Science, Religion and Carl Sagan

Science, Religion and Carl Sagan

 The following is an excerpt from Carl Sagan.  “Science is more than a body of knowledge; it is a way of thinking.  I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time—when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness.” (Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark)

Carl Sagan believed like so many in our culture that science was going to usher in a brave new world.  Well, it has.  It is the brave new world of Aldous Huxley.  One of my questions for Mr. Sagan if he were still alive would be “How can science create in people a love for truth and a desire to find it?”  Science is a methodology for finding truth.  It does not create truth nor does it have the power to create a love for the truth.  It seems we are quickly moving toward the very situation that Sagan dreaded for his children and grandchildren.  Yet we have more science now than ever before in human history and the world is still filled with darkness.  Could what Albert Einstein said be true?  “Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind.”

The problem is if science is to remain pure science, it must stay neutral toward good and evil; i.e. morality, and if it stays pure science it has no power to move mankind toward the good.  In fact it has no mechanism to discern good from evil.  Well, you might say it has reason.  My answer is it had an illusion of reason until recently then it demonstrated that humans are not foremost rational beings and are often control by passions, ideology and avarice[1].  This includes the scientists (for you folks that have made them into the new holy men).

Even if science could discern the difference between good and evil with reason, it has no power to move man to desire the good over the evil.  In some cases it may not be rational for some men to choose evil over good.  For instance, would it be reasonable for a man to tell the truth if he was going to suffer loss for telling the truth?  Reason that is not informed by faith in a higher order is like a horse without a rider, wild and unpredictable. It may be gentle or destructive, but it can never be the foundation of right and wrong for the masses.

The truth is that secular humanism with its scientific foundation is crumbing in the west and will most likely take western civilization with it into the abyss of a new dark age.  In all honesty you can be in a dark age and still have your toys, and a man can be a barbarian, even if he has an I Phone[2].

The only reason humanism has enjoyed some success in the past is that it had, as its foundation, a civilization which was created by Greek rationalism and Christian morality.  Christianity is a religion based on historical facts and has always supported reason.  Greek philosophy and Christian morality formed an ideal foundation for the creation of Western civilization.  They are like the Jack and Jill of civilization in that they go up the hill together and they fall down the hill together.

However, secular humanism has picked away on the foundation of Christianity for centuries and has now weakened it to the point where it can no longer support the culture or even its own institutions.  For this reason secularism has diminished a vital part of the foundation upon which humanism and science were built on, i.e. western civilization.  Doing away with Christianity is like a man believing that the way to run faster is to cut ones legs off.  It will be interesting to see what will happen to western civilization in the next few decades and whether Sagan’s prophecy is right[3].

[1] Reason is blinded by ideology and the avaricious passion of those doing science. There is no such thing as pure reason. Pure reason is a fiction created by the enlightenment to move people away from faith and religion. It is the only thing left for a man once he rejects God. If he has the courage, reason alone will only take him to nihilism.

[2] The proof of this is the barbaric behavior of the Nazis towards the Jewish race in Germany during World War II. It was the educated class, which ordered the extermination of Jews.

[3] The most dangerous state in the growth of civilization may well be that in which man has come to regard all these beliefs as superstitions and refuses to accept or to submit to anything which he does not rationally understand. The rationalist whose reason is not sufficient to teach him those limitations of the power of conscious reason, and who despises all the institutions and customs which have not been consciously designed, would thus become the destroyer of the civilization built upon them. A. Hayek, The Counter-Revolution of Science: Studies on the Abuses of Reason (Indianapolis: Liberty Press, 1979), pp. 162-163.


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