Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Carl Sagan muses on the fragile "pale blue dot" that is Earth:

(Thanks to Reality Carnival.)


e said...

Beautiful, Mac.
Many Forteans give Sagan a bad rap, but this is a potent reminder that he brought a noetic and a poetic sensibility to science.
Sagan could communicate the truly numinous sense of our place in the cosmos.

Ken said...

Interesting how Sagan sneaks a personal comment about religion in there (i.e., the "delusion" that man has any central significance whatsoever in the grand scheme of things). Some people -- like Sagan -- look at the universe and come away with the impression that humankind has no central significance, or that there is no 'God', but this very impression is SUBJECTIVE. Neither are empirically demonstrable. It's one thing to maintain a personal opinion (even a conviction) regarding the nonexistence of 'God'; it's quite another thing to be outspoken and even dogmatic about it. Richard Dawkins and his recent book _The God Delusion_ is another example of what I'm talking about here.

I think it's inevitable that there should be some antagonism between the scientific method and religious belief, because the latter usually comes with a built-in cosmology (among other things) which must be accepted on faith and therefore resists empirical verification and scientific discovery. This is why men like Sagan and Dawkins align themselves against religion in such an antagonistic manner. Religion in general obviously hampers the progress of scientific endeavor, at least to some extent -- but to jump from this to making unverifiable -- empirically untestable -- truth claims such as "man possesses no central significance in the grand scheme of things" or "there is no 'God'" -- truth claims made on subjective impression alone -- is to make an intellectually sloppy move. In fact it's unacceptable!

Mac said...

I always thought Sagan was a bit too generous when it came to religion, and never really cared for his attempts to "reconcile" science and religion.

But perhaps we're confusing "religion" with "spirituality"; I'm a proponent of the latter, although I see no need for a mystical or supernatural interpretation. Maybe spirituality can simply be the capacity to experience the numinous.

Regarding the claim that "man possesses no central significance in the grand scheme of things": I think it's indeed empirically testable ... and been found sorely wanting.