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If we didn't have the stars...


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"We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.",which is from Oscar Wilde's "Lady Windermere's Fan"

A commonplace observation that over the aeons  humans have looked up at the stars with what we assume to be a similar feeling of wonder that we feel now.

But my question is whether we would have found another object to evince the same feelings in us had those stars not been there for us to have gazed up at.

Is there a feeling looking for an outlet  that used those stars or would we have just found some other things to observe that would have  given rise to similar but not identical feelings of wonderment?

What might those objects have been?

(It is not so outrageous that there might be sentient beings at some point in history looking out at a starless world as I believe it is said that ,after a long period of further expansion our presently visible stars will fade from view)

Edited by geordief
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5 minutes ago, geordief said:

But my question is whether we would have found another object to evince the same feelings in us had those stars not been there for us to have gazed up at.

Probably not. We wouldn't have astronomy, astrology, or sky-dwelling deities.

But if you didn't take away the moon and planets, along with the stars, we could study them. And you certainly can't away the sun! 

In any case, there is plenty down here to be in awe of: waterfalls, volcanoes, tornadoes. Or we could have stuck with venerating ancestors, bears and elephants. 

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If it was always daylight and we couldn't see the stars, except for 1 night every thousand years ?

Read the short story 'Nightfall', by I Asimov.

Nightfall (Asimov novelette and novel) - Wikipedia

or the R W Emerson quote

"If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown! But every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile."

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Or maybe we'd have wide-spread panic, suicides and end-of-the-world partying on that one night. Wake up with terrible hangovers, wonder who broke all the glassware. Wait all day to see if it happens again... it doesn't. Clean up and go back to normal.

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44 minutes ago, dimreepr said:

If we didn't have star's, how would we know where to go???

A map, is just a guide; why not plant this question in the religious forum?

Because gods are human creations, unable to go beyond what humans can conjure up?

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On 7/17/2021 at 5:57 PM, geordief said:

But my question is whether we would have found another object to evince the same feelings in us had those stars not been there for us to have gazed up at.

I've wondered the same thing, but about the scientific rather than philosophical effects. We looked at the stars and drew pictures in the sand and worked out trigonometry and early theories of astronomy. What if everything else had been the same but the earth were covered by clouds? We'd still have gravity, but we couldn't look at the heavens. How would science have progressed? 

Hope this isn't too much of a thread hijack but it's a question that's long been on my mind. 

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 I suppose we would have concentrated on earth sciences, weather, water, wind, rocks; the properties of matter and the technology of moving things around. We might also have gotten to chemistry and biology sooner, with no derailment of "perfect spheres" and "ideal forms" and "gods' images".  In any case, we would do science of some kind, always, because it's useful to our to survival and satisfying to our curiosity.

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Posted (edited)
13 hours ago, wtf said:

 

Hope this isn't too much of a thread hijack but it's a question that's long been on my mind. 

No that is exactly on point.

2 hours ago, Intoscience said:

If we didn't have stars we wouldn't be here to ponder the question, since we are predominately made from "star dust"

Yes ,would we eventually find a way to deduce their existence?

Edited by geordief
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26 minutes ago, geordief said:

No that is exactly on point.

Yes ,would we eventually find a way to deduce their existence?

Yeah maybe, though the question would be; can we continue to exist without any stars (including our own)? 

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There is the question - what if there were no stars at all. That would leave us without a Sun. What if there was only one star - the Sun; that would leave Earth without the elements that came from other stars. But I think the question may be about if they exist but could not be seen and whether we could feel similar awe and wonder for other objects.

It seems obvious to me that we can... because humans do feel that about other things than the night sky and celestial objects; the vast oceans, their reaches, their mysterious depths. Mountain ranges, giant forest trees. Caves and deep underground. Volcanoes. Living things. I recently watched visualisations of biomolecular processes - mitosis, DNA replication, transcription, the kinetochore - wow!

I have to say I had only limited interest in stars as a child; shooting stars, sure and the first visible stars after sunset (for making wishes, which I quickly realised weren't coming true). There was the "saucepan" - Orion's Belt and other stars, because it looked like a join the dot drawing of a saucepan with a handle and the Southern Cross, that is on Australia's (and other nation's) flags, that we were told could help give a guide to the direction South. But they were all kinda static and not that exciting; the wonder has come from other people getting all passionate about them and learning what is out there.

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Without Tycho Brahe's celestial observations, Kepler would have had nothing to base his theory on meaning Newton would have had no way to formulate an inverse square law that led to his theory of gravity. (Assuming the planets are also absent - not sure if the moon would be enough to go on).

