Saturday, November 27, 2010


I found far too many five-star reviews of Carl Sagan's 1980 book, Cosmos, on Amazon. (It was also made into a PBS television series seen by millions.) Thus, I wrote a small review of it, giving it two stars:

Sagan infamously begins this paean to the cosmos with, "The universe is all that was, is, or ever will be." This is not a statement derived from any of the sciences, not from Sagan's astronomy, not from physics, not biology, not from any science. This is a statement of metaphysics, the worldview of naturalism: there are no supernatural beings, the cosmos has no purpose, and there is no afterlife. From this unargued premise, Sagan extols the wonders of a godless world, with science (wrongly understood) as his church. And the historic church is, of course, the villain.

Sagan gives no indication that the theistic worldview (nature created by an infinite-personal being as good, intelligible, and worthy of harnessing for human betterment) of the leaders of the scientific revolution was vital to the development of modern science. Naturalism, however, has no reason to support the axiology or epistemology of scientific endeavor. Why think that unguided merely natural processes and entities would produce minds capable of knowing and improving the world? The naturalist, Eugene Wigner, even wrote famously of "The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics," given that there is no reason for the theoretical and intellectual realities of math to fit the world if there is no given order or meaning to existence.

So why would I give Sagan's work two stars? It is because he was a gifted writer, using the very gifts of God against God. Further, some might see through Sagan's naturalism and see into the Mind of God, as manifested in the cosmos.

1 comment:

Jeffrey said...

While the statement Sagan begins his book with is indeed representative of the naturalistic worldview, it should be noted that it seems to be said in a cheeky manner, mocking a religious text. Is this only obvious to me? Sagan is obviously enamored with the universe, and it is truly something to be in awe of.

To say that Sagan misunderstood science without any further backing is quite a leap, considering his standing in the scientific community. It would be easier to assume that you, sir, misunderstand science. Science corrects itself when in error, yet religion never does.

Your use of the word 'unguided' is true only in the sense it's not guided by an unseen Creator. However, it does have a goal and purpose, as most evolutionary biologists assert.

Because Math has axioms, it does not follow presuppositionally that we can make them up willy-nilly for our own belief systems. Just because it's possible doesn't follow that it's probable. That's not how it works, and I believe you know this.