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Author Topic: Quote of Carl Sagan  (Read 4380 times) Average Rating: 0
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Justin Kissel
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« on: October 28, 2009, 11:01:16 PM »

In another thread, I provided this quote from Carl Sagan:

"Who are we? We find that we live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people."

Gebre Menfes Kidus responded to this quote with the following post:

Quote
Interesting quote. But I have some questions:
(consider it my quotation )

"1. Who or what determines 'significance' in the midst of perpetual cosmic chaos?

2. Who 'tucked away' this galaxy, and by whom is this 'corner of a universe forgotten?'

3. If our existence is as insignificant as Mr. Sagan so eloquently asserts, then why did he feel so compelled to make us understand that our existence is not worth bothering to understand?"

I think these are interesting questions, but I figured answering this question on the original thread would take it off course, so I thought I'd start a new thread for the discussion. As for the answers, I can obviously only answer from my own perspective, which I certainly don't claim is Orthodox.

Regarding the first question, I would say that there is only significance insofar as we deem something to be significant. There is a God, but I believe that we create our own purpose in life. As for the second question, I don't know that Mr. Sagan meant it this way, but I find his wording in the quote spot on in how I perceive God. In my view the universe was unconsciously and unintentionally emanated by God, not willfully created to an exacting plan. God did not forget, then, God is simply indifferent. Regarding the third question, I think he was trying to make a point for people to think about, not sum up his entire world view in one quote. I don't think he was a nihilist, he was just trying to get people to think about the vastness of the universe, and realistically about our place in it (as opposed to a world view where man is the center of the universe).
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« Reply #1 on: October 28, 2009, 11:13:02 PM »

In another thread, I provided this quote from Carl Sagan:

"Who are we? We find that we live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people."

Gebre Menfes Kidus responded to this quote with the following post:

Quote
Interesting quote. But I have some questions:
(consider it my quotation )

"1. Who or what determines 'significance' in the midst of perpetual cosmic chaos?

2. Who 'tucked away' this galaxy, and by whom is this 'corner of a universe forgotten?'

3. If our existence is as insignificant as Mr. Sagan so eloquently asserts, then why did he feel so compelled to make us understand that our existence is not worth bothering to understand?"

I think these are interesting questions, but I figured answering this question on the original thread would take it off course, so I thought I'd start a new thread for the discussion. As for the answers, I can obviously only answer from my own perspective, which I certainly don't claim is Orthodox.

Regarding the first question, I would say that there is only significance insofar as we deem something to be significant. There is a God, but I believe that we create our own purpose in life. As for the second question, I don't know that Mr. Sagan meant it this way, but I find his wording in the quote spot on in how I perceive God. In my view the universe was unconsciously and unintentionally emanated by God, not willfully created to an exacting plan. God did not forget, then, God is simply indifferent. Regarding the third question, I think he was trying to make a point for people to think about, not sum up his entire world view in one quote. I don't think he was a nihilist, he was just trying to get people to think about the vastness of the universe, and realistically about our place in it (as opposed to a world view where man is the center of the universe).

On quotes like this I point out "imagine the vastness of the universe. Now imagine that we are the only ones in it."  Because according to all the scientific proof we now have, we are alone in the universe.
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« Reply #2 on: October 28, 2009, 11:32:15 PM »

With regard to the first question, I think "significance" is completely subjective, and to some degree, we are all in plani/prelest about our "significance"- including myself. Even the idea that there is an individual "I" living inside "my" body is delusional. I will live out my little life on Earth, will die and be buried and perhaps for a few years my family will visit my grave and hold memorial services for me, and after that I will be forgotten. I'm hoping to enter the Eternal Memory of God, but that depends on God's subjective opinion of my "significance", and no matter how important I may think I am, it doesn't change His subjective opinion of my significance one iota.

With regard to the second question, the answer is that God "tucked away" this galaxy. But He also "tucked away many other Galaxies- more galaxies than there are people on Earth- and the vast majority of which we will never see. The size of the Universe is very humbling I think. If, in this vast Cosmos, I am important to God, that is wonderful, but there is nothing about me that would make me important to Him other than the mere fact that I am a human being, and He happens to have created human beings and has a particular relationship with them. He also created Angels and has a particular relationship with them. He also created trees, rocks, nebulae, countless stars and cosmic dust and has a particular relationship with them also.

With regard to the third question, I agree with Asteriktos that, far from being nihilistic, Dr. Sagan places before us the reality of our intrinsic place in the Cosmos which is very humbling- and aren't we supposed to walk humbly with our God?
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« Reply #3 on: October 28, 2009, 11:54:44 PM »

On quotes like this I point out "imagine the vastness of the universe. Now imagine that we are the only ones in it."  Because according to all the scientific proof we now have, we are alone in the universe.

Which is why he was an "agnostic" when it came to extraterrestrial life.  Our knowledge of the Universe is ever growing, and will continue to grow.  Look at the Drake equation.  Now, before anyone points it out, yes I know it is probability and I know that most of the entries at best are educated guesses.  My point is look at the very first entries it requires.  When the equation was first thought up, the margin of error was astronomical.  Now, however many years later, we have a MUCH better grasp of our galaxy and our cluster.  Whether it is theoretical and observable theories about various star systems, habitable zones, etc., we have come along way.  At that time, we knew of no exo-solar planets that possessed the likelihood of any "earth-like" qualities, yet now we do.  We truly are but a pale blue dot.