We may still have had something though; apparently Galileo's work was inspired by music and its mathematical properties.

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If we lived on a planet whose atmosphere blocked visible light enough to block stars, it's possible it would also block the primary,  and we would evolve more towards acoustic sensing and less towards vision.   You can have soupy atmospheres that support life and liquid water,  but surface condition is essentially darkness.   

You can do a lot with sound,  as any bat or dolphin would tell you (if it could), though the "sky's the limit" definitely applies here.   If you developed technological civilization, and being curious creatures,  decided to see what was up there,  your departure from the atmosphere and entry into vacuum would be,  to your senses,  like entering utter blackness.   Of course, if you had actually developed tech to that capability, you would have instruments that could detect the EM spectrum and convert it into auditory "images" for you,  and your mind would be properly blown.   But EVA stuff would probably not interest you so much.   

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We can't see the 'star stuff' (molecules, atoms) that we're made of, and for most of our existence, we couldn't even see the cells that we're made of, and neither of those obstacles stopped us looking for the cause of things. 

Darkness is another matter. The evolution of the eye is so closely interconnected with the evolution of the brain that it's hard to imagine inquisitive intelligence arising on a lightless planet. Dolphins and bats are no help, since they did not originate or develop their present capabilities in darkness; they just adapted to operate in less light than the surface-dwellers in order to occupy an ecological niche that was less crowded. Whatever grows in deep caves and black pools doesn't seem to be very curious, nor upwardly mobile. 

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Getting a view of space would have to wait until instruments that can deal with other bands than visible - or aircraft/rockets to lift instruments or observers above the cloud layer - but I don't know to what extent such technology would be dependent on astronomy. Seems like we should be able to do those things without an understanding of what is out there and still get there in the end.

I don't think being unable to see the stars would prevent a sense of wonder or curiosity - and I seriously doubt the evolution of those traits was ever dependent on it; they evolved and developed and got naturally selected for other, more prosaic, down to Earth reasons.

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8 hours ago, Peterkin said:

We can't see the 'star stuff' (molecules, atoms) that we're made of, and for most of our existence, we couldn't even see the cells that we're made of, and neither of those obstacles stopped us looking for the cause of things. 

Darkness is another matter. The evolution of the eye is so closely interconnected with the evolution of the brain that it's hard to imagine inquisitive intelligence arising on a lightless planet. Dolphins and bats are no help, since they did not originate or develop their present capabilities in darkness; they just adapted to operate in less light than the surface-dwellers in order to occupy an ecological niche that was less crowded. Whatever grows in deep caves and black pools doesn't seem to be very curious, nor upwardly mobile. 

I don't see why inquisitive intelligence couldn't evolve on a lightless planet.   We are visual creatures,  so we might be inclined to a kind of EM chauvinism regarding how brains may develop.   I only mentioned dolphins as examples of a sensorium that can turn sonic information into detailed 3D representations of the environment, not as hypothetical dwellers on my Darkworld.  A lightless planet would have a myriad of ecological niches just as a lighted one does, and wouldn't be analogous to just cave-dwellers.   Indeed,  a dominant acoustic sense that's greatly beyond ours might afford perceptive powers we lack,  like seeing through walls and into the interiors of other bodies.   Peterkin, I know that you write SF,  so I would think your imagination is more than capable of imagining such worlds.   

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10 hours ago, Ken Fabian said:

What if there was only one star - the Sun; that would leave Earth without the elements that came from other stars.

Maybe not. Our sun could be the last star, with all the other stars long since extinguished.

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1 hour ago, TheVat said:

I don't see why inquisitive intelligence couldn't evolve on a lightless planet.   We are visual creatures,  so we might be inclined to a kind of EM chauvinism regarding how brains may develop.   I only mentioned dolphins as examples of a sensorium that can turn sonic information into detailed 3D representations of the environment, not as hypothetical dwellers on my Darkworld.  A lightless planet would have a myriad of ecological niches just as a lighted one does, and wouldn't be analogous to just cave-dwellers.   Indeed,  a dominant acoustic sense that's greatly beyond ours might afford perceptive powers we lack,  like seeing through walls and into the interiors of other bodies.   Peterkin, I know that you write SF,  so I would think your imagination is more than capable of imagining such worlds.   

I take your point. We could either imagine an entirely different planet, with a whole other kind of life on it, or life on this planet having a different history. All  I've been doing is thinking of this planet, with this same dominant species, the sun, moon, tides and weather, only removing our ability to see other suns.

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