Unity Between Science & Religion: The Logical Way
Carl Sagan and the Dalai Lama found deep connections in [1991-92] meetings, says Sagan’s widow
Religion and science do not have to be at odds. Science, said Ann Druyan, widow of Cornell astronomer Carl Sagan, can communicate with, learn from and even benefit from religion and vice versa.
Druyan, a writer and media producer who collaborated with Sagan for 19 years until his death in 1996, reflected on dialogues in the early 1990s between Sagan and the Dalai Lama at a Sept. 28 lecture in Anabel Taylor Auditorium. For the first time, film excerpts of the meeting between the two were shown in a public venue.
Sagan, Cornell professor and author of “Cosmos,” “Contact” and “Dragons of Eden,” among other books, was perhaps best known for his extraordinary ability to communicate science to the public. “He wanted to share with everyone the wonder and awe that science inspired in him,” Druyan said.
She stressed that there were political motivations behind Sagan’s work as well: “Carl believed that you can’t have a democratic society if you have a tiny scientific elite and a public who is uncomfortable with the methods and language of science,” she said.
Sagan entered the public eye in the 1960s — a time rife with changes in both culture and thought. The Catholic church had just switched from giving masses in Latin to local languages so that everyone could understand them, and Druyan said Sagan was trying to do the same for science.
The Dalai Lama, who has had a lifelong interest in science, first met with Sagan during a visit to Ithaca in 1991. Their discussion continued in India the following year, where the Dalai Lama cleared his calendar to spend a full day talking with Sagan and Druyan.
Robert Barker/University Photography
On Sept. 28 at Cornell, Ann Druyan, writer and media producer and widow of the late Carl Sagan, reflected on conversations Sagan had with the Dalai Lama on science and religion in the early 1990s.
In the short segment shown of their conversations, Sagan asked the Dalai Lama about his beliefs in God and what he as a Buddhist would do if a discovery in science conflicted with Buddhist doctrine. The Dalai Lama replied that even Buddha was said to question his teachings and that Buddhists rely on doctrine as “findings” rather than as “scripture.”
“If through thorough investigation things become clear, only then is it time to accept and believe,” he said.
“So is there no conceivable scientific finding that would make you no longer consider yourself a Buddhist?” Sagan responded.
The Dalai Lama said there would be no point at which his spirituality and his respect for science would come at such odds with each other. “Buddhism is not so much a religion, but a ‘science of the mind’ or an ‘inner science’ … there is much benefit to learning from [scientists’] findings,” he explained.
Regarding the contributions of religion to science, Druyan said that while science has developed an amazing library of facts, it does not have the human social organization and the ability to inspire that religion has. That’s why we have lost that magical excitement with space exploration that the world once shared, she said.
What science needs are more ambassadors. “We don’t have a Carl Sagan right now,” she said — a well-informed, ethical and passionate leader, versed in the arts and sciences, concerned about the planet yet willing to “get into any kind of trouble for the sake of the human future.”
Druyan’s lecture was one of many events on campus prefacing the Dalai Lama’s Oct. 9 visit to Cornell. Many of the ideas she discussed are put forth in Sagan’s latest book, “The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God,” which she edited.
Graduate student Melissa Rice is a writer intern at the Cornell Chronicle.
Via: Cornell University
There is something alarmingly charming about the way sister chromatids from both parents somehow find way to one another in a sea of others. And more, how proceeding this they swap pieces of DNA to form recombinant chromosomes; that is— how equal pieces are literally given from one chromatid to another, thus changing the arrangement of the resulting ones.
Is the poetry of science simply displacement of our microcosmic anthropomorphized drama onto the smaller make-up all around us, or rather do the infinitesimal microcosms of physics and biology produce the very nature of our social and romantic outputs? Alas, the ol’ Marx vs. Hegel argument…
Though furthermore— if this physical plane, this universe, resulted from elementary monism. Then why is it persistent in its expression and drive to variate?
And I thought: what were the autumn leaves to the Bigleaf Maples and Birches but matter-of-fact epitaphs apropos the changing of seasons.
The tree remained, and even past its larger eventual mortality there would endure its connection to the rest of the ecosystem, to the breaths of thousands of strangers, minuscule changes to the soil that would endure all forthcoming generations of trees ad infinitum, which would ultimately affect concentrations of elements present in the earth’s remains after our solar system’s sun would eventually go kaputt!
This was science, a mere poetry that we laid over this existence much as a mother would lay a blanket over her child (though we must remember it is nearly always the mother who is more comforted by this gesture than the child).
I thought it was beautiful and I didn’t always believe in it—the way so many people I find around me would tell you over a beer how they don’t believe in humanity, don’t believe in a balanced diet; don’t believe in themselves.
