When I watch television, I generally watch the cable stations and then, usually, shows about history or science.  There are times while watching any one of the many science oriented shows on cable that I am reminded of Shakespeare’s title because it seems as if a lot of effort went into the search for interesting but irrelevant information.

For example, I was watching a show about scientists who have made it their life’s work to determine if there are microscopic living organisms on Mars, spending millions of dollars in the process.  At first blush, this would seem like a worthwhile endeavor, but the more I thought about it I realized that this was a lot of time and money being expended to obtain, essentially, useless information.  What practical value would it be to mankind or to our collective wisdom if it was determined that there are some microbes buried in the sands of Mars or any other planet for that matter?

Sure, the discovery of even insignificant life on another planet would stir our imaginations for awhile; however, there is no real practical importance in such a discovery.  I am also fascinated by the search to learn more about such things as Black Holes, the characteristics of the various planets in our Solar System, the particulars of the “Big Bang” theory, and all of the other mysteries of the Universe; however, I also understand that knowing more about any of these things would not change our lives in any meaningful way.  I am also amazed by the fact that so many highly educated individuals are happy to spend their lives seeking answers to all of these theoretical questions and that someone else is willing to pay them handsomely for their efforts.

This reminds me of a presentation by a noted astronomer who was explaining that our sun will eventually burn itself out and become a supernova that will expand and destroy the Earth and the entire solar system.  Someone in the audience asked the astronomer when this would happen and the astronomer replied that it would not happen for another billion years.  The audience member sighed with great relief and said, thank goodness, I thought you had said in a million years.  This is a joke, of course, but it shows how inconsequential and irrelevant it can be to find the answers to the mysteries of the Universe.

On the other hand, I appreciate that the search for knowledge has an inherent value and, perhaps, satisfying our boundless curiosity is reason enough to justify all of this activity.

On Monday, Joe again makes his case in support of Christopher Columbus in “The Case For Columbus Again”.