CARL SAGAN: PROPHET OF SCIENTISM by David N. Menton, Ph.d copyright (c) 1991 Missouri Asso
CARL SAGAN: PROPHET OF SCIENTISM
by David N. Menton, Ph.d
copyright (c) 1991 Missouri Association for Creation, Inc.
Carl Sagan has gained international attention through his popular
writings on science and especially through his thirteen part television
series "Cosmos." In all of these, Sagan has insisted that he presents
only scientific facts or scientific theories supported by scientific
evidence. What has often emerged in his popular writings and television
appearances, however, is only a tissue of empirical science covering a
great bulk of unprovable speculation liberally laced with Sagan's own
philosophical and religious views of life. Sagan's religion is not so
much one of science as it is of "scientism."
Scientism is the belief that the assumptions, methods and even the
speculations of science are equally appropriate, if not essential, for
the proper understanding of all knowledge including religion. Scientism
explicitly denies both the special revelation of truth and the existence
of a sovereign, supernatural and eternal being. In the religion of
Scientism, the Cosmos (matter, energy, time and space) is believed to be
eternal and the only ultimate reality. Scientism teaches that all
things have their being and origin in the intrinsic properties of
nature. It follows that if gods were to exist, they too would only be a
part and product of nature. The social and philosophical implications
of Scientism for man are embodied in the religion of Secular Humanism.
Sagan's scientistic religious beliefs and pronouncements are well
documented in his own books:
_Broca's Brain_, New York : Random House, 1979
_The Cosmic Connection_, New York : Anchor Press, 1973
_Cosmos_, New York : Random House, 1980
_Life in the Universe_, San Francisco : Holden-Day Inc., 1966
Sagan, who insists that evolution is a fact not a theory, maintains that
"we (humans) are the products of a long series of biological accidents"
and thus concludes that "in the cosmic perspective there is no reason to
think that we are the first or the last or the best" [_The Cosmic
Connection_ p. 52]. Carl Sagan was a student of the evolutionist
astronomer Harlow Shapley who once said "some piously record 'In the
beginning God', but I say in the beginning hydrogen." Shapley appears to
believe that hydrogen is a colorless and odorless gas which, given
enough time, turns into people! Shapley's most famous student reflects
this same atheistic materialism when in his book _Cosmos_, Sagan
confidently asserts that "the world was not made by the gods, but
instead was the work of material forces interacting in nature" [p. 177].
Naturally, such beliefs have profound implications for the nature of
man, and so it is not surprising when Sagan says of himself "I am a
collection of water, calcium and organic molecules called Carl Sagan"
[p. 127]. In a logical extension of his crass materialism, Sagan
insists that all of our human traits - loves and hates, passions and
despairs, tenderness and aggression are simply the result of "minor
accidents in our immensely long evolutionary history" [p. 282]. In a
lame attempt to find some sense of purpose and meaning in a human
consciousness born of "minor accidents" Sagan proposes that "We make our
world significant by the courage of our questions and by the depth of
our answers" [p. 193]. As a further extension of this "boot strap"
theology Sagan maintains that man has evolved by mere chance to the
point where he can now take over and direct his own evolution [p. 320].
With this, the ultimate goal of Scientism and Secular Humanism is
finally achieved; man becomes his own creator and thus "god".
In a recent syndicated interview, Joan Sannders Wixen asked Carl Sagan
about his views on the future of man. Sagan replied "I feel in order to
survive we someday must be able to give up our allegiance to our nation,
our religion, our race and economic group and think of ourselves more as
just a temporary form of life under the creation of a power beyond our
comprehension" [St. Louis Globe-Democrat, Oct. 6, 1980]. Sagan
concludes that if man is to worship anything greater than man himself,
it should be something which amounts to the pagan worship of nature. In
his book _Cosmos_, Sagan proposes the stars and the Sun as being a more
worthy object of worship than Jehovah. "Our ancestors worshiped the
Sun, and they were far from foolish. And yet the Sun is an ordinary,
even a mediocre star. If we must worship a power greater than
ourselves, does it not make sense to revere the Sun and stars?" [p.
243]. Neither does Sagan overlook "mother earth" in his proffered
religion and urges us to listen to her voice as well. "The ocean calls.
Some part of our being knows this is from where we came. We long to
return. These aspirations are not, I think, irreverent, although they
may trouble whatever gods may be" [p. 5]. In any event, Sagan appears
to think it most unlikely that "the gods" will be troubled since he
reminds us that "it is said that men may not be the dreams of the gods,
but rather that the gods are the dreams of men" [p. 257]. In his book
_UFO's--A Scientific Debate_, Sagan freely admits that "science has
itself become a kind of religion." In fairness to legitimate science it
should be emphasized that it is Sagan's Scientism that has become a
religion. Empirical science must depend on observability,
repeatablility and testability of all phenomena it would seek to
explain. True science of this kind has never been found to be in
conflict with the Bible.
Why is it then that so many public schools in our country manage to get
away with teaching the religions of Scientism and Secular Humanism even
in the face of widespread efforts to erect a "wall of separation"
between church and state? Where is the indignation and litigation of
the American Civil Liberties Union who seem to fancy themselves as the
"watch dog" against the inroads of religion in our public schools? Has
the ACLU decided that there are acceptable and unacceptable religions
for our public schools? Can, indeed, any teacher discuss the origin of
the universe, and particularly the origin of man and his "values", with
out teaching or discussing religion? It seems unlikely that there can
be such a thing as "value free" or "religion free" education on many of
those subjects that most intrigue man. We are led to conclude that all
schools are to at least some degree "religious schools", it is only a
question of which religion is being taught.
Finally, we might ask why Carl Sagan, of all people, was invited, at
considerable expense, to address the recent conference of Catholic
educators and librarians here in St. Louis? Are these educators unaware
of Sagan's openly professed beliefs? Could it actually be that some of
these Catholic educators share these beliefs?
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