Download a PPTX Version Here (14MB)
I was walking through the local forest trail a few months ago, and it was getting dark. As the sky shifted from blue to black, the full moon rose up through the trees creating a stunning scene. I realized my ancient ancestors were just as awe-inspired by that glowing orb in the sky, but my present-day awe was much deeper for knowing the moon as an object in space several hundred thousand kilometers away, circling the Earth for the same reason things fall to the ground, much of its mass once belonging to the Earth, lit up by the Sun, and causing the oceans to rise and fall as they follow its orbit.
At once I realized how crucial it was that this cherished knowledge of my place in the Cosmos was something I needed to give my son, Sagan.
Where You Are
For the following months, I’ve been editing and re-editing a power-point slide presentation that I hoped would serve as a children’s book guide to why we are here and what is our purpose in life according to our present scientific understanding of reality. I wanted to communicate, in the simplest terms the following four points:
1. Where You Are: on a planet some of us call Earth, orbiting a star that is the source of all energy on our planet, orbiting a galaxy full of stars, in a Cosmos full of galaxies.
2. How You Got Here: an unbroken chain of mommies who slowly changed over billions of years from a single cell to multi-cells, to worms, to fish, to lizards, to crawling mammals, to cultural mammals.
3. What You Are: a member of a communal species that lives all over the Earth and even in space, working together to increase knowledge and improve our quality of life.
4. Where You Are Going: as your parent, I’m going to try and raise you to be as smart and successful at life as myself, as my child, you’re going to try to be even smarter and more successful at life than me.
Of course, no children’s book alone can communicate such complex and sophisticated points, but I wanted to be prepared to start the dialogue. Superstitious people usually have one strong singular narrative about our origins and purpose to guide their children, as a scientist I need the same. This book is the outline of that strong singular narrative, which will grow larger and more complex as I expand on these core ideas and as Sagan’s neurons branch and branch away into the details of our shared reality.
It’s Mommies All the Way Down
I’ve included the Power Point working file, so you can download it, replace my photo of Sagan with your own child/children. Even cooler though, you can edit the book in other ways. Try replacing the animal photos with your own favorites from flickr (just make sure they’re CC-licensed if you plan to post your own version of the book). Maybe you can add more pages to the book with your children, using the PPT as the starting point of a creative learning adventure.
Happy Secular Parenting!
Sagan is a Homo Sapiens
This book would not be possible for a design-challenged fool like myself without the generous efforts of these creative commons photographers, taxpayer-funded science programs, and a copyright that had the ability to expire once upon a time.
Page 3, 6 , 7, 8, 20
- Photos by NASA
- Marie Curie, Ada Lovelace, Hypatia, Minerva, Nefertiti, and Woman from Brassempou in Public Domain
Page 10 – 11
- A Mother’s Touch by Eric Heupel
- Ring Tail Lemur in Berenty by David Dennis
- African Giant Shrew – A Fascinating One by Joey M.
- Eryops by ellenm1
- Tiktaalik by Linden Tea
- Coelacanth by Sini Merikallio
- Aquatic Caecilian by Brian Gratwicke
- Jellyfish by Giorgos Vintzileos
- Slime Mold by Richard Droker
- Single Cell by Wikipedia User Perezoso
- Images by NHS Human Services
- New York by Nathan Siemers
- Rio de Janero by Ashley Ringrose
- Dubai by Kamel Lebtahi
- Hong Kong Skyline by Spreng Ben
- Eastern Virginia Medical School by Wugging Gavagai
- Large Hadron Collider by CERN
- Oxford by Fr Lawrence Lew, O.P.
- ISS – NASA
Welcome to Life
A Creative Commons Children’s Book for New Members of Species Homo Sapiens