Ann Druyan talks about religion, science, love, and life.

Allex Spires
Allex Spires's picture
Posts: 9
Joined: 2006-10-01
User is offlineOffline
Ann Druyan talks about religion, science, love, and life. - Read the full article here

Medicine has had an oath that goes back to Hippocrates. Hippocrates is an amazing figure, both a father of scientific ethics and first articulator of the insight that frees humankind to discover the universe. He's one of those pre-Socratic philosophers I was talking about earlier, and he said something that resonated for me at a moment in my life when I realized what my path would be. His words inspired me to try as hard as I could in my own life to make it matter what is true. Hippocrates was writing in an essay called Sacred Disease 2,500 years ago. He was writing about the sacred disease that is now called epilepsy, and very matter-of-factly he said something that struck me like a lightning bolt. I'll paraphrase: "People believe that this disease is sacred simply because they don't know what causes it? But some day I believe they will, and the moment they figure out why people have epilepsy, it will cease to be considered divine." Why don't we have schools everywhere that teach children about Hippocrates, about the power of asking questions, rather than cautionary tales about the punishment for doing so. Our kids are not taught in school about Hippocrates, not taught about this multigenerational process of divesting ourselves of superstitions, false pattern recognition, and all the things that go with it, racism, sexism, xenophobia, all that constellation of baggage that we carry with us. We live in a society now where our leadership is all about promoting superstition, promoting xenophobia.

To me, faith is antithetical to the values of science. Not hope, which is very different from faith. I have a lot of hope. Faith is saying that you can know the outcome of things based on what you hope is true. And science is saying in the absence of evidence, we must withhold judgment. It's so hard to do. It's so tempting to believe in the lie detector or in heaven or that you know who you are based on the day of the month that you were born. It's a sort of unearned self-esteem. It's an identity that you can slip right into, and it's tremendously reassuring. So, I don't have any faith, but I have a lot of hope, and I have a lot of dreams of what we could do with our intelligence if we had the will and the leadership and the understanding of how we could take all of our intelligence and our resources and create a world for our kids that is hopeful.

When my husband [Carl Sagan] died, because he was so famous and known for not being a believer, many people would come up to me — it still sometimes happens — and ask me if Carl changed at the end and converted to a belief in an afterlife. They also frequently ask me if I think I will see him again. Carl faced his death with unflagging courage and never sought refuge in illusions. The tragedy was that we knew we would never see each other again. I don't ever expect to be reunited with Carl. But, the great thing is that when we were together, for nearly twenty years, we lived with a vivid appreciation of how brief and precious life is. We never trivialized the meaning of death by pretending it was anything other than a final parting. Every single moment that we were alive and we were together was miraculous — not miraculous in the sense of inexplicable or supernatural. We knew we were beneficiaries of chance... That pure chance could be so generous and so kind... That we could find each other, as Carl wrote so beautifully in Cosmos, you know, in the vastness of space and the immensity of time... That we could be together for twenty years. That is something which sustains me and it's much more meaningful... The way he treated me and the way I treated him, the way we took care of each other and our family, while he lived. That is so much more important than the idea I will see him someday. I don't think I'll ever see Carl again. But I saw him. We saw each other. We found each other in the cosmos, and that was wonderful.

------------------About the Author--------------------------
Ann Druyan is a cowriter with the late Carl Sagan of the Emmy and Peabody award-winning series Cosmos. Their twenty-year professional collaboration included NASA's Voyager Interstellar Message and many speeches, articles, and books, including Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors and Comet. She was co-creator with Sagan of the motion picture Contact, and a credited contributor to his Pale Blue Dot, The Demon-Haunted World, and Billions and Billions. She is co-founder and CEO of Cosmos Studios, as well as Program Director of Cosmos 1, the first solar sailing spacecraft mission. She is co-chair of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws(NORML). She and Carl Sagan were married until his death in 1996. They have two children.

Rational VIP!ScientistDeluded God
deludedgod's picture
Posts: 3221
Joined: 2007-01-28
User is offlineOffline
My salutations, which I

My salutations, which I follow with a quote from her co-writer and husband, a man who, along with her, will be remembered for his intrisicate understanding of the tiny place man occupies in the cosmos, and how ridiculous religion is in light of that. This is shown by his quote, which I keep tagged at all times.

"Physical reality” isn’t some arbitrary demarcation. It is defined in terms of what we can systematically investigate, directly or not, by means of our senses. It is preposterous to assert that the process of systematic scientific reasoning arbitrarily excludes “non-physical explanations” because the very notion of “non-physical explanation” is contradictory.


Books about atheism

atheistRRS Core MemberScientist
Yellow_Number_Five's picture
Posts: 1390
Joined: 2006-02-12
User is offlineOffline
I'm currently reading a

I'm currently reading a collection of essays and debates from Carl put together by Ann: "The Varieties of the Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God".

This is Sagan at his best. He has a knack for telling people they are full of shit in such a gentle way, the way the man made points and arguments alone is reason to admire him. Personally, I love the book, just because I miss a hero of mine quite a bit. 

I miss you, Carl, I'm glad I once got the chance to shake your hand when I was twelve, and I hope everyday that somebody will have the charisma, heart and knowledge to fill your very big shoes. We need a man like you more now than ever. 

I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world. - Richard Dawkins

Atheist Books, purchases on Amazon support the Rational Response Squad server.

Posts: 33
Joined: 2007-02-15
User is offlineOffline
Thanks for posting that

Thanks for posting that essay, I really enjoyed it.  Both Ann Druyan and Carl Sagan are fantastic writers, and I always enjoy reading them.