One small step for man…40 years on

Remember that iconic line uttered by Neil Armstrong when he descended from the ladder of Apollo 11’s Lunar Excursion Module, to become the first man to set foot on the moon, 40 years ago to the day? Who can ever forget them?

Well, seems that Neil himself did. Apparently in his excitement, he fluffed what he was actually meant to have said, so that today we all know those famous words as:

That’s one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.

What he actually should have said was:

That’s one small step for a man; one giant leap for mankind.

However, that small omission actually gave the world a statement, with so much more meaning. The moon landing represented a turning point in the history of man. On this momentous day, earth-bound man stepped into the domain, long thought to belong to the gods. The moon landing was meant to be the first major step in man’s journey of discovery of himself and his limitations, and then the mysteries of the universe itself.

Exactly 40 years later; the small step has been taken, but the giant leap remains a dream for nearly the whole of mankind. Forty years of scientific discovery and technological progress, that makes the moon landing look like child’s play, has not yet equipped the ordinary man to let go of superstitious beliefs, to make peace instead of war, to feed the millions who are starving, to rid himself of the unnatural hold of religion, to love instead of hate, to be kind, to suppress anger and envy.

Instead, we have found innovative new ways to destroy each other, whole countries, monuments that we have built. Our greed has brought us to the brink of economic ruin, or selfishness has alienated us from the poor and destitute. Our politicians entrench their self-serving culture, even supporting shielding common dictators and human rights violators such as Robert Mugabe and Omar Bashir. Endless wars abound, to promote crass religious ideology, political hegemony and exploitative business interests. We pollute the environment with little or no heed for the harm caused to both man and animal. We plunder our natural resources for short term monetary gain.

The world is a mess! But there is hope,  for some of us have started the journey of discovery anew. We have abandoned the superstitious baggage, embraced critical thinking, re-acquainted ourselves with the tenets of morality and ethics. We have no wish to worship the moon; just use it as a springboard for that giant leap into the rest of the universe, that’s been promised 40 years ago that’s long overdue.

What did you do on Mandela Day?

For the inaugural Mandela Day yesterday, the world was asked to dedicate 67 minutes of their time to community service.

Why 67 minutes? Well, 67 represents the time in years, that Nelson Mandela spent in the struggle for freedom, and making the world a better place. While many ordinary South Africans and others across the world, devoted time to a multitude of charitable events, a star-studded charity concert was held in New York. However, from all accounts there was charitable activity across the globe on this day, and if successful, lobbyists to the UN could ensure that Mandela Day becomes an annual international event.

And while I mostly only snapped the photographs below, my friends took time to feed the under-privileged people at a local informal settlement:

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Sadly, Mandela Day will come but once a year, but those less fortunate need for every day to be a special day, when ordinary people will spare a thought for them. This day proved that it is not hard for us to make a difference in the lives of not only those who are poor and hungry, but to everyone who is a member of the human race. What we need is more people caring more about less.

And as I close, the call from Mr. Mandela echos in my mind:

it’s in our hands

Science is not against religion

While viewing some old videos posted on the thesciencenetwork website, about a discussion program, held at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in November 2006, I came across an interesting quote about science and religion.

Entitled Beyond Belief: Science, Reason, Religion & Survival, the program featured several well known scientists, skeptics, atheists and apologists alike. The quote I’m referring to was made by  prominent physicist and Nobel laureate, Steven Weinberg:

Science does not make it impossible to believe in God. It just makes it possible to NOT believe in God.

The connotations from this simple quote are really thought-provoking:

  • Science does not advocate that one may not believe in a god
  • Science in not concerned with proving or disproving the existence of a god
  • Science provides one with the tools (through reasoning, logic and critical thinking among others) to deduce through lack of evidence, that a god may not exist
  • Science compels one to arrive at the above conclusion, but does not compel one to believe through any form of coercion
  • There is no imperative to choose one or the other

One other thing that stood out for me in Professor Weinberg’s presentation was the reference he made to influence in science: science does not have any authority figure or prophet, rather science has experts and heroes.

A fool and his political school

I just had to interrupt my break from the FIFA Confederations Cup to highlight a report that caught my eye in an online publication, today. Seems that the ANC Youth League President, Julius Malema has launched a political school in Krugersdorp, a nondescript mining town outside Johannesburg. Without having to read the article itself, the headline caused me to burst out laughing.

After the launch yesterday, Malema was quoted as saying that the school:

will also help instill discipline among ANC Youth League members — and put a stop to the chaotic behaviour that characterised the league’s national conference last year.

Malema went on to reveal how firmly rooted in the past, he and his organization still are, by regurgitating these absolute beauties:

Revolutionary struggles in other countries failed when the new ruling parties neglected to provide political education for their members.

And,

Zimbabwe would not be where it is today if [Zanu-PF] was guided by proper, consistent revolutionary theory.

And finally,

The ANC and its youth wing could suffer the same fate if young members were not taught party propaganda.

Someone needs to grab this fool by the ear and remind him that the revolution ended in 1994 when the ANC democratically replaced the apartheid National Party of South Africa. This country does not require more young people to be taught “party propaganda.” The last thing we need is more crazy politicians spouting propagandist nonsense at every turn; which they would have been taught at Mr. Malema’s school for new-age revolutionaries.

Contrary to Malema’s claims, it is organizations like the ANCYL that corrupt the youth with idiotic political propaganda, and turn normally well-behaved students into rioting maniacs who trash their own learning institutions. It is not the youth in the ANCYL that needs to be taught discipline; it is the old guard who are out of touch with reality. Malema should enrol all his ANCYL cronies in this school, so that they could be taugh some discipline. However, I venture that this school will be teaching anything but discipline. The major subject, one suspects, in schools of politics, is self-interest 101.

Our youth should not be going to political schools, or joining dinosaur organizations such as the ANCYL. Our youth should be studying science, technology, medicine and how to become productive members of society. Our youth should be taught decency, not politics.