I often didn’t believe in existence and that felt a lot more jovial, and almost healthy in an optimistic way. But in that being there, that moment—that something—I read the epitaph of the trees’ leaves and I received their message.
And like the first sip of black steaming coffee in days I was refreshed and spat into a state of calm innate energy; grace.
The way humans get so fearful over the stuff that seems to happen to our biological bodies seems silly. I got that feeling one sometimes gets living in a city—I wanted to hug all the strangers I passed, or tell everyone to stop looking at the goddamned ground all the time.
But I knew they’d all be okay, and besides—they could just be reading the leaves.
Hoping to date another girl name Sara(h) (who hasn’t dated a Sara? It’s like the female version of a ‘Steve’, ‘Matt’, or ‘Mike’) in order to best utilize the most brilliant term of endearment I’ve ever conceived: Cerebellum.
1. Means literally “little brain” thus employs the proper amount of cutesy condescension that only you’d let your lover get away with.
2. Is scientific and tells the world that your couple-unit would achieve an accumulative GRE score of…a lot. (AKA ‘Don’t fuck with us on trivia night at *insert local bar name*’)
3. The matter of the cerebellum is referred to as the arbor vitae (tree of life), and thus reminds hypothetical Sara(h) of her beautiful and sacred feminine nature and potential to be the future bearer of my children.
4. It’s a pun, and as far humor goes Tina Fey said it best, “You can tell how smart people are by what they laugh at.”
5. ‘Little brain’ gives a nod to phallicism.
cute + playfully condescending + smart + punny + biological + penis joke = greatest fucking term of endearment ever
THE FOLLOWING WILL CHANGE THE OUTCOME OF YOUR FUTURE, BE PREPARED.
I will try to keep it as concise as possible, however, if you are in the ‘tl; dr’ camp of thought I recommend skipping down to ‘Long Story Short.’
What have we on our hands but varying degrees of psychoses and neuroses—
it seems to me so stark raving evident that we all face the problem of control or domination; we all desire to be the agents of our life or have some such force—be it lover, universal law, deity, or drug—control us. All in order to satisfy and hush the background anxiety of conceived death and long-term purpose lurking somewhere in bed of the consciousness. The Determinism vs. Free Will debate which philosophers are still out to lunch on. The Pragmatism of the likes of William James and John Dewey always taught us that we ascribe to whatever thoughts and ideas serve the most useful purpose in our current lives. Although this was a scientific stride in the right direction they may have missed the boat a bit. James W. Pennebaker, has sunk that boat.
This Changes Everything. University of Texas’s James W. Pennebaker (yes, cousin of the same D. A. Pennebaker responsible for Bob Dylan’s famous documentary and music video) through decades of both qualitative and quantitative research, has displayed the validity of creating our permeable realities of the future.
That is, among his most important research Pennebaker has shown that by simply writing or saying something emotionally dismantling to ourselves we neurologically obtain the same relief we would otherwise obtain from telling a close friend, sibling, or therapist about it.
Maybe you’re a spiritualist or a skeptic of logic and the scientific method such as I, then consider this: Hans Vaihinger and his various contemporaries (Kant, Nietzsche, Adler, Fourier) all display the concept of Fictionalism. Fictionalism (the ‘As If’ for Vaihinger) is the concept that we create fictive goals to feed our teleological selves (some camps of thought such as Positive Psychology and Psycho-Cybernetics speculate that this may be a mechanism of the subconscious or brain itself), despite the fact that they are fictions.
That is, we create notions of God, perfection, our ultimate selves, immeasurable wealth, etc. in order to create a striving for a goal-oriented mechanism within our brain/mind/heart/spirit—whatever name you want to give to it.
LONG STORY SHORT— daily affirmations and journalling with a hint of ‘future nostalgia’ pay off; by placing our feelings and ideas about our speculated future selves out into the open we feel we are giving them more reality and eventually they become prophecy which we fulfill. Think it’s bullshit? Check out Pennebakers decades of research or read up on the concept of Fictionalism. Better yet read the biographies of all successful men and women throughout history and see how one of the common threads in their success is the belief that they were destined to be something great.
You have great influence on your future. Of course, writing “I will marry George Clooney and eat a diet consisting of cheese for the entirety of my life,” 500 times per day will like lead you in undesirable directions. Though if you can conceive a probable possibility for your future and can shut off the crippling critical inner-monologue that gets the best of us from time to time in order to simply consider the possibility of your future success and self, then eventually that consideration will become a playful belief, then a serious possibility, then a prophecy.
Affirmations and writing about your future— laugh at it and remain cynical, or give it a shot and look back on it after you’ve changed the world and actualized to your desired potentials.