Friday, December 21, 2018
The Moral Science of the Winter Solstice
Today is the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere and the summer solstice in the Southern Hemisphere. The winter solstice is the day with the shortest period of daylight and the longest night of the year. This occurs when one of the Earth's poles has its maximum tilt from the Sun.
Around the world there are religious rituals associated with the winter solstice. The pagan Scandinavian and Germanic people of northern Europe celebrated a midwinter holiday called Yule. Many Christmas traditions--such as the Christmas tree, the Christmas wreath, and the Yule log--arose from the Yule customs. These religious rites sacralize the importance of the Sun as the source of life.
The modern cosmological and biological sciences recognize and explain the truth of this. All of life on Earth including human life depends on the energy of the Sun as captured through photosynthesis on Earth. If the Earth were not revolving around the Sun at just the right distance, and if the physical and chemical conditions on Earth did not permit photosynthesis, life as we know it would be impossible.
This also teaches us that for billions of years in the past, there was no life. And for billions of years in the future, once photosynthesis has shut down, and the Sun has faded, there will be no life in the cosmos.
There is a moral teaching here--that the human good has no eternal cosmic support, because the human good arises from the momentary conditions of human life, which cannot exist forever. The cosmos does not care for or about us.
This is what Leo Strauss identified as "the most terrible truth" of evolutionary science in Lucretius.
Some of these ideas have been developed in posts here, here, and here.