"Our only chance of long-term survival is not to remain inward looking on planet Earth, but to spread out into space." --Stephen Hawking
"We must move into the universe. Mankind must save itself. We must escape the danger of war and politics. We must become astronauts and go out into the universe and discover the God in ourselves." --Ray Bradbury
So speak two men - one of whom the world has placed among the ranks of its "greatest thinkers", the other a "Sci-fi legend" - who both, as far as the ideas expressed in the above quotes go, toss emergent jerry cans of new age gasoline onto the world's bonfire of metaphysical despair. (My apologies for the mixed metaphors.)
The pairing of extreme utopian illusion with extreme catastrophic despair makes a combination that is, one might be surprised to learn, very enticing to many people. The very ludicrousness of their propositions tingles the nerves of those whose boredom with life, due to sin, is literal dull hell.
It is also, as with all new age bunkum, a plagiarism of the fullness of truth found in the Catholic Church. We have our Euchatastrophe: namely, among other points, that, when you see these things begin to happen, stand erect and hold your heads high, for your deliverance is near at hand. This being based on and being a continuation of, that first ultimate Euchatastrophe, the Resurrection.
In light of their words (or lack of light of their words), one must necessarily question what is the end, then, of all culture? What is the true outcome of their statements, but barbarism; a final satanic spurring of the earth? Take the artist who transferred his heart, entire, to a work of art, made with the materials of the earth -- was the end purpose of his work to provide fodder for our self-proclaimed ascendency, regarding the earth as defunct, as something to be hurdled over and left behind?
What the ideas expressed by Hawking and Bradbury hinge on, is a redefinition of Man through a redefinition of the Cosmos. The first touching point of this occurs in the Culture. Their ideas depend on a faulty definition of man. Or perhaps the actual purpose of their ideas is the forwarding of a faulty definition of man.
Man is not a survivalist. Survivalist Man is not only the most famished definition of man; it is man defined in the very process of committing suicide. He perishes precisely when he defines himself in terms of survival; the height of irony, of course, but it makes perfect sense: in his bid to "survive", man pares himself down to those terms of survival, and in the process has pared himself away. So he dies, along with all his demographics, like the pathetic sociologist he is.
Man creates; thus what man is does not remain solely within man, but also in the culture he has created and which has its being and continuation on earth. Man is fundamentally relational; he cannot be defined like a piece of luggage. This relational aspect of man is proven at its most essential, its most imperative to who we are, in that man can only be finally and fully defined in the heart of his Creator: one of the outcomes and unfolding of our true salvation as completed, without our merit, by Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God.
Taking first the proposition that man could actually travel through space without vast and precarious amounts of expensive technology and for extensive amounts of time without his bones becoming brittle as dried-up paper, what kind of man would man be without earth?
If there is one thing in which we today are so impoverished, it is in this: we do not know how our very physical being on this earth is a sacrament. You really have no idea of the magnificence of ritual that goes into a single breath you take.
Our relationship with earth is more than circumstantial. Our relationship with earth is indeed more than merely "purposeful". The being we have within earth is so deeply and profoundly set, so ingrained from out of infinity, that just to say we are placed here as stewards is, at best, insufficient lip service.
For the sake of argument, it would be safer to say that earth is a deiti to be worshipped than it would be to say that earth is the mere material object of our stewardship.
The implication of this is that to everything, everything, there is an a priori submission. Our notion of stewardship is itself stewarded in the culture we create; the "gift of sex", for instance, is not "a gift to be properly used", as though everything in and about our existence were just facts to be stored away in the information banks of our brains, and then to be used according to our knowledge. Everything requires an a priori submission that takes place in the midst of the sacrament of life on earth.
"If God can produce all natural effects through himself, it is yet not superfluous for him to produce them through certain causes, inasmuch as this is not owing to the insufficiency of his power but to the immensity of his goodness, which made him will to communicate his likeness to things not only in respect to their being but also in respect to their being causes of other things; for in these two ways all creatures have in common the divine likeness given to them...Likewise in this way the beauty of order appears in creatures." --St. Thomas Aquinas
"We must respect the interior laws of creation, of this Earth, to learn these laws and obey them if we want to survive.
This obedience to the voice of the Earth is more important for our future happiness...than the desires of the moment. Our Earth is talking to us and we must listen to it and decipher its message if we want to survive." --Pope Benedict XVI