Thursday, June 21, 2012

Why I miss Carl Sagan


The words below are not mine. Although, I wish they were, because then I’d be brilliant. The transcript in this post comes from an online video from the Sagan Series, specifically part 3. You can find the whole series on youtube.com. Each episode lasts about 5 minutes. The Sagan Series can also be "liked" on Facebook.

It always fills me with deep emotion when I watch the episode and it clearly shows that our planet lost a great mind with Sagan’s passing.  However, the universe again gained an intelligence that if it could be recycled, will hopefully become part of many future generation’s DNA in our galaxy and others.

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“Consider again the pale blue dot we’ve been talking about. Imagine that you take a good long look at it. Imagine you’re staring at the dot for any length of time. And then try to convince yourself that god created the whole universe for one of ten million or so species of life that inhabit that speck of dust.

Now take it a step further. Imagine that everything was made for a single shade of that species, or gender, or ethnic group, or religious sub-division. We can recognize here a shortcoming, in some circumstances serious, in our ability to understand the world.

Characteristically, we seem compelled to project our own nature onto nature. ‘Man in his arrogance thinks himself a great work, worthy of the interposition of a deity.’ Darwin wrote telegraphically in his notebook. ‘More humble and I think truer to consider created from animals.’ Close quote.

We’re Johnny-come-lately’s, we live in the cosmic boondocks, we emerged from microbes and muck. Apes are our cousins, our thoughts and our feelings are not fully under our control. And on to top of all this, we’re making a mess of our planet and becoming a danger to ourselves.

The trap door is open beneath our feet swings open. We find ourselves in bottomless free-fall. If it takes a little myth and ritual to get us through a night that seems endless, who among us cannot sympathize and understand.

We long to be here for a purpose. Even though, despite much self-deception, none is evident. The significance of our lives and our fragile planet is then determined by our own wisdom and courage. We are the custodians of life’s meaning. We long for a parent to care for us, to forgive us our errors, to save us from our childish mistakes.

But knowledge is preferable to ignorance. Better by far to embrace the hard truth then a reassuring fable. Modern science has been a voyage into the unknown with a lesson in humility waiting at every stop. Our common sense intuitions can be mistaken.

Our preferences don’t count. We do not live is a privileged reference frame. If we crave some common purpose, then let us find ourselves a worthy goal.”

Thank you Carl! 

Thank you for changing my life and for helping to give it clarity, meaning and a sense of purpose outside of any religious or faith-based tradition. We are good, and I conclude that we as a species, are better without god belief.

Science does not need any deity to support our explanation for, research of or wonder about ourselves or the universe.

In part, because of you Carl, we are not alone.  Almost 47 million Americans accept Darwin’s law and approximately 1.7 billion individuals on the planet express no faith or have any god belief. Science and the process of scientific thought, are at once  humanistic, reasonable and rational. That's the goal and philosophy which unite all freethinkers.

2 comments:

  1. This passage contains many of my favorite quotes from Carl Sagan, probably the single most influential of my heroes and role models. This is a great page; I like what you have created here. One caveat: be careful with generic language (e.g., "Almost 47 million Americans accept Darwin's law). I think you mean to say there are 47 million professed atheists in America. Many who consider themselves religious also accept Darwin's theory of evolution.

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  2. Dear Anonymous,

    Thank you for your kind words and encouragement. I'm happy that you find my blog enjoyable.

    I think that writing these posts, and accepting guest posts to publish on the site helps build community.

    Come on back anytime.

    Cheers,
    David

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