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Carl Sagan On Religion vs. Science - by John Prytz

The late astronomer and author, famous for his TVdocumentary “Cosmos”, Carl Sagan (Cornell University) was very passionate aboutscience and rationality. He was equally passionate against pseudo-science andirrationality. He’s known for his use of the challenging phrase that “extraordinaryclaims require extraordinary evidence”. He applied those tests of evidence andrationality to religion among other subjects. Here’s a few of his conclusionsand observations.  

 

“You can't convince a believer of anything; for theirbelief is not based on evidence, it's based on a deep seated need to believe.”- Carl Sagan

 

“Human beings have a demonstrated talent forself-deception when their emotions are stirred.” - Carl Sagan

 

“Anything you don't understand ... you attribute to God.God for you is where you sweep away all the mysteries of the world, all the challengesto our intelligence. You simply turn your mind off and say God did it.” - CarlSagan

 

“A celibate clergy is an especially good idea, because ittends to suppress any hereditary propensity toward fanaticism.” - Carl Sagan

 

“What I'm saying is, if God wanted to send us a message,and ancient writings were the only way he could think of doing it, he couldhave done a better job.” - Carl Sagan

 

“Where we have strong emotions, we're liable to foolourselves.” - Carl Sagan

 

“Who is more humble? The scientist who looks at theuniverse with an open mind and accepts whatever it has to teach us, or somebodywho says everything in this book must be considered the literal truth and nevermind the fallibility of all the human beings involved?” - Carl Sagan

 

“It is far better to grasp the universe as it really isthan to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.” - Carl Sagan

 

“The idea that God is an oversized white male with aflowing beard who sits in the sky and tallies the fall of every sparrow isludicrous. But if by 'God' one means the set of physical laws that govern theuniverse, then clearly there is such a God. This God is emotionallyunsatisfying... it does not make much sense to pray to the law of gravity.” -Carl Sagan

 

“The suppression of uncomfortable ideas may be common inreligion and politics, but it is not the path to knowledge; it has no place inthe endeavor of science.” - Carl Sagan

 

“For a long time the human instinct to understand wasthwarted by facile religious explanations.” - Carl Sagan

 

“It took the Church until 1832 to remove Galileo's workfrom its list of books which Catholics were forbidden to read at the risk ofdire punishment of their immortal souls.” - Carl Sagan

 

“A religion, old or new, that stressed the magnificenceof the universe as revealed by modern science might be able to draw forthreserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by conventional faiths. Sooner orlater such a religion will emerge.” - Carl Sagan



Science librarian; retired.

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