Monday, April 13, 2009

Excerpt from Varieties of Scientific Experience

I've been reading Carl Sagan's The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God, edited by Sagan's widow Ann Druyan.

Sagan was invited in 1985 to give the Gifford Lectures on Natural Theology at the University of Glasgow to standing-room-only audiences. The Gifford Lectures were established to "promote and diffuse the study of Natural Theology in the widest sense of the term--in other words, the knowledge of God." To be invited to lecture is one of the highest honors in Scottish academia.

Ann Druyan edited Sagan's lectures and published them, and I'm reading them now for a second time. Carl Sagan was a master at melding the scientific with the poetic. He saw such beauty and wonder in everything from the way a bacteria reproduced to the stunning images of a supernova, and he was infectious in inviting us to gaze at them as well.

From the book:
The number of external galaxies beyond the Milky Way is at least in the thousands of millions and perhaps in the hundreds of thousands of millions, each of which contains a number of stars more or less comparable to that in our own galaxy. So if you multiply out how many stars that means, it is some number--let's see, ten to the . . . It's something like one followed by twenty-three zeros, of which our Sun is but one. It is a useful calibration of our place in the universe. And this vast number of worlds, the enormous scale of the universe, in my view has been taken into account, even superficially, in virtually no religion, and especially no Western religion.


Tor Hershman said...

Just a lill' video you may enjoy, Tommy.

Tommy Holland said...

Thanks, Tor. Not my first choice in musical taste, but I can sympathize with the message.