What about schools?

Thu, 17 Aug 95 13:12:00 CDT

Carl Sagan: Prophet of Scientism

By David N. Menton, Ph.d
copyright (c) 1991 Missouri Association for Creation, Inc.

Carl Sagan has gained international attention through his popular writings
on science and especially through his
thirteen part television series "Cosmos." In all of these, Sagan has
insisted that he presents only scientific facts or
scientific theories supported by scientific evidence. What has often emerged
in his popular writings and television
appearances, however, is only a tissue of empirical science covering a great
bulk of unprovable speculation liberally
laced with Sagan's own philosophical and religious views of life. Sagan's
religion is not so much one of science as it
is of "scientism."

Scientism is the belief that the assumptions, methods and even the
speculations of science are equally appropriate, if
not essential, for the proper understanding of all knowledge including
religion. Scientism explicitly denies both the
special revelation of truth and the existence of a sovereign, supernatural
and eternal being. In the religion of
Scientism, the Cosmos (matter, energy, time and space) is believed to be
eternal and the only ultimate reality.
Scientism teaches that all things have their being and origin in the
intrinsic properties of nature. It follows that if gods
were to exist, they too would only be a part and product of nature. The
social and philosophical implications of
Scientism for man are embodied in the religion of Secular Humanism. Sagan's
scientistic religious beliefs and
pronouncements are well documented in his own books:

_Broca's Brain_, New York : Random House, 1979 _The Cosmic Connection_, New
York : Anchor Press, 1973
_Cosmos_, New York : Random House, 1980 _Life in the Universe_, San
Francisco : Holden-Day Inc., 1966

Sagan, who insists that evolution is a fact not a theory, maintains that "we
(humans) are the products of a long series
of biological accidents" and thus concludes that "in the cosmic perspective
there is no reason to think that we are the
first or the last or the best" [_The Cosmic Connection_ p. 52]. Carl Sagan
was a student of the evolutionist
astronomer Harlow Shapley who once said "some piously record 'In the
beginning God', but I say in the beginning
hydrogen." Shapley appears to believe that hydrogen is a colorless and
odorless gas which, given enough time, turns
into people! Shapley's most famous student reflects this same atheistic
materialism when in his book _Cosmos_,
Sagan confidently asserts that "the world was not made by the gods, but
instead was the work of material forces
interacting in nature" [p. 177]. Naturally, such beliefs have profound
implications for the nature of man, and so it is
not surprising when Sagan says of himself "I am a collection of water,
calcium and organic molecules called Carl
Sagan" [p. 127]. In a logical extension of his crass materialism, Sagan
insists that all of our human traits - loves and
hates, passions and despairs, tenderness and aggression are simply the
result of "minor accidents in our immensely
long evolutionary history" [p. 282]. In a lame attempt to find some sense of
purpose and meaning in a human
consciousness born of "minor accidents" Sagan proposes that "We make our
world significant by the courage of our
questions and by the depth of our answers" [p. 193]. As a further extension
of this "boot strap" theology Sagan
maintains that man has evolved by mere chance to the point where he can now
take over and direct his own
evolution [p. 320]. With this, the ultimate goal of Scientism and Secular
Humanism is finally achieved; man becomes
his own creator and thus "god".

In a recent syndicated interview, Joan Sannders Wixen asked Carl Sagan about
his views on the future of man.
Sagan replied "I feel in order to survive we someday must be able to give up
our allegiance to our nation, our
religion, our race and economic group and think of ourselves more as just a
temporary form of life under the
creation of a power beyond our comprehension" [St. Louis Globe-Democrat,
Oct. 6, 1980]. Sagan concludes that
if man is to worship anything greater than man himself, it should be
something which amounts to the pagan worship
of nature. In his book _Cosmos_, Sagan proposes the stars and the Sun as
being a more worthy object of worship
than Jehovah. "Our ancestors worshiped the Sun, and they were far from
foolish. And yet the Sun is an ordinary,
even a mediocre star. If we must worship a power greater than ourselves,
does it not make sense to revere the Sun
and stars?" [p. 243]. Neither does Sagan overlook "mother earth" in his
proffered religion and urges us to listen to
her voice as well. "The ocean calls. Some part of our being knows this is
from where we came. We long to return.
These aspirations are not, I think, irreverent, although they may trouble
whatever gods may be" [p. 5]. In any event,
Sagan appears to think it most unlikely that "the gods" will be troubled
since he reminds us that "it is said that men
may not be the dreams of the gods, but rather that the gods are the dreams
of men" [p. 257]. In his book
_UFO's--A Scientific Debate_, Sagan freely admits that "science has itself
become a kind of religion." In fairness to
legitimate science it should be emphasized that it is Sagan's Scientism that
has become a religion. Empirical science
must depend on observability, repeatablility and testability of all
phenomena it