I found the comments in this video on the meaninglessness of existence pretty interesting, especially as Reese Witherspoon says the same thing in the movie Wild (which I just happen to have watched recently) while pointing to this poster:
The poster is in a classroom and she expresses frustration that kids are being taught that they’re “insignificant.”
I found that scene kind of horrible because, one, I don’t know why it should follow that acknowledging our place in the cosmos should automatically lead to depression at our “insignificance” and, two, the apparent alternative is either (a) not teaching kids the truth about our place in the cosmos or (b) not actively reminding them of this. I find both options pretty deplorable.
Carl Sagan, as usual, has a better way to frame our cosmic situation (aka “insignificance”). He says that, while it certainly should cause us to think of our chauvinisms as petty and insignificant, it should also cause us to reflect on the fact that our self-awareness can be viewed as a rare gift that we can squander on petty disputes, greed, and reality TV, or that we can use to satisfy what he sees as our deep-running need to explore the cosmos and reality in general.
I’m surprised, incidentally, to hear a philosophy scholar misuse “begging the question.” No, cosmic horror does not “beg the question ‘Are we significant?’ ”; it may, however, invite that question. Also, the presenter here suggests that Star Trek, like “most science fiction,” places humans at the “metaphorical” center of the universe. However, this isn’t true of Star Trek: TNG, Voyager, or Enterprise. I can’t speak for TOS because I haven’t seen enough of it and, what I have seen, I haven’t really liked.