Thursday, February 28, 2008

The varieties of scientific experience : Carl Sagan

The subtitle of this book is " A personal view of the search for God". This is a collection of the lectures presented by Sagan in Scotland on varied topics mostly connected with God and religion , but you also get a bit about the search for extra terrestrial life, nuclear weapons, creationism and other views. As always Sagan is very lucid in his writings , and it is hard not be impressed by him , not only for his ability to clearly think , but also for his ability to put across his point clearly. Sagan also is very polite and at least to me fairly balanced in his views when it comes to the evidence of 'God'. If you define God as the sum of laws of nature then he exists, If you define God as love then God exists, If you define God as a bearded white man in the heavens watching your every move then we need more evidence. I cannot easily summarise any of the material here , because Sagan's work is always so easy to understand that the only thing I can do is copy his words. So instead I will quote some of his beliefs from the introduction by Ann Druyan.
"What is wanted is not the will to believe , but the desire to find out" (Bertrand Russel)
"Every one of us is, in the cosmic perspective, precious. If a human disagrees with you let him live. in a hundred billion galaxies you will not find another"
"His argument was not with God but with those who believed our understanding of the sacred had been completed"
"He never understood why anyone would want to separate science which is a way of searching what is true from what we hold sacred, which are those truths that inspire love and awe"
There is also a question and answer with the attendees of his lecture which is very interesting and informative.
There is something in this book for you, no matter which side of the argument you stand on.
It goes without saying read this book.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Letters to a Christian Nation - Sam Harris

The tragedy of this book is that, the people who dont like religion will find that Sam Harris argues for the danger of religion eloquently, that he demolishes the various illogical beliefs that religious people have but ultimately he tells us nothing that we dont already know. Which is fair enough because he has addressed his book to the believers. And therein lies the tragedy. Astonishingly few believers will read this book , and of those who do, how many will stop and say , Hmm maybe I should think a little more on this topic, I might actually be wrong. Its far more likely that they will read it , denounce it as an atheist's attempt to sway them from the path of the righteousness and repeat that their holy book is irrefutable , is perfect , is the word of god (why? because it says so in the holy book!).