Yes, you can use quotations like "imagine the vastness of the universe. Now imagine that we are the only ones in it." or bring up Fermi to make us wonder, and question the principle of mediocrity, or jump of the rare earth hypothesis, but even then, in all of the matter, all of the dark matter, all of the energy, and all of the dark energy, we are still an insignificant speck in the Sol System, Local Spur, Milky Way, Local Group, Universe, etc...

One of the reasons I believe Dr. Sagan was and still is so popular was not only his attempts to make science "approachable", but also the marvellous language he used to describe it.  We occupy and understand one n-tillionth  of the Universe, we are insignificant.  It is only anthropocentricism that tries to convince us otherwise.  I believe the second point is metaphorical to emphasise how in the vastness of the Universe any one point is obscure.  And the third question, I believe Dr. Sagan answers it himself later on the page, "We make our world significant by the courage of our questions and by the depth of our answers."  His quotation is not supposed to be discouraging, rather humbling.  As he said elsewhere "Lost somewhere between immensity and eternity is our tiny planetary home. In a cosmic perspective, most human concerns seem insignificant, even petty. And yet our species is young and curious and brave and shows much promise. In the last few millennia we have made the most astonishing and unexpected discoveries about the Cosmos and our place within it, explorations that are exhilarating to consider. They remind us that humans have evolved to wonder, that understanding is a joy, that knowledge is prerequisite to survival. I believe our future depends on how well we know this Cosmos in which we float like a mote of dust in the morning sky." (Emph. mine).  Without the pursuit of knowledge and endless questioning of our world and our Universe, we will render ourselves insignificant.  We are a speck, we are a young speck, but we have potential if we allow growth.
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« Reply #4 on: October 29, 2009, 12:17:34 AM »

On quotes like this I point out "imagine the vastness of the universe. Now imagine that we are the only ones in it."  Because according to all the scientific proof we now have, we are alone in the universe.

Which is why he was an "agnostic" when it came to extraterrestrial life.  Our knowledge of the Universe is ever growing, and will continue to grow.  Look at the Drake equation.  Now, before anyone points it out, yes I know it is probability and I know that most of the entries at best are educated guesses.  My point is look at the very first entries it requires.  When the equation was first thought up, the margin of error was astronomical.  Now, however many years later, we have a MUCH better grasp of our galaxy and our cluster.  Whether it is theoretical and observable theories about various star systems, habitable zones, etc., we have come along way.  At that time, we knew of no exo-solar planets that possessed the likelihood of any "earth-like" qualities, yet now we do.  We truly are but a pale blue dot.

Yes, you can use quotations like "imagine the vastness of the universe. Now imagine that we are the only ones in it." or bring up Fermi to make us wonder, and question the principle of mediocrity, or jump of the rare earth hypothesis, but even then, in all of the matter, all of the dark matter, all of the energy, and all of the dark energy, we are still an insignificant speck in the Sol System, Local Spur, Milky Way, Local Group, Universe, etc...

One of the reasons I believe Dr. Sagan was and still is so popular was not only his attempts to make science "approachable", but also the marvellous language he used to describe it.  We occupy and understand one n-tillionth  of the Universe, we are insignificant.  It is only anthropocentricism that tries to convince us otherwise.  I believe the second point is metaphorical to emphasise how in the vastness of the Universe any one point is obscure.  And the third question, I believe Dr. Sagan answers it himself later on the page, "We make our world significant by the courage of our questions and by the depth of our answers."  His quotation is not supposed to be discouraging, rather humbling.  As he said elsewhere "Lost somewhere between immensity and eternity is our tiny planetary home. In a cosmic perspective, most human concerns seem insignificant, even petty. And yet our species is young and curious and brave and shows much promise. In the last few millennia we have made the most astonishing and unexpected discoveries about the Cosmos and our place within it, explorations that are exhilarating to consider. They remind us that humans have evolved to wonder, that understanding is a joy, that knowledge is prerequisite to survival. I believe our future depends on how well we know this Cosmos in which we float like a mote of dust in the morning sky." (Emph. mine).  Without the pursuit of knowledge and endless questioning of our world and our Universe, we will render ourselves insignificant.  We are a speck, we are a young speck, but we have potential if we allow growth.
....before all becomes dark, cold matter. The Big Freeze (or Heat Death), a Big Rip or a Big Crunch: does it really matter?  Does the mote care?

The problem with this approach to this problem is the idea that vastness=significance, of course to bring home the corrollary insignificance<smallness.

So what if the young speck can grow? One day the Big Crunch will suck it all down a black hole as if it never was.

I am always amuzed by the modern gnostics, magnifying knowledge by the insignificant.
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« Reply #5 on: October 29, 2009, 02:33:51 AM »

Quote
before all becomes dark, cold matter. The Big Freeze (or Heat Death), a Big Rip or a Big Crunch: does it really matter?  Does the mote care? The problem with this approach to this problem is the idea that vastness=significance, of course to bring home the corrollary insignificance<smallness. So what if the young speck can grow? One day the Big Crunch will suck it all down a black hole as if it never was. I am always amuzed by the modern gnostics, magnifying knowledge by the insignificant.

What exactly does "magnifying knowledge by the insignificant" mean?
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« Reply #6 on: October 29, 2009, 03:36:26 AM »

the modern gnostics
I'm not sure we can use this term to describe the Philosophy of Science or Philosophy in general. Gnosticism was a particular branch of sects in Early Christianity which depended on esoteric spiritual knowledge as a means to salvation. There are some modern gnostic churches and perhaps the Theosophical Society may be considered gnostic. But a philosophy is not "gnosticism" simply by virtue of not being Christian in origin.
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« Reply #7 on: October 29, 2009, 04:03:24 AM »

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There are some modern gnostic churches...

