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Science and miracles: The Carl Sagan edition


Carl Sagan Planetary Society.JPG From Carl Sagan:

Consider this claim: as I walk along, time – as measured by my wristwatch or my ageing process – slows down. Also, I shrink in the direction of motion. Also, I get more massive. Who has ever witnessed such a thing? It’s easy to dismiss it out of hand. Here’s another: matter and antimatter are all the time, throughout the universe, being created from nothing. Here’s a third: once in a very great while, your car will spontaneously ooze through the brick wall of your garage and be found the next morning on the street. They’re all absurd! But the first is a statement of special relativity, and the other two are consequences of quantum mechanics (vacuum fluctuations and barrier tunnelling, they’re called). Like it or not, that’s the way the world is. If you insist it’s ridiculous, you’ll be forever closed to some of the major findings on the rules that govern the Universe. ― Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark More.

Famous skeptic Carl Sagan (1934–1996) was quite willing to believe apparently unlikely things as long as he could see them as part of a fully natural order (nature is all here is). The skepticism came in when anything to do with design or purpose was suggested.

He was, for example, willing to accept some odd beliefs about dolphins:

In 1961, the great scientist Carl Sagan joined a semi-secret society called the Order of the Dolphin, which hoped to establish communication with intelligent extraterrestrials. Among the society’s members was a neuroscientist named John Lilly, who had made a name for himself popularizing the idea that dolphins have their own language, as well as a kind of super-intelligence that rivals our own. Crack the code of dolphinese, argued Lilly, and we will be able to decipher any alien language we might encounter. More.

The order’s members—including the astrophysicist Frank Drake, the evolutionary biologist J.B.S. Haldane and the Nobel Prize-winning chemist Melvin Calvin —took Lilly’s idea about human-dolphin communication quite seriously. As the Princeton historian D. Graham Burnett has noted, they wore insignia shaped like bottlenose dolphins and sent each other coded messages to hone their dolphinese and alien-language-decoding skills.

The trouble is, as noted often here, the naturalism he espoused is wrecking science. Naturalist doctrine is helpless before the multiverse (war on evidence), consciousness as an illusion (war on reason) panpsychism (war on sanity), and political correctness (war on objectivity).

Naturalism doesn’t even keep people from embracing mere superstition. It is one thing to believe that God can intervene in th natural order; another to believe that the stars can.

The people who think it anti-science to believe that God can, in principle, intervene in nature should have a look at what is growing up around them in place of that comparatively limited assumption.

Hat tip: Ilion Troas

See also: Science cannot “disprove” miracles. The atheist in Hall’s account is professing naturalism, the belief that nature is all there is. Therefore, nothing can happen that nature does not produce. But that is a belief that guides what is accepted as evidence, not a fact in itself.

How naturalism rots science from the head down


Sceptic asks, why do people who abandon religion embrace superstition? Belief in God is declining and belief in ghosts and witches is rising

Carl Sagan is credited with popularizing the dictum “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” during an episode of his groundbreaking TV series Cosmos.
Is this a universal and binding standard? On another thread I make an historical claim which some people might describe as extraordinary. Is it? If true, does it require extraordinary evidence to confirm? I would argue that such a claim is hard to falsify. If you doubt me give it a try. https://uncommondesc.wpengine.com/intelligent-design/can-science-be-the-only-source-of-truth/#comment-661727 john_a_designer

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