Monday, November 23, 2009

Sybil's Sagan

My most beautiful cousin, Sybil (affectionately "Shay" as kids, although we have never met), posted a Carl Sagan quote on Facebook the other day. Sadly, it got lost in the mix of notifications and I am just now getting around to commenting. :) I promised a blog post, so here goes...

Carl Sagan was a brilliant scientist who died almost 13 years ago. He is well known for his work in the field of astronomy, including the SETI project (although he was not a "believer" in E.T./UFO's specifically.)

Sagan claimed agnostic in the realms of god/God and religion. (agnostic = a-gnostic = (a)lack of (gnostic) knowledge. He was a giant force in the publication of photographs of Earth from deep space (which showed us just how small we are).

I can't even begin to do the great Carl Sagan justice with any sort of homage here on my measly blog, but he was a genius of the highest human caliber.

Sybil's Facebook quote: "Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense."

I am posting for Sybil because she posted in a comment that she didn't know what to think of the quote, and was hoping someone (probably me) would open up the discussion. (Do you know any other heathens, cuz? :) )

I must say that I am jaded...I have read so many Sagan quotes, and I do own his book "Cosmos: A Personal Voyage." I have picked it up and read it here and there, random pages and ideas. The man was brilliant, and I am a lowly "smart." WAY beyond me, but I love trying to figure it out, nonetheless.

The most famous quote from Sagan that atheists like to use is, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." I love this quote, and believe in it, not just in debating theism, but anything in life. If I say the sky is blue, well...duh, look up, it's blue. If I say the sky is purple...we've got a discussion on our hands.

In order to continue on with this post, I must present a few other Sagan quotes:

"Life is but a momentary glimpse of the wonder of this astonishing universe,
and it is sad to see so many dreaming it away on spiritual fantasy."

"It means nothing to be open to a proposition we don't understand."

"I maintain there is much more wonder in science than in pseudoscience.
And in addition, to whatever measure this term has any meaning, science
has the additional virtue, and it is not an inconsiderable one, of being true."

So, Mr. Sagan. What of God/god?

I think it takes a big person of high intelligence to admit that they don't know something.

One thing that bothers me about being an atheist is that the term "agnostic" is considered separate.
Trust me, I've read comments from "baby atheists" (probably rebellious teens) who don't understand
the correlation.

A = without
Theism = belief in God/god
Gnostic = knowledge

Agnostics can be atheists, or they can just be agnostics. Regardless, we are all claiming ignorance or insufficient proof..
I claim ignorance on all sorts of things; quantum physics, open heart surgery, how a steam locomotive works, why Ivy grows and grows,
only to be eaten by some weirdo green just means "I don't know enough to say
"I don't believe/understand."" An atheist is a person who thinks they have enough information to say
they have no belief in a god. It doesn't mean I think I can disprove the existence of God/god, or that
I KNOW God/god isn't means that *I* do not believe in God/god.

So, the quote in question... "Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense."

I think the point is, THINK. Think deeply and with purpose. Faith and thinking are not related. Faith is not a catalyst of the thinking mind, and the thinking mind will stump faith out like a 4-minute old Marlboro. Do I think I am superior? Absolutely not. But, I have allowed "outside the box" thinking, whereas some don't.

Do you think God ever wonders, as we do, where He/he came from?
Do you think it absurd that we dismiss Thor, Zeus, Titan as man-made gods, but if you question the lord/Lord almighty, may you be damned to hell?

I wonder who the last person on earth to believe in Zeus was. What kind of ridicule did that person go through? How was that person separated from everyone else in the world that realized that Zeus was a man-made god (like all gods)? Who decided that Yaweh/Jehovah/Jesus/God was any different? Because a "man" "walked" "named" "Jesus?"

The History Channel has a great series called "Clash of the Gods." Historical stories of the "gods" that people have worshiped throughout history. I highly recommend watching it. It's not the first time I've been presented with the similarities between Jesus Christ and ALMOST EVERY OTHER GOD IN THE HISTORY OF CIVILIZATION.

Sybil's Sagan quote is probably one of the most poignant reasons I choose to believe what I do. I think. I question. I relinquished the bible as a source of authority some years ago. As you cannot define the word "red" by using the word "red," you cannot discuss Christianity using the bible. The bible isn't proof of anything. The bible isn't an authority. The bible is a collection of stories that have been censored, whittled down, and made to suit the purpose of the church for centuries.

Simple thought: Pascal's Wager. So eloquently described by many, but summed up in one bumper sticker: "If you're living like there's no God, you'd better be right!"


All I truly ask is that any religious person who wishes to discuss the merits of their religion, their God/god, their least give me more than I can get from Kirk Cameron. Educate yourself. Don't be afraid of the dark side...if you are truly faithful, I can't drag you to my side, and you're safe. Don't cap your mind off with religion. Let yourself be the curious being that you are. Read. Study. There are SO many incredible minds who have left a mark on our world because they dedicated their lives to finding the truth. Listen to what they have to say with respect...they are God's creatures. They are the lightbulb of the world

Don't see yourself short. Think about it.


Dixie said...

"There are SO many incredible minds... they are God's creatures. " an unusual comment from an atheist?

and secondly... the sky is not blue. It only appears to be blue due to Rayleigh scattering... thought you knew that!

have a safe Thanksgiving day trip.

SPace said...

Passive sarcasm, Mom, not unusual for me at all...

...and no one asks "mummy, why does the sky appear to be blue?" unless it's my kids in their harry potter voices. haha

Dixie said...

now see... I did teach you something... "passive sarcasm"...

and the blue sky question... sounds exactly like something your kiddos would ask... have fun in MS