Indeed, and the criteria that I've seen modern gnostics use to distinguish gnosticism from other belief systems doesn't really match most of what has been discussed in this thread (e.g. see the end of this article). The only exception is my mention of an emanation from God, but as I conceive it that is only partly gnostic. And I get the feeling from the context of his post that ialmisry was not talking about that anyway.
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« Reply #8 on: October 29, 2009, 07:10:29 AM »

my spiritual father remarked to me one time that the vast distances and great quantity of space we observe in the universe are an expression of the divisiveness and distance resulting from the fall; that in the kingdom of God our perspective will be radically transformed, so that all that appears far away will come near.  It is significant to note that we see this inverse perspective every time we gaze at an icon.  Along the same lines, our assumptions that "bigger is better",i.e. more expressive of universal truth and our relation to it is turned upside down by the incarnation; now ultimate truth is to be found reflected in the face of a single person, in the life of one man among vast multitudes of men that have lived and will live throughout history.
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« Reply #9 on: October 29, 2009, 08:28:59 AM »

the modern gnostics
I'm not sure we can use this term to describe the Philosophy of Science or Philosophy in general. Gnosticism was a particular branch of sects in Early Christianity which depended on esoteric spiritual knowledge as a means to salvation. There are some modern gnostic churches and perhaps the Theosophical Society may be considered gnostic. But a philosophy is not "gnosticism" simply by virtue of not being Christian in origin.
Relevance? as the gnostics were Christian in origin.

The modern ones consider esoteric knowledge (and let's face it, most astrophysics, cosmology, evolutionary biology etc. are as esoteric to most as knowledge of the Aeons and Sophia) a moral imperative, saving one from ignorance, but for what purpose they don't seem to know.
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« Reply #10 on: October 29, 2009, 09:13:14 AM »

In another thread, I provided this quote from Carl Sagan:

"Who are we? We find that we live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people."

Gebre Menfes Kidus responded to this quote with the following post:

Quote
Interesting quote. But I have some questions:
(consider it my quotation )

"1. Who or what determines 'significance' in the midst of perpetual cosmic chaos?

2. Who 'tucked away' this galaxy, and by whom is this 'corner of a universe forgotten?'

3. If our existence is as insignificant as Mr. Sagan so eloquently asserts, then why did he feel so compelled to make us understand that our existence is not worth bothering to understand?"

I think these are interesting questions, but I figured answering this question on the original thread would take it off course, so I thought I'd start a new thread for the discussion. As for the answers, I can obviously only answer from my own perspective, which I certainly don't claim is Orthodox.

Regarding the first question, I would say that there is only significance insofar as we deem something to be significant. There is a God, but I believe that we create our own purpose in life. As for the second question, I don't know that Mr. Sagan meant it this way, but I find his wording in the quote spot on in how I perceive God. In my view the universe was unconsciously and unintentionally emanated by God, not willfully created to an exacting plan. God did not forget, then, God is simply indifferent. Regarding the third question, I think he was trying to make a point for people to think about, not sum up his entire world view in one quote. I don't think he was a nihilist, he was just trying to get people to think about the vastness of the universe, and realistically about our place in it (as opposed to a world view where man is the center of the universe).
I don't believe size or location have anything to do with our significance in the universe. As far as we know there is good evidence that we are the only self aware and discursively thiking beings in the entire universe. That makes us incredibely significant.
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« Reply #11 on: October 29, 2009, 09:13:54 AM »

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but for what purpose they don't seem to know

Oh, I'm sure these modern gnostics of yours can give an answer, you might not accept their answer, or you might not like it, but I'm sure this "they" could do it.  Smiley
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« Reply #12 on: October 29, 2009, 09:19:00 AM »

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As far as we know there is good evidence that we are the only self aware and discursively thiking beings in the entire universe. That makes us incredibely significant.

That's possible. I will grant that uniqueness might add some significance (though I didn't consider humanity completely insignificant to begin with, and neither did Mr. Sagan I think).
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« Reply #13 on: October 29, 2009, 09:24:56 AM »

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As far as we know there is good evidence that we are the only self aware and discursively thiking beings in the entire universe. That makes us incredibely significant.

That's possible. I will grant that uniqueness might add some significance (though I didn't consider humanity completely insignificant to begin with, and neither did Mr. Sagan I think).
Its seems that he trying to suggest that in the grand scheme of things that we are quite insignificant. And its not just a matter of uniqueness. We are radically different than all other material/created beings.
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« Reply #14 on: October 29, 2009, 09:27:28 AM »

Quote
but for what purpose they don't seem to know

Oh, I'm sure these modern gnostics of yours can give an answer, you might not accept their answer, or you might not like it, but I'm sure this "they" could do it.  Smiley
Then why don't they?
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« Reply #15 on: October 29, 2009, 09:39:00 AM »

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Its seems that he trying to suggest that in the grand scheme of things that we are quite insignificant. And its not just a matter of uniqueness. We are radically different than all other material/created beings.

