Wednesday, December 20, 2006

God and Carl Sagan

On Carl Sagan's 10th death anniversary, couple of his quotes related to science & religion and his views on afterlife:

The following two quotes are from the May 1981 issue of U.S. Catholic, and the interview was titled: God and Carl Sagan: Is the Cosmos Big Enough for Both of Them?
On the issue of "first cause":
I would say the question of a "first cause" is only a speculation. It is perfectly possible that the universe is infinitely old and therefore uncaused. In fact, there are detailed cosmological models that hold such a view and that are consistent with everything we know. To my mind, it seems not fully satisfactory to say that there was a first cause. That seems to postpone dealing with the problem rather than solving it. If we say "God" made the universe, then surely the next question is, "Who made God?" If we say "God" was always here, why not say the universe was always here? If we say that the question "Where did God come from?" is too tough for us poor mortals to understand, then why not say that the question of, "Where did the universe come from?" is too tough for us mortals? In what way, exactly, does the God hypothesis advance our knowledge of cosmology? What predictions does it make on which the hypothesis will stand or fall?
Q: In the final analysis, what does Carl Sagan, scientist, explainer of science, and embodiment of "creative skepticism" believe?

Sagan: My deeply held belief is that if a god of anything like the traditional sort exists, our curiosity and intelligence are provided by such a god. We would be unappreciative of those gifts if we suppressed our passion to explore the universe and ourselves. On the other hand, if such a god does not exist, our curiosity and our intelligence are the essential tools for managing our survival. In either case, the enterprise of knowledge is consistent with both science and religion, and is essential for the welfare of our species.
From his last essay, In the Valley of Shadows (1996 article in the Parade magazine and also reprinted in Billions and Billions), when doctors had told him that he had less than 3-months to live:
I would love to believe that when I die I will live again, that some thinking, feeling, remembering part of me will continue. But much as I want to believe that, and despite the ancient and worldwide cultural traditions that assert an afterlife, I know of nothing to suggest that it is more than wishful thinking. The world is so exquisite with so much love and moral depth, that there is no reason to deceive ourselves with pretty stories for which there's little good evidence. Far better it seems to me, in our vulnerability, is to look death in the eye and to be grateful every day for the brief but magnificent opportunity that life provides.
From Ann Druyan's Epilogue to Billions and Billions:
Contrary to the fantasies of the fundamentalists, there was no deathbed conversion, no last minute refuge taken in a comforting vision of a heaven or an afterlife. For Carl, what mattered most was what was true, not merely what would make us feel better. Even at this moment when anyone would be forgiven for turning away from the reality of our situation, Carl was unflinching. As we looked deeply into each other's eyes, it was with a shared conviction that our wondrous life together was ending forever.


BlueCherokee said...

This is a great blog :) I love Carl Sagan, regardless that I do believe in God (although, I also do have the "feelings" that come with the infamous 'faith' that many scientists have a hard time grasping)I think he was a brilliant man and it's a real shame that he can no longer share his intelligence with the world


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