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The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A…

The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for…

by Carl Sagan

Other authors: Ann Druyan (Editor)

Series: Gifford Lectures (1985)

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Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
I had been wanting to read this book since it first came out in 2006. First, it took me a while to procure a copy. Then, I convinced myself that I had to read James's The Varieties of Religious Experience first. For whatever reason, nas much as I was interested in James's work, I just could make any headway. (Perhaps it's because the edition I own is a bulky tome, and I just got sick of carting it around.)

But suddenly, this summer, it was time. We'd been watching Cosmos together as a family, and while I found the first episode a little tedious, I've just been rapturously in love with it since then. Additionally, some recent conversations at Impression 5 about the big questions of physics have had me eyeing the science shelves of my collection much more seriously when I get home.

So in I dove. This book started out magnificently. Full of the awe at the grandeur of the universe that Sagan was always so enthusiastic about. And the first half contains absolutely gorgeous illustrations. I can hardly imagine anyone not being swept up in Sagan's sense of wonder. Well, anyone not too busy being offended by Sagan's skeptical approach to the claims of the religions of the world. Seriously. I got done with this book thinking I had no business going to church ever again. I'm still recovering.

Anyway, a third of my way into this book, I ran around declaring that this was going to be one of my top ten favorite nonfiction books of all time. Now that I'm finished, I'm not so sure. The problem seems to be a disconnect between what I was hoping for in this book, and what Sagan's intent was in giving these lectures. I eagerly sought out this book to understand better Sagan's spiritual understanding of the universe. To get a glimpse of how his scientific quest sustained and uplifted him. But of course, Sagan's faith? belief? understanding? propelled him further -- to action.

The final chapter focused on the likelihood of the human race exterminating itself before taking the next steps into the stars. Specifically, he focused on the nightmare scenario of nuclear holocaust. Which just felt dated. I know, I know, there are still enough nuclear warheads on this plant to blow us all up several times over, but the sense of urgency seems to have passed. Maybe we're deluding ourselves, but it no longer seems as likely a scenario. It seems much more likely to me, today, that if we are going to destroy ourselves, it will be through climate change/ecosystem collapse -- another concern that was near and dear to Sagan's heart. But the central idea of his conclusion -- that we much unite our religious and scientific efforts in the name of saving ourselves, remains powerful and true.

