Will the Mysteries of the Universe Fuel a New Religion? A Galaxy Insight: Sagan, Hawking, Dawkins


In his classic on the place of planet earth in the universe, Pale Blue Dot, Carl Sagan asked how is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and said “This is better than we thought. The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant. Instead they say, ‘No. no. no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way.”

Carl Sagan dreamed of a world where a new religion that stressed the wonder and awe and magnificence of the Universe as revealed by science “might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths.” 

In a similar vein, Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins debates physicist Lawrence Krauss (“The Physics of Star Trek”) asks and answers some of the big questions about religion and our existence on Earth. 

A key focus is the impact of Darwin and “The Origin of the Species” on modern thought. Dawkins is the Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University. He first came to prominence with his 1976 book The Selfish Gene, which popularized the gene-centered view of evolution and introduced the term meme into the lexicon. In 1982, he made a widely cited contribution to the science of evolution with the theory, presented in his book The Extended Phenotype, that phenotypic effects are not limited to an organism’s body but can stretch far into the environment, including into the bodies of other organisms. He has since written several best-selling popular books, and appeared in a number of television and radio programes, concerning evolutionary biology, creationism, and religion including The Selfish Gene, River Out of Eden, and most recently, Unweaving the Rainbow and The God Delusion, a New York Times bestseller.

Dawkins sees himself as a “religious non-believer” who’s career has revolved around Darwin’s view that all was ‘produced by laws acting around us’ described so powerfully in the Origin of the Species:

“Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”

Casey Kazan


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