Well, on that last point we differ. I would agree with the idea that in the grand scheme of things we are insignificant. Yet I think we have significance in our own existence insofar as we can make our lives purposeful. So for us life can be significant, but outside our own little world we've created, there's not much significance to our thoughts and actions. So I guess in my opinion it depends on your vantage point, this significance thing. I don't think what happens today is going to matter an iota a thousand years from now, or a thousand light years away. Or 1 year from now or 1 mile away, for that matter, if we're talking about what is significant from my neighbor's perspective.
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« Reply #16 on: October 29, 2009, 09:42:50 AM »

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Its seems that he trying to suggest that in the grand scheme of things that we are quite insignificant. And its not just a matter of uniqueness. We are radically different than all other material/created beings.

Well, on that last point we differ. I would agree with the idea that in the grand scheme of things we are insignificant. Yet I think we have significance in our own existence insofar as we can make our lives purposeful. So for us life can be significant, but outside our own little world we've created, there's not much significance to our thoughts and actions. So I guess in my opinion it depends on your vantage point, this significance thing. I don't think what happens today is going to matter an iota a thousand years from now, or a thousand light years away. Or 1 year from now or 1 mile away, for that matter, if we're talking about what is significant from my neighbor's perspective.
But even if I were a materialist I would see us as extremely significant because I would be forced to believe that we were the only aspect of the universe that is self aware. That is of extreme significance.
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« Reply #17 on: October 29, 2009, 09:45:20 AM »

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Then why don't they?

I'll make you a deal. You tell me who "they" are, and I'll investigate as far as I reasonably can what answer they would give. As for myself, I don't see salvation as coming through esoteric knowledge, but rather through experience. Saved from what? At worst, ourselves. Saved in that we have a more fulfilled life, and our children have a better life, and our species has a better path to walk on. At best, saved in some type of afterlife.
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« Reply #18 on: October 29, 2009, 09:46:44 AM »

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But even if I were a materialist I would see us as extremely significant because I would be forced to believe that we were the only aspect of the universe that is self aware. That is of extreme significance.

It's an important milestone for humanity, certainly. For us, it's significant. However, I don't think it's especially significant in the grand scheme of things (to use that phrase again).
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« Reply #19 on: October 29, 2009, 09:48:37 AM »

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But even if I were a materialist I would see us as extremely significant because I would be forced to believe that we were the only aspect of the universe that is self aware. That is of extreme significance.

It's an important milestone for humanity, certainly. For us, it's significant. However, I don't think it's especially significant in the grand scheme of things (to use that phrase again).
I guess this point can't be proven one way or the other but I see the conscioius part of the universe as more significant than the unconcious part. That being said, from a purely materialistic view it would be impossible to use the word "significant" with any objective kind of meaning.
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« Reply #20 on: October 29, 2009, 09:52:11 AM »

Quote
Then why don't they?

I'll make you a deal. You tell me who "they" are, and I'll investigate as far as I reasonably can what answer they would give. As for myself, I don't see salvation as coming through esoteric knowledge, but rather through experience. Saved from what? At worst, ourselves. Saved in that we have a more fulfilled life, and our children have a better life, and our species has a better path to walk on. At best, saved in some type of afterlife.

Let's start with Dr. Carl Sagan: if he had to justify the expenditure of effort and resources on such things as the nature of quasars, what would he say?
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« Reply #21 on: October 29, 2009, 09:52:55 AM »

I'm not a strict materialist, but I also would say that any significance we attach to things is subjective.
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« Reply #22 on: October 29, 2009, 10:09:21 AM »

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Let's start with Dr. Carl Sagan: if he had to justify the expenditure of effort and resources on such things as the nature of quasars, what would he say?

That'll work. I'll get back to you when I have something approaching an evidenced opinion. I'm going to check at the local library and see what they have (or what I can get through interlibrary loan), and I just purchased these on Amazon.com...

The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God
The Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence
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« Reply #23 on: October 29, 2009, 10:31:21 AM »

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but for what purpose they don't seem to know

Oh, I'm sure these modern gnostics of yours can give an answer, you might not accept their answer, or you might not like it, but I'm sure this "they" could do it.  Smiley
Then why don't they?
There are two purposes to gaining such knowledge: (1) knowledge helps us create a more 'enjoyable' life here on earth; and (2) we love to know.
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« Reply #24 on: October 29, 2009, 10:43:07 AM »

the modern gnostics
I'm not sure we can use this term to describe the Philosophy of Science or Philosophy in general. Gnosticism was a particular branch of sects in Early Christianity which depended on esoteric spiritual knowledge as a means to salvation. There are some modern gnostic churches and perhaps the Theosophical Society may be considered gnostic. But a philosophy is not "gnosticism" simply by virtue of not being Christian in origin.
Relevance? as the gnostics were Christian in origin.

The modern ones consider esoteric knowledge (and let's face it, most astrophysics, cosmology, evolutionary biology etc. are as esoteric to most as knowledge of the Aeons and Sophia) a moral imperative, saving one from ignorance, but for what purpose they don't seem to know.
I'm glad you were able to answer you own question.

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« Reply #25 on: October 29, 2009, 10:44:20 AM »

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As far as we know there is good evidence that we are the only self aware and discursively thiking beings in the entire universe. That makes us incredibely significant.

That's possible. I will grant that uniqueness might add some significance (though I didn't consider humanity completely insignificant to begin with, and neither did Mr. Sagan I think).
Its seems that he trying to suggest that in the grand scheme of things that we are quite insignificant. And its not just a matter of uniqueness. We are radically different than all other material/created beings.
Except Angels.
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« Reply #26 on: October 29, 2009, 11:46:00 AM »

But even if I were a materialist I would see us as extremely significant because I would be forced to believe that we were the only aspect of the universe that is self aware. That is of extreme significance.

