Friday, July 16, 2010

Destroyer of Worlds

On this day, in 1945, we entered the nuclear age for real. On this day, in 1945, the United States exploded the first nuclear bomb in the desert of New Mexico, and launched us all into a different world with different mental landscapes.

I'm always a bit in awe and horror of those scientists, who exploded their bomb without being fully sure of what it would do. Some of the scientists worried that the explosion might harm the atmosphere irrevocably. But they went ahead anyway.

Humans are full of this kind of hubris. Many of us never seem to think about worst case scenarios, and in some instances, this optimism is infectious and admirable. Unfortunately, we've spent a long time assuming that scientists will be able to solve all the problems that our progress creates, and we've probably propelled ourselves into a new climatological age; if you don't believe me, Bill McKibben makes a compelling case in his latest book Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet.

Oppenheimer claims that he thought of lines from The Bhagavad Gita: "I am become Death, the shatterer of worlds." If I had to choose a motto for the twentieth century, with its genocides and mass slaughters and illnesses and technology run amok, I could make a strong case for that line.

Unfortunately, I don't see much of a change as we move into the second decade of the twenty-first century. Those of us who are Christians, however, must keep working towards a better care of creation. We are charged to be good stewards of the earth, and today, the 65th anniversary of the explosion at the Trinity site, is a good day to ponder that mission. Oil has stopped spewing into the Gulf. I feel cautiously optimistic.

No comments: