The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
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Carl Sagan's prophetic vision of the tragic resurgence of fundamentalism and the hope-filled potential of the next great development in human spirituality
The late great astronomer and astrophysicist describes his personal search to understand the nature of the sacred in the vastness of the cosmos. Exhibiting a breadth of intellect nothing short of astounding, Sagan presents his views on a wide range of topics, including the likelihood of intelligent life on other planets, creationism and so-called intelligent design, and a new concept of science as "informed worship". Originally presented at the centennial celebration of the famous Gifford Lectures in Scotland in 1985 but never published, this book offers a unique encounter with one of the most remarkable minds of the twentieth century.
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|Listening Length||7 hours and 34 minutes|
|Author||Carl Sagan, Ann Druyan - editor|
|Narrator||Adrienne C. Moore, Ann Druyan|
|Audible.com Release Date||September 05, 2017|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #63,131 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#55 in Cosmology (Audible Books & Originals)
#63 in Astronomy (Audible Books & Originals)
#98 in Philosophy & Science
Reviewed in the United States on February 26, 2016
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I've read most of them and most are 5 stars. See my reviews.
The Varieties of Scientific Experience is a great book as we see Carl's views on a number of chapters on science, religion and later the Gifford lecture notes . The pictures were very nice allowing the non scientist reader to understand the beauty, complexity and the vastness of our known viewable universe.
As a Roman Catholic I believe in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ as a man Carl says has been proven enough by the Bible but no proof as to a God. Don't agree, as I see plenty of proof in the Bible but I can understand Carl, as a scientist wanting verifiable proof that could be tested. My belief is based on faith that probably never will be able to be proven.
Through out the book Carl shows evidence of man evolving through natural selection and it taking hundreds of millions of years for life to evolve. I can believe that as well and the extreme age of the 4.5 billion year old Earth. I too believe in the scientific method, evolution and the quest for truth using science.
Carl, INMO did not believe there could be NO God but only asked for proof, the same as being visited by ETs or life on other planets or abductions by ETS.... show the proof. He kept an open mind but wanted proof. Also the book repeatedly shows Carl as an understanding man, able to listen to other people's views, showing respect without having to deliberately trample other scientists views.
Carl was very big into Nuclear Arms dismantling and removing the nuclear threat to mankind. He was very worried about the possible extinction of the human race due to a nuclear arms war/exchange. Read some of his other books on this...see my reviews.
Carl was much more optimistic than me in believing the possible existence of life in the universe in some very harsh environments. I too believe in other life in the universe but find it much more difficult for life to start and thrive in some very harsh environments like Carl believed in.
I really liked the question and answer section on the Gifford lectures. A few of the questions are questions I would of liked to have asked Carl. So here is a record for history of a great man, scientist, husband and father. You can tell Carl never stopped asking questions of this or that in science especially the "why". INMO one of the top minds of the 20th century.
Again I feel bad I never met Carl Sagan but at least we have his books to examine his teachings and ideas. Thank you Ann Druyan and your friend for saving and compiling the discussions of Carl's at the Gifford lectures. A great book describing science,religion and the search for God. 5 stars and recommended.
Starting with cosmology, Sagan leads us through a naturalistic view of the universe - meaning except for the most extreme liberal interpretation of God, He is not part of the equation. But the believer who desires the bigger picture should not be scared off - this eloquent book is more considerate and gentle than the recent books on religion by Dawkins, Harris, and Dennett. As usual with Sagan, it is also a treatise on why we should view our world with a scientific, rational mind-set. Sagan's bottom line was always: "Show me the evidence." In an interview, Sagan was once pressed by a reporter for a premature conclusion. When asked, "But what's your gut feeling," Sagan replied, "I try not to think with my gut."
I spent a whole day being stimulated and intrigued by this book and there is not a dull page. An 11th century Hindu logician presented the following proofs for the Hindu "all-knowing and imperishable but not necessarily omnipotent and compassionate God":
1. First cause - sounds familiar
2. Argument from atomic combinations - bonding of atoms requires a conscious agent
3. Argument from suspension of the world - somebody has to be holding it up
4. Argument from the existence of human skills
5. Existence of authoritative knowledge - Vedas, the Hindu holy books
Sagan compares them to the Western arguments:
1. First cause - otherwise known as the cosmological argument.
2. Argument from design
3. Moral argument - attributed to Kant
4. Ontological argument - Man is imperfect, there must be something greater that is perfect, therefore God exists
5. Argument from consciousness - I have self-awareness, therefore God exists
6. Argument from religious experiences
Sagan briefly discusses each item on these somewhat similar lists, ending with, "I must say that the net result is not very impressive. It is very much as if we are seeking a rational justification for something that we otherwise hope will be true." About the moral argument, he says, "It does not follow if we are powerfully motivated to take care of our young or the young of everybody on the planet, that God made us do it. Natural selection can make us do it, and almost surely has."
After each of the nine lectures, Sagan took selected written questions from the audience - most of them from believers and one of them signed by God Almighty himself. He answered them all with wit, grace, and poise and this 37 page segment is not to be missed - the whole book is not to be missed and gets my highest recommendation. Whether or not you've previously read Carl Sagan, you're in for a treat.
Top reviews from other countries
Carl Sagan therefore was somewhat of a curious choice. For what he presented in these lectures, published in book form 21 years after the lectures were delivered, is a universe that leaves no room for God - not the sort of God that theists of the orthodox Christian, Muslim and Jewish stripes worship, at any rate. In fact, there is no room for a supernatural in the sense of an alternative reality that can coexist with the laws of physics.
The lectures start by calibrating Earth's place in the vastness of the cosmos, the dimensions of which will be familiar to any cosmology buff. Thousands of billions of stars in our own galaxy, and thousands of billions of galaxies in the universe, with thousands of billions of stars each. And it's a cosmos of extraordinary violence: supernovae have probably wiped out innumerable planets, and if intelligent life is a common place in the universe, countless examples of sentient life, too. This, he opined, is `a different view ... of a deity carefully taking pains to promote the well being of intelligent creatures (p.29).
The possibility of alien intelligences being annihilated, oblivious to us, sets the scene for what is to follow in the subsequent lectures. Sagan believed that we are probably not the only intelligent life there is the universe. It could turn up in the strangest places, right under our noses in cosmic terms - there are warm spots on Neptune, as cosy as the room you are sitting in right now (p.58). The universe is replete with organic molecules that make the building blocks of life on Earth. The same carbon atoms that we find in the smoke emitted by heated olive oil can be found in the tail of comets. In any given point of the universe where these molecules exist, the chances of their coalescing to form even a rudimentary form of life is miniscule - but the universe has plenty of space, and plenty of time, plenty of places, innumerable opportunities to create a basic synthesis to get the process of evolution underway, and eventually the formation life that becomes consciously self-aware.
This does not mean that we are ever likely to encounter alien intelligences face to face. The impossibility of interstellar travel means that the best option, as with the SETI programme, is to listen out for the tell tale signals of a technological civilisation, such as radio broadcasts. That literally brings tales of UFO encounters - extraterrestrial folklore - down to Earth. The grip of such folklore is tenacious. UFO sightings are fewer and further between nowadays but books that claim the aliens built the pyramids remain popular. Sagan gives short shrift to such notions: ` [T]he first pyramid that was ever constructed fell down and ... the second pyramid, halfway through construction, had the angle of its sides dramatically pared ... exceeding the angle of repose was unlikely to be made by an extraterrestrial spacefaring civilization' ( p.127). As for UFO testimony then David Hume's old adage about miracles applies: when one hears such testimony, we should ask if it would be more miraculous to disbelieve it than reach for the standard explanation that the person telling the story has been deceived, or seeks to deceive. We have never found a single example of an ET among us but we all know plenty of fraudsters, and plenty of those gullible enough to believe them.
The chapter on the "God Hypothesis" offers cold comfort to those who would seek to base the claims of religion on the way the universe is. Believers hold that not only is there a God, but that he has certain characteristics, attributes and powers. He is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent. He is benevolent. He created the universe and can raise a man from the dead and knows your innermost thoughts. But trying to justify this God with the tool of reason presents huge problems. Take the problem of evil - or, if we want a more neutral term, the problem of suffering, - which contradicts the proposition that God is benevolent and wise. There is suffering in the world. There is a benevolent God, active in the world. Only one of these propositions can logically be true. Suffice to say, the arguments for this God are weak and the supporting evidence scant: `the moral argument, the ontological argument, the argument from consciousness, and the argument from experience ... the net result is not very impressive' (p. 165). Ultimately, the presence of God is adduced from revelation, not the way the world is. `Why', Sagan asks `should God be so clear in the Bible and so obscure in the world?' (p. 167)
Having presented such cold comfort for natural theologians (and even less for those who hold that faith alone suffices to validate God), Sagan offered a caveat. He was prepared to consider, unlike contemporary atheists like Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, the transformative potential of the Christian tenet of the Golden Rule. What if politicians were to practise it (including professedly Christian politicians)? The backdrop to his considering this question in these lectures was the salience of the nuclear arms race and the very real fear and possibility of nuclear war. This was 1985 and the Cold War was then in deep-freeze. Times have moved on and the context of the discussion has dated. But perhaps for theologians, the dearth of scientific proof to support the claims of Christian revelation need not preclude a serious consideration of what actually living the Golden Rule would actually entail here on this pale blue dot on which we live.
Overall, a marvellous book (and beautifully illustrated, too). If you enjoy books that address the big questions, then you will love this book, as I did.
I wonder what he would have made of our ever increasing overall negative impacts on Earth's life support systems? Even more urgency to continue with the SETI perhaps?