And I would have to say that you have some amazing transcendent power which has allowed you to explore the entire Universe for other self-aware life forms.  Tongue  We cannot even say with absolute certainty there are not other self-aware entities within the Sol System, let alone the vastness of the Universe as a whole.
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« Reply #27 on: October 29, 2009, 12:24:06 PM »

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As far as we know there is good evidence that we are the only self aware and discursively thiking beings in the entire universe. That makes us incredibely significant.

That's possible. I will grant that uniqueness might add some significance (though I didn't consider humanity completely insignificant to begin with, and neither did Mr. Sagan I think).
Its seems that he trying to suggest that in the grand scheme of things that we are quite insignificant. And its not just a matter of uniqueness. We are radically different than all other material/created beings.
Except Angels.
True but I wasn't assuming Christian revelation in my arguement. But even so, in the material world we are the only self aware beings.
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« Reply #28 on: October 29, 2009, 12:25:48 PM »

But even if I were a materialist I would see us as extremely significant because I would be forced to believe that we were the only aspect of the universe that is self aware. That is of extreme significance.

And I would have to say that you have some amazing transcendent power which has allowed you to explore the entire Universe for other self-aware life forms.  Tongue  We cannot even say with absolute certainty there are not other self-aware entities within the Sol System, let alone the vastness of the Universe as a whole.
I agree. We cannot know that with absolute certainty but I think it would be awesome if there were other self aware beings. That being said, the conditions necessary for life are so incredibly specific that it may be etremely unlikely, and even more specific the conditions that lead to the evolution of intelligent life, that it seems extremely unlikely that we would find others out there.
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« Reply #29 on: October 29, 2009, 12:26:33 PM »


And I would have to say that you have some amazing transcendent power

I have been telling people this for years. Why won't they listen to me?  Grin Cheesy Wink
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« Reply #30 on: October 29, 2009, 01:31:46 PM »

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As far as we know there is good evidence that we are the only self aware and discursively thiking beings in the entire universe. That makes us incredibely significant.

That's possible. I will grant that uniqueness might add some significance (though I didn't consider humanity completely insignificant to begin with, and neither did Mr. Sagan I think).
Its seems that he trying to suggest that in the grand scheme of things that we are quite insignificant. And its not just a matter of uniqueness. We are radically different than all other material/created beings.
Except Angels.
True but I wasn't assuming Christian revelation in my arguement. But even so, in the material world we are the only self aware beings.
Are chimps self-aware?
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« Reply #31 on: October 29, 2009, 01:42:58 PM »

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As far as we know there is good evidence that we are the only self aware and discursively thiking beings in the entire universe. That makes us incredibely significant.

That's possible. I will grant that uniqueness might add some significance (though I didn't consider humanity completely insignificant to begin with, and neither did Mr. Sagan I think).
Its seems that he trying to suggest that in the grand scheme of things that we are quite insignificant. And its not just a matter of uniqueness. We are radically different than all other material/created beings.
Except Angels.
True but I wasn't assuming Christian revelation in my arguement. But even so, in the material world we are the only self aware beings.
Are chimps self-aware?
That's a good question. I can't answer it definitively. I doubt that they have the ability to think of themselves as a unified person as humans do. Unfortunately, I can't get into the mind of a chimp. I do know that they don't create religion, art, philosophy, science, music, etc. That makes them extremely different from humans.
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« Reply #32 on: October 29, 2009, 09:16:45 PM »

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As far as we know there is good evidence that we are the only self aware and discursively thiking beings in the entire universe. That makes us incredibely significant.

That's possible. I will grant that uniqueness might add some significance (though I didn't consider humanity completely insignificant to begin with, and neither did Mr. Sagan I think).
Its seems that he trying to suggest that in the grand scheme of things that we are quite insignificant. And its not just a matter of uniqueness. We are radically different than all other material/created beings.
Except Angels.
True but I wasn't assuming Christian revelation in my arguement. But even so, in the material world we are the only self aware beings.
So we think. And we only think so because we haven't met any others. But really, we've barely left Earth, and even our most far-reaching satellites have only explored a fraction of the solar system, and beyond this we know only as much as we can see through our instruments. So I'd say the fact that we haven't met any other sentient lifeforms has more to do with our ignorance than their absence.
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« Reply #33 on: October 29, 2009, 09:23:34 PM »

Quote
As far as we know there is good evidence that we are the only self aware and discursively thiking beings in the entire universe. That makes us incredibely significant.

That's possible. I will grant that uniqueness might add some significance (though I didn't consider humanity completely insignificant to begin with, and neither did Mr. Sagan I think).
Its seems that he trying to suggest that in the grand scheme of things that we are quite insignificant. And its not just a matter of uniqueness. We are radically different than all other material/created beings.
Except Angels.
True but I wasn't assuming Christian revelation in my arguement. But even so, in the material world we are the only self aware beings.
So we think. And we only think so because we haven't met any others. But really, we've barely left Earth, and even our most far-reaching satellites have only explored a fraction of the solar system, and beyond this we know only as much as we can see through our instruments. So I'd say the fact that we haven't met any other sentient lifeforms has more to do with our ignorance than their absence.
That's faith, not science.
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« Reply #34 on: October 29, 2009, 09:31:42 PM »

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As far as we know there is good evidence that we are the only self aware and discursively thiking beings in the entire universe. That makes us incredibely significant.

