a Belgian ale that sat in my garage refrigerator until I could give it away. Ditto for some form of Sam Adams black lager. For the most part the local brews are pretty good. About a year ago I had a 3 1/2 hour layover at the Minneapolis airport. I had a local brew there served up on tap which was unbelievable. I ended up drinking two 24 oz glasses of it for “breakfast” (it was still morning but I had been up for 7 hours). The stuff was fantastic yet I never caught the name.

    What I truly regret is that I can’t drink whiskey. I can tolerate a good single malt scotch but American whiskey triggers a gag reflex in me. I “over dosed” on American sour mash one time in college and the experience stuck with me. I’m not big on distilled spirits, but I sure do love my beer.

  31. Kitler says:

    Dr Dave I don’t usually drink spirits either and had a bad experience with vodka when I was younger and can’t abide whiskey never got a taste for it, I like wine but being a luddite like the fizzy kind however the sulphites don’t like me.
    Newky Brown or Dogg is a little of an acquired taste but they claim it is from an old recipe however unlike the old times I’m sure they don’t throw in a side of beef and pee in the vat to add flavour which my granddad claims they did he never joked or his humour was so dry I didn’t get it.
    You should be able to find old peculiar which was a small brewery at Masham North Yorkshire they had a pub out front called the white bear and made good old English grub like pie (beef tips and mushroom in gravy) and chips and on a cold day was what you needed.
    As for not wanting to visit Europe understandable but you have not seen the North of England or Scotland and if you are not loud and obnoxious you will find a pleasant experience the scenery is stunning and full of history, where else can you walk around the walls the Romans built to protect York. If pub crawls are your thing there’s the Royal mile in Edinburgh they do serve American beer these days.
    Durham itself is awesome with it’s Romanesque Cathedral and Castle with it’s old Medieval buildings still intact. You are missing out on a lot but best to wait for the exchange rate is in your favour. My own village was once known as the Switzerland of the North for the clean air and water and a tourist destination for the rich an powerful.
    You could even visit the original Washington where Georges family came from.

  32. Kitler says:

    Oz that would be a beer hall pusstch.

  33. Dr. Dave says:


    I get where you’re coming from. IF I were to visit Europe I would concentrate my time on experiencing England and Scotland (and perhaps Ireland). Dear friends of mine have traveled all through Scandinavia, the UK, Portugal, Spain, France, Germany and Italy. They enjoyed England and Portugal the most.

    The thing is there is so much of the USA I have never seen. I’ve never been to Washington D.C. I have yet to see those big trees in northern California. I’ve not seen the Grand Canyon nor Yellowstone. I’ve traveled to over half of our 50 states yet I’ve never experienced the Niagara Falls or the Florida Keys (and I’ve been to Florida a bunch of times). Hell, I’ve never even seen Memphis! I’ve never been up to Maine nor have I seen the Oregon coast. Believe me, I’ve seen a LOT of this country in my time…but nearly all that I’d like to see. It’s kind of hard justifying a trip abroad when there’s so much right here I haven’t seen.

    I believe I’ll have another local ale and think about it…

  34. meltemian says:

    Morning All.
    Can’t compete on the beer front over here, the local ‘Mythos’ beer is OK when you just want something cold and refreshing. I do like an ouzo at sundown, it’s a sort of Greek pastis but I think it’s better. Funnily enough the Greeks all love their whisky and seem to have every variety you can think of.
    However, as it’s only 9.30 a.m. here, I think I’ll make do with another coffee for now.

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