One of the most delightful features of the book was the excerpts from the transcripts of the Q&A sessions from this lecture series that concludes the book. It was wonderful to read his responses to multiple questioners who tried to back him into various corners -- his answers were always respectful, always assertive, always thoughtful. It did a good deal to pull me out of the funk of the "we're all gonna die" chapter. But still, I am left with the disquieting feeling -- what more could I be doing to protect the future of the human race? ( )
  greeniezona | Dec 6, 2017 |
This is a compilation of talks given by Carl Sagan. His discussions are logical and correct. His concerns regarding annihilation of the human race by nuclear weapons is still a concern years after his lectures and his death. I found his comments confirming and it makes sense that an astronomer would try to promote an Earh identity. I mildly recommend this book. ( )
  GlennBell | Oct 4, 2017 |
About this book: quoting from the book's back cover, Sam Harris, author of, "The End of Faith" and "Letter to a Christian Nation," said, "Carl Sagan was an unrivalled master at communicating the breadth and beauty of science. It is not an accident that he was also one of the twentieth century's most incisive critics of popular delusion. In "The Varieties of Scientific Experience," the transcript of Sagan's Gifford lectures, Ann Druyan [the book's editor and Sagan's wife] has unearthed a treasure. It is a treasure of reason, compassion, and scientific awe. It should be the next book you read."
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  uufnn | Oct 1, 2016 |
ეს არის სეიგანის მიერ ედინბურგში ჩატარებული ჯიფორდის 1985 წლის ლექციები, რომელიც სეიგანის მეუღლემ ენ დრიანმა 2006 წელს გამოსცა მისი სიკვდილიდან 10 წლის თავზე.
ლექციების თემები მრავალფეროვანია: მეცნიერება, რელიგია, ღმერთი, სკეპტიციზმი, უხო ცივილიზაციები, პოლიტიკა, სიცოცხლე, ბირთვული საშიშროება და ა.შ. თუმცა სეიგანის გამოკვეთილი მესიჯი რომელიც ყველა თემაში ვლინდება არის სკეპტიციზმის და ფხიზელი გონების აუცილებლობა, რომლის გარეშეც თანამედროვე ეპოქაში დიდ გამოწვევებს და საშიშროებებს ვერ გავუმკლავდებით.
როდესაც მეორად ავტომობილს ვყიდულობთ ბუნებრივია საგულდაგულოდ ვამოწმებთ საბურავებს, ძრავს, ავტომობილის საერთო მდგომარეობას, მოტყუებული რომ არ დავრჩეთ, მაშინ რატომ არ უნდა შევამოწმოთ და გავარკვიოთ იმაზე მეტი რასაც მთავრობა და რელიგიური ავტორიტეტები გვეუბნებიან? რატომ ვუჯერებთ მათ გაცილებით ადვილად? განა ჩვენი მომავალი მეტად არ არის დამოკიდებული მათ მოქმედებაზე? ამ ნაწილის რეზიუმედ ჯორჯ კარლინის ციტატა კარგად ჩაჯდებოდა "უთხარით ხალხს რომ არსებობს უჩინარი კაცი რომელმაც შექმნა სამყარო და მათი დიდი უმრავლესობა დაგიჯერებთ. უთხარით მათ რომ საღებავი სველია და ისინი შეეხებიან რათა დარწმუნდნენ"
სეიგანი ჩვეული ინტელექტუალური, სკეპტიკური და მეცნიერული აკურატულობით განიხილავს ისეთ საკითხებს როგორიცაა: ამოუცნობი მფრინავი ობიექტები და უცხო ცივლიზაციის ვიზიტები, ადამიანთა გატაცება და ა.შ. ღმერთის არსებობის "მტკიცებულებები" რელიგიის როლი და ფუნქცია, კაცობრიობა და ბირთვული ომის საფრთხე. საინტერესოა ასვე კითხვებიც ლექციების ბოლოს და სეიგანის პასუხები. ( )
  Misha.Kaulashvili | Aug 22, 2016 |
A series of nine lectures that Sagan gave in 1985 at the University of Glasgow sponsored by the same folks who do the Templeton price. They are supposed to be on Natural Theology - that is scientifically proving the notion of God - and issue that Sagan sidesteps and tries to show that you should, for many valid reasons, treat the subject of God with as much skepticism as you would any scientific theories. His point on God is really - you can't prove it - so why bother? Great lectures. ( )
  stuart10er | Sep 27, 2013 |
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Carl Saganprimary authorall editionscalculated
Druyan, AnnEditorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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In these lectures I would like, following the wording of the Gifford Trust, to tell you something of my views on what at least used to be called natural theology, which, as I understand it, is everything about the world not supplied by revelation.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0143112627, Paperback)

Carl Sagan's prophetic vision of the tragic resurgence of fundamentalism and the hope-filled potential of the next great development in human spirituality

The late great astronomer and astrophysicist describes his personal search to understand the nature of the sacred in the vastness of the cosmos. Exhibiting a breadth of intellect nothing short of astounding, Sagan presents his views on a wide range of topics, including the likelihood of intelligent life on other planets, creationism and so-called intelligent design, and a new concept of science as "informed worship." Originally presented at the centennial celebration of the famous Gifford Lectures in Scotland in 1985 but never published, this book offers a unique encounter with one of the most remarkable minds of the twentieth century.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:04:39 -0400)

Sagan sets down his detailed thoughts on the relationship between religion and science and describes his personal search to understand the nature of the sacred in the vastness of the cosmos. In 1985, Sagan was invited to give the famous Gifford Lectures in Scotland on the grand occasion of the lectureship's centennial. The result is this delightfully intimate discussion of his views on topics ranging from the likelihood of intelligent life on other planets to the danger of nuclear annihilation of our own, on creationism and so-called intelligent design to a new concept of science as "informed worship" to manic depression and the possible chemical nature of transcendence. In his trademark clear and down-to-earth voice, the late astronomer and astrophysicist illuminates his conversation with examples from cosmology, physics, philosophy, literature, psychology, cultural anthropology, mythology, theology, and more.--From publisher description.… (more)

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