That's possible. I will grant that uniqueness might add some significance (though I didn't consider humanity completely insignificant to begin with, and neither did Mr. Sagan I think).
Its seems that he trying to suggest that in the grand scheme of things that we are quite insignificant. And its not just a matter of uniqueness. We are radically different than all other material/created beings.
Except Angels.
True but I wasn't assuming Christian revelation in my arguement. But even so, in the material world we are the only self aware beings.
So we think. And we only think so because we haven't met any others. But really, we've barely left Earth, and even our most far-reaching satellites have only explored a fraction of the solar system, and beyond this we know only as much as we can see through our instruments. So I'd say the fact that we haven't met any other sentient lifeforms has more to do with our ignorance than their absence.
That's faith, not science.
Not even that; it's really more of a hunch. But I would love to see some actual science on the subject. Maybe once we get the technology to shoot satellites to neighbouring star systems, we can begin to find out.
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« Reply #35 on: October 30, 2009, 05:39:50 AM »

Are chimps self-aware?
Yes. In fact most animals have a "mental image" of self and therefore can recognise "other". When you put a mirror in front of a some animals like primates and cats they may not at first recognise their own reflection and think it is another animal, but that does not mean they are not self aware; it simply means they do not recognise their reflection. However, with time, they can (and have) in fact realized that what they are seeing in the mirror is a reflection of themselves. I have seen this behaviour in my own cats, as I have built in wardrobes with sliding mirrored doors in all the bedrooms. One day, one of my cats went in to the garage and got a spot of grease on its forehead and was walking around with it all day until he saw his reflection in the mirror and then spent the next hour and a half cleaning his forehead.
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« Reply #36 on: October 30, 2009, 12:33:14 PM »

Quote
As far as we know there is good evidence that we are the only self aware and discursively thiking beings in the entire universe. That makes us incredibely significant.

That's possible. I will grant that uniqueness might add some significance (though I didn't consider humanity completely insignificant to begin with, and neither did Mr. Sagan I think).
Its seems that he trying to suggest that in the grand scheme of things that we are quite insignificant. And its not just a matter of uniqueness. We are radically different than all other material/created beings.
Except Angels.
True but I wasn't assuming Christian revelation in my arguement. But even so, in the material world we are the only self aware beings.
So we think. And we only think so because we haven't met any others. But really, we've barely left Earth, and even our most far-reaching satellites have only explored a fraction of the solar system, and beyond this we know only as much as we can see through our instruments. So I'd say the fact that we haven't met any other sentient lifeforms has more to do with our ignorance than their absence.
That's faith, not science.

Actually, it's a hypothesis. And one that we are a long ways from being able to prove or disprove. We've discovered a few exoplanets in neighbouring solar systems...but still have no reliable way of even detecting the presence of earth-sized planets and our ability to analyze the atmosphere, to say nothing of life, of the few planets we have discovered outside our solar system is rather lacking. For all we know, there could be a fairly advanced civilization one or two solar systems away and if they haven't developed radio technology or have moved past it we would have no way of even knowing of their existence. Even if one out of ten galaxies had intelligent life develop, we'd still be but one out of billions of civilizations...separated by space, time, and the laws of physics.
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« Reply #37 on: October 30, 2009, 01:46:12 PM »

Quote
As far as we know there is good evidence that we are the only self aware and discursively thiking beings in the entire universe. That makes us incredibely significant.

That's possible. I will grant that uniqueness might add some significance (though I didn't consider humanity completely insignificant to begin with, and neither did Mr. Sagan I think).
Its seems that he trying to suggest that in the grand scheme of things that we are quite insignificant. And its not just a matter of uniqueness. We are radically different than all other material/created beings.
Except Angels.
True but I wasn't assuming Christian revelation in my arguement. But even so, in the material world we are the only self aware beings.
So we think. And we only think so because we haven't met any others. But really, we've barely left Earth, and even our most far-reaching satellites have only explored a fraction of the solar system, and beyond this we know only as much as we can see through our instruments. So I'd say the fact that we haven't met any other sentient lifeforms has more to do with our ignorance than their absence.
That's faith, not science.

Actually, it's a hypothesis.

Ah, Greeky, proof of the Resurrection.  I don't think it even qualifies as hypothesis.  Not enough data.

Quote
And one that we are a long ways from being able to prove or disprove. We've discovered a few exoplanets in neighbouring solar systems...but still have no reliable way of even detecting the presence of earth-sized planets and our ability to analyze the atmosphere, to say nothing of life, of the few planets we have discovered outside our solar system is rather lacking. For all we know, there could be a fairly advanced civilization one or two solar systems away and if they haven't developed radio technology or have moved past it we would have no way of even knowing of their existence. Even if one out of ten galaxies had intelligent life develop, we'd still be but one out of billions of civilizations...separated by space, time, and the laws of physics.


What if only one out of billions of galaxies alone had intelligent life develop?
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« Reply #38 on: October 30, 2009, 07:10:28 PM »

Ah, Greeky, proof of the Resurrection.  I don't think it even qualifies as hypothesis.  Not enough data.
Agreed. Hence why I called it a hunch. There just aren't any data at all.

Quote
What if only one out of billions of galaxies alone had intelligent life develop?
Well, we won't know until we explore them all, will we?
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« Reply #39 on: November 02, 2009, 01:37:10 PM »

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As far as we know there is good evidence that we are the only self aware and discursively thiking beings in the entire universe. That makes us incredibely significant.

