It’s not our job to impose our wishes or fears on the universe. Our job is to understand what the universe is really like.
Here we are, like mites on a plum. And the plum is this little planet, and it goes around an insignificant local star, the sun. And that star is on the obscure outskirts of an ordinary galaxy, the Milky Way, which contains 400 billion other stars. And this galaxy is just one of something like 100 billion other galaxies that make up the universe. And it is now beginning to look: this universe is one of an enormous number, maybe even an infinite number, of other closed-off universes. So the idea that we are central, that we are the reason there is a universe, is pathetic. We have to simply come to grips with the real universe that we really live in.
You would think we should be over it, but we still are battling—at least in the United States—the conceit that humans are separate from the rest of nature, that an unbridgeable gap separates humans from the other plants and animals.
Even birds know not to foul their nests—how come we don’t know that?
Science and technology are the key to our civilization. I mean, look at television, look at so much. If you look at anything—food, anything—you find we have made a civilization based on science and technology, and then at the same time have arranged things so that almost nobody understands science and technology. That is a clear prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces. We must make science and engineering palatable.
My experience is: you go talk to kindergarten kids or first grade kids, you find a class full of science enthusiasts. And they ask deep questions! What is a dream? Why do we have toes? Why is the moon round? What’s the birthday of the world? Why is grass green? These are profound, important questions. They just bubble right out of them. You go and talk to twelfth grade students and there’s none of that. They’ve become leaden and incurious. Something terrible has happened between kindergarten and twelfth grade, and it’s not just puberty.