Intercultural Human Rights Law Review


Roy Balleste

First Page



When I was twelve years old, I was a guest at an unknown installation managed by the U.S. Air Force. The installation harbored a precious instrument: a solar telescope. I stood in front of the telescope while looking into outer space, and I was both excited from my visit and anxiously hoping for a better future for humanity. This experience opened up for me a world of new perceptions about the cosmos. I had wondered before about the mysteries of the universe. Since that time, new technologies have been developed and the achievements of human ingenuity have been fascinating, but remain of limited value, when one considers what would be required for our successful journey into neighboring galaxies. In a way, any human endeavor requires-first of all-an understanding of our existence as a species. Our sense of being alive, for example, permeates our perceptions of reality and our behavior in life. When I was a little older, I attended a presentation by my esteemed colleague, John Makdisi. His lecture was about natural law and how it permeated our understanding of human interactions. I was deeply fascinated, and I became enchanted by what the legal thought of philosophers such as St. Thomas Aquinas had to offer. Listening to John was like searching for new planets and his lecture was like my childhood telescope. One way or another, thoughts about humanity always bring me back to technology. The peaceful exploration of outer space, for example, promises to take human beings to more than one thousand discovered exoplanets. There awaits an opportunity to further develop the human race, beginning possibly with the mining of helium-3, which would meet our global energy needs for hundreds of years. Plato noted that "astronomy compels the soul to look upward, and leads us from this world to another." The immeasurable expanse challenges our notions of time and space. If Thomas Hobbes had attended John's lecture, he would have added that it is challenging to conceptualize infinite time or space. This is clearly more than a cosmological matter. It is a view of the human person against the background of outer space's distant horizons. For Hobbes, these perceptions challenged our notions of knowledge. He nevertheless insisted that humanity should not renounce its senses, reason, or experience, in any spiritual flight, since these are the tools of justice and peace. Reason and experience continue to challenge our understanding of the universe.

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