That's possible. I will grant that uniqueness might add some significance (though I didn't consider humanity completely insignificant to begin with, and neither did Mr. Sagan I think).
Its seems that he trying to suggest that in the grand scheme of things that we are quite insignificant. And its not just a matter of uniqueness. We are radically different than all other material/created beings.
Except Angels.
True but I wasn't assuming Christian revelation in my arguement. But even so, in the material world we are the only self aware beings.
So we think. And we only think so because we haven't met any others. But really, we've barely left Earth, and even our most far-reaching satellites have only explored a fraction of the solar system, and beyond this we know only as much as we can see through our instruments. So I'd say the fact that we haven't met any other sentient lifeforms has more to do with our ignorance than their absence.
That's faith, not science.

Actually, it's a hypothesis.

Ah, Greeky, proof of the Resurrection.  I don't think it even qualifies as hypothesis.  Not enough data.

Proof of nothing, but, unlike the Resurrection, it's a viable scientific hypothesis based on our theoretical understanding of organic chemistry and biological evolution as learned from studying the development of life on this planet. We know it happened here, have at least a rudimentary understanding of how, so it's reasonable to pose the possibility that it happened elsewhere.

Quote
Quote
And one that we are a long ways from being able to prove or disprove. We've discovered a few exoplanets in neighbouring solar systems...but still have no reliable way of even detecting the presence of earth-sized planets and our ability to analyze the atmosphere, to say nothing of life, of the few planets we have discovered outside our solar system is rather lacking. For all we know, there could be a fairly advanced civilization one or two solar systems away and if they haven't developed radio technology or have moved past it we would have no way of even knowing of their existence. Even if one out of ten galaxies had intelligent life develop, we'd still be but one out of billions of civilizations...separated by space, time, and the laws of physics.


What if only one out of billions of galaxies alone had intelligent life develop?

Then we'd be one of about 80 unique 'naturally evolved' forms of intelligent life. Though who knows how many other forms, both biological and non-biological these other species could have created? Even in your scenario we may be one in a billion.
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« Reply #40 on: November 02, 2009, 02:27:37 PM »

Actually, it's a hypothesis. And one that we are a long ways from being able to prove or disprove. We've discovered a few exoplanets in neighbouring solar systems...but still have no reliable way of even detecting the presence of earth-sized planets and our ability to analyze the atmosphere, to say nothing of life, of the few planets we have discovered outside our solar system is rather lacking. For all we know, there could be a fairly advanced civilization one or two solar systems away and if they haven't developed radio technology or have moved past it we would have no way of even knowing of their existence. Even if one out of ten galaxies had intelligent life develop, we'd still be but one out of billions of civilizations...separated by space, time, and the laws of physics.

And until someone can bend space & time to negate the enormous distance that would have to be traveled (by us, by them, or by our communication), this will most likely never be relevant information.  Between the insane distance to the next potential life-bearing planet, to the high degree of probability that life as we know it will end within 100 million years (we have a few super-volcanoes coming up to their time, plus the ever-present comet/meteor threat) there is a very low likelihood that we'll get to encounter life elsewhere; and if they encounter us... well, who knows.
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« Reply #41 on: November 02, 2009, 02:51:09 PM »

Actually, it's a hypothesis. And one that we are a long ways from being able to prove or disprove. We've discovered a few exoplanets in neighbouring solar systems...but still have no reliable way of even detecting the presence of earth-sized planets and our ability to analyze the atmosphere, to say nothing of life, of the few planets we have discovered outside our solar system is rather lacking. For all we know, there could be a fairly advanced civilization one or two solar systems away and if they haven't developed radio technology or have moved past it we would have no way of even knowing of their existence. Even if one out of ten galaxies had intelligent life develop, we'd still be but one out of billions of civilizations...separated by space, time, and the laws of physics.

And until someone can bend space & time to negate the enormous distance that would have to be traveled (by us, by them, or by our communication), this will most likely never be relevant information.  Between the insane distance to the next potential life-bearing planet, to the high degree of probability that life as we know it will end within 100 million years (we have a few super-volcanoes coming up to their time, plus the ever-present comet/meteor threat) there is a very low likelihood that we'll get to encounter life elsewhere; and if they encounter us... well, who knows.

Not even I am going to try to guess what human civilization would be capable of if we survived another 100 million years. Wink

My guess is that we'll only be limited by yet undiscovered laws of physics...whatever those happen to be (I'm not anteing up for string theory quite yet).
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« Reply #42 on: November 02, 2009, 03:20:43 PM »

Actually, it's a hypothesis. And one that we are a long ways from being able to prove or disprove. We've discovered a few exoplanets in neighbouring solar systems...but still have no reliable way of even detecting the presence of earth-sized planets and our ability to analyze the atmosphere, to say nothing of life, of the few planets we have discovered outside our solar system is rather lacking. For all we know, there could be a fairly advanced civilization one or two solar systems away and if they haven't developed radio technology or have moved past it we would have no way of even knowing of their existence. Even if one out of ten galaxies had intelligent life develop, we'd still be but one out of billions of civilizations...separated by space, time, and the laws of physics.

And until someone can bend space & time to negate the enormous distance that would have to be traveled (by us, by them, or by our communication), this will most likely never be relevant information.  Between the insane distance to the next potential life-bearing planet, to the high degree of probability that life as we know it will end within 100 million years (we have a few super-volcanoes coming up to their time, plus the ever-present comet/meteor threat) there is a very low likelihood that we'll get to encounter life elsewhere; and if they encounter us... well, who knows.

