No matter what it learns, I think the human race will be stubbornly optimistic by majority.
The species deals with it by whatever means. Cope. Adapt. That it doesn't give up in reflection of the trauma of its own existence is something that only anti-natalists will complain about.
lol... I'm inclined to agree with you. I don't consider myself one of them. Sometimes coping and adapting mean acceptance of hard truths, not necessarily finding the "silver lining."
For example, I don't get Richard Dawkins. He wrote this amazing book called the "Selfish Gene" that states, in the most dehumanising terms, that each individual is nothing but a temporary vehicle built for a temporary and wary coalition of genes that only exist because they do it so well. Isn't that one of the most nihilist accounts of existence ever published? Yet Dawkins is anything but a nihilist.
Or take Sagan's "Pale Blue Dot". He turns the image of this pathetic planet alone in the void into a positive message about values and humility. Wtf?
I'm not sure what to make of this. On one hand, saying "Or take Sagan's..." sounds like you're equating Dawkins' and Sagan's optimism, but I don't see the optimism in your comment about Dawkins. I agree that your Dawkins comments are nihilistic, in the existential sense. I share that view with him. I've read the Selfish Gene, but I don't recall specific moments of optimism where some arbitrary value is seen as good or desired. Maybe I just chose not to accept those? Nevertheless, Dawkins does paint a kind of rosy picture of the universe, it's beauty and grandeur awe inspiring. Is that optimism? Or is it just an appreciation of what is?
Your Sagan comment, stands in contrast, I should think. Perhaps it was a different time, when the nihilistic, dehumanizing approach wouldn't have been consistent with the knowledge-averse audience he spoke to. I think of Dawkins in the same way... sometimes he speaks of Christmas for example, in a loving embrace of tradition to be honored. But, is he sentimental? Or is he simply trying to broaden his appeal? Make his message more palatable to center of the bell curve?
No matter their vantage, I think humans seek optimism, and us scant few pessimists will have to work twice as hard to remind them that "no: this isn't all right". I'm happy to do this because, for me, pessimism isn't a source of depression, but a way to satisfy a twisted sense of humour. I admit that might be a defence mechanism.
Are you a pessimist? Or are you a realist? By realist, I should say, in the colloquial sense as I'm beginning to think philosophical realism may involve elements that I'm not suggesting here. You may have noticed, I'm not a studied philosopher, so I don't mean 'realist' from any pedantic philosophy perspective. Rather, that you accept there is a reality, a true and factual universe, whether or not we perceive it correctly, but strive to do so. For me, pessimism is a tool that sometimes counters the optimism that surrounds us, the human practice so many engage in, to help us see from perspectives that help us identify those truths.
I too have a twisted sense of humor. It sometimes makes me giggle when overly optimistic people come face to face with the unavoidable hard truths. The look of fright as the monster's head appears from beneath a cloud, only to vanish an instance later, veiled in the individual's rosy optimism, and quickly dismissed as an aberration, a trick of their own mind. What I find most depressing is the loneliness. The certainty of reality depends upon the confirmation of others perceiving the same, no? When so many fools chase silly superstitious notions of gods and myths, without justification or evidence, I might as well be floating on a rock in cold dark space.
Surely, you can see the effect of 100 people, absolutely certain of god's existence and the bible's unimpeachable veracity, on an individual (a child, no less) who perceives something different? Even in the presence of hard scientific evidence, the voices of 100 to the individual's one creates doubt. I guess this is the point of cognitive dissonance. The reconciling of two completely incongruent ideas can cause great stress. For me, depression. I admit, my depression has also been in part, due to a desire for something I want but can't have. The image painted for me as a child of eternal life, love, light and streets of gold was extremely hard to let go. But, here I am. Some disagree, but I am nihilistic. And that no longer saddens me. It is actually a source of peace.
It's an utterly delicious idea to me that the truth is the last thing we want. Forbidden knowledge, for our own sakes. I was just watching "Grizzly Man". The most powerful part of that film is when Herzog is sitting with a close friend of a couple who were killed in a bear attack. The friend allows Herzog to listen to an audio recording of the deaths, which she has kept but never listened to herself. Herzog, normally unphased by horror, becomes visibly upset, and says "Jewel, you must never listen to this."
Lovecraft was of a new order of pessimism, who simultaneously insisted that we stay true to a scientific, materalistic and thoroughly atheist outlook, but also realised that it contained an impending disintegration of human dignity that rendered us utterly useless. His opening to "Call of Cthulhu" nails it:
"The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in their own direction, have hitherto harmed us little. But, some day, the piecing together of disassociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation, or flee from the deadly light, into the peace and safety of a new dark age."
was delightful. I have never read Lovecraft... but after your most apropos quote, I had to read more before responding to your post. I'm only part way into Cthulhu, enough to see it's probably not my genre, but the sentiment in your selected quote, Lovecraft's opening paragraph, is the most eloquent way I can imagine saying what I so clumsily attempted earlier. I will read more of Lovecraft, if for no other reason than to find more gems like the above example.
My emphasis above, I agree with this sentiment. However, like a moth to the flame, for me the truth is a mightier draw than the desire to remain ignorant of it... regardless the cost.