We used to sit on the porch, my Grandpa and me, talking about the stars. Guessing how far they are, whether there are people out there and wishing we could afford a telescope. We had some binoculars and used them, but they didn't do much.
Our favorite television show, Grandpa's and mine, was Carl Sagan's* COSMOS. Every week, we'd make popcorn and sit down on Sunday night and watch PBS. It was fascinating to learn how small we, our species and planet, really were... and how relatively little we understand about the universe. For the time, 1980, the show's special effects and production value were absolutely impressive. Even by today's standards, it ranks up there with some of the finest work.
COSMOS is back on and I am a little embarrassed at my excitement. It brings back great old feelings and fascination, and renews my interest in science and nature. I own most of Sagan's books, and his research and work puts him up there with people like Copernicus and Einstein.
Through history, man has become more, then less, tolerant of science. During more progressive periods, people were hungry for facts and information, and free to ask questions. Then, during the darker epochs of history, they became intolerant of science and scorned those who embrace research and study. Why this warble happens is anybody's guess, but cycles, waves, circles... seem to be how everything works.
With the court battles again raging over teaching of evolution vs. creationism ("intelligent design") it seems we may be entering another cycle of change, and a darker epoch of intolerance.
Shame, really. I rather enjoy the light.
*Billions and b-b-billions of people know this guy.