2 thoughts on “The scale of the universe

  1. The use of the earthworm as a measure of the size of creation reminded me of a passage from Purgatory, in which Dante assails his fellow humans for being presumptuous enough to try to understand creation:

    O superbi cristian, miseri lassi,
    che, de la vista de la mente infermi,
    fidanza avete ne’ retrosi passi,
    non v’accorgete voi che noi siam vermi
    nati a formar l’angelica farfalla,
    che vola a la giustizia sanza schermi?
    Di che l’animo vostro in alto galla,
    poi siete quasi antomata in difetto,
    sì come vermo in cui formazion falla?

    Oh arrogant, wretched, weary Christians, whose intellects are sick, who put their faith in backward steps, don’t you know that we are worms, born to form the angelic butterfly that soars to justice without defenses? Why does your mind dare to fly, when you are still like half-formed grubs, the worm that has not changed its form?

    X: 121-129. Yes, that is about as anti-scientific and backward as you can be—and this isn’t the only time in the Comedy that Dante went out of his way to scold us for being intellectually curious, rather than depending on faith.

    But at the same time Dante the author and Dante the character in his own poem were very interested in science and technology; he describes the workings of a clock, which was cutting edge technology in 1315, in another part of the work. All of which makes me think that he would have liked this cool webpage, once he got over the fact that there was no empyrean or fixed stars and the earth was not at the center of the universe.

Comments are closed.