Not even I am going to try to guess what human civilization would be capable of if we survived another 100 million years. Wink

My guess is that we'll only be limited by yet undiscovered laws of physics...whatever those happen to be (I'm not anteing up for string theory quite yet).

Aren't you forgetting about the Proxmire effect?
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« Reply #43 on: November 02, 2009, 03:42:05 PM »

Actually, it's a hypothesis. And one that we are a long ways from being able to prove or disprove. We've discovered a few exoplanets in neighbouring solar systems...but still have no reliable way of even detecting the presence of earth-sized planets and our ability to analyze the atmosphere, to say nothing of life, of the few planets we have discovered outside our solar system is rather lacking. For all we know, there could be a fairly advanced civilization one or two solar systems away and if they haven't developed radio technology or have moved past it we would have no way of even knowing of their existence. Even if one out of ten galaxies had intelligent life develop, we'd still be but one out of billions of civilizations...separated by space, time, and the laws of physics.

And until someone can bend space & time to negate the enormous distance that would have to be traveled (by us, by them, or by our communication), this will most likely never be relevant information.  Between the insane distance to the next potential life-bearing planet, to the high degree of probability that life as we know it will end within 100 million years (we have a few super-volcanoes coming up to their time, plus the ever-present comet/meteor threat) there is a very low likelihood that we'll get to encounter life elsewhere; and if they encounter us... well, who knows.

Not even I am going to try to guess what human civilization would be capable of if we survived another 100 million years. Wink

My guess is that we'll only be limited by yet undiscovered laws of physics...whatever those happen to be (I'm not anteing up for string theory quite yet).

Aren't you forgetting about the Proxmire effect?

And yet, in spite of Senator Proxmire's best efforts, human technology, including space technology, continues to advance. Wink
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« Reply #44 on: November 17, 2009, 07:58:49 PM »

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Then why don't they?

I'll make you a deal. You tell me who "they" are, and I'll investigate as far as I reasonably can what answer they would give. As for myself, I don't see salvation as coming through esoteric knowledge, but rather through experience. Saved from what? At worst, ourselves. Saved in that we have a more fulfilled life, and our children have a better life, and our species has a better path to walk on. At best, saved in some type of afterlife.

Let's start with Dr. Carl Sagan: if he had to justify the expenditure of effort and resources on such things as the nature of quasars, what would he say?

Just posting to say that I haven't forgotten about this. I'm actually in the process of reading 4 books by Dr. Sagan at the moment. I'm not sure when I'll be done and get something written up, but I have this thread bookmarked and will post whatever I have when I'm finished reading/writing.
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« Reply #45 on: November 17, 2009, 10:58:40 PM »

^^  How have they been so far?  I always loved Dr. Sagan's writings; he had such a poetic and powerful way of describing what can be complex theories and ideas.

On a side note, this cracked me up:
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« Reply #46 on: November 18, 2009, 06:02:27 AM »

There has been a chapter here or there that didn't really grab me, but I've really enjoyed the books overall (probably 90% of the material). I don't think I'll be able to give an answer that will satisfy ialmisry, but so far it's been interesting nonetheless.
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« Reply #47 on: November 11, 2013, 10:14:11 PM »

Young Girl: Dad, do you think God exists?
Father: I don't know, Sparks. But I guess I'd say if it is just us... seems like an awful waste of space.
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« Reply #48 on: September 13, 2014, 12:25:25 PM »

I think Sagan would be proud:

Quote
July 14, 2014 — Because of his unique perspective as both a scientist and a man of faith, Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno has been awarded the Carl Sagan Medal from the American Astronomical Society (AAS).
....
“As a Jesuit Brother, Guy has become the voice of the juxtaposition of planetary science and astronomy with Christian belief, a rational spokesperson who can convey exceptionally well how religion and science can co-exist for believers,” the AAS wrote.
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« Reply #49 on: September 13, 2014, 12:34:26 PM »

I think Sagan would be proud:

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July 14, 2014 — Because of his unique perspective as both a scientist and a man of faith, Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno has been awarded the Carl Sagan Medal from the American Astronomical Society (AAS).
....
“As a Jesuit Brother, Guy has become the voice of the juxtaposition of planetary science and astronomy with Christian belief, a rational spokesperson who can convey exceptionally well how religion and science can co-exist for believers,” the AAS wrote.

His book God's Mechanics: How Scientists and Engineers Make Sense of Religion looks like an interesting read (and only $10.49 on Kindle), I'll have to put that on the list...
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« Reply #50 on: September 13, 2014, 03:40:30 PM »

What have I stumbled on? Justin and Jetavan's version of "Quotes from the Fathers"?
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« Reply #51 on: September 13, 2014, 03:56:38 PM »

What have I stumbled on? Justin and Jetavan's version of "Quotes from the Fathers"?

Well, maybe when I'm done on this thread I'll head over and post some patristic quotes in those Church Fathers threads. I've never been in them, but I've been wanting to post something!  Tongue
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« Reply #52 on: September 13, 2014, 03:58:09 PM »

Wink
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« Reply #53 on: September 13, 2014, 04:01:32 PM »

I think I will just start referring to you two as J2.
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« Reply #54 on: September 14, 2014, 12:00:09 PM »

I think I will just start referring to you two as J2.

It is a little know but irrefutable fact that the initials of both Justin Kissel and my other name, Justin Credible, are properly to be written as: J. With that in mind, I believe using J2 to refer to myself and Jetavan would be both inaccurate and confusing. Cool
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