On Science and Religion: Carl Sagan’s posthumous essays

Religion / Science

The New York Times has an article this evening discussing the recent publication of a series of essays written by Carl Sagan on the subjects of the ways that science and religion should relate to the public sphere. Here’s a bit of the article:

“Dr. Sagan has rejoined the cosmic debate from the grave. The occasion is the publication last month of ‘The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God’ (Penguin). The book is based on a series of lectures exploring the boundary between science and religion that Dr. Sagan gave in Glasgow in 1985, and it was edited by Ann Druyan, his widow and collaborator.

Reading Dr. Sagan’s new book is like running into an old friend at a noisy party, discovering he still has all his hair, and repairing to the den for a quiet, congenial drink.

‘I would suggest that science is, at least in part, informed worship,’ he writes at the beginning of a discussion that includes the history of cosmology, a travel guide to the solar system, the reason there are hallucinogen receptors in the brain, and the meaning of the potential discovery — or lack thereof — of extraterrestrial intelligence.

Never afraid to venture into global politics, Dr. Sagan warns at one point of the danger that a leader under the sway of religious fundamentalism might not try too hard to avoid nuclear Armageddon, reasoning that it was God’s plan.

‘He might be interested to see what that would be like,’ Dr. Sagan wrote. ‘Why slow it down?’

Almost in the same breath, Dr. Sagan acknowledges that religion can engender hope and speak truth to power, as in the civil rights movement in the United States, but that it rarely does.

It’s curious, he says, that no allegedly Christian nation has adopted the Golden Rule as a basis for foreign policy. Rather, in the nuclear age, mutually assured destruction was the policy of choice. ‘Christianity says that you should love your enemy. It certainly doesn’t say that you should vaporize his children.’”

The source material for this new volume was a series of lectures that Sagan gave in Glasgow called “The Search for Who We Are.”

I think his point is similar to something I’ve said to people asking me about how I made the switch from Physics to the priesthood… It isn’t really a switch, just another way coming at the same question “Why are we here?”

Read the rest here: Carl Sagan’s Familiar and Prescient Voice, Brought to Life – New York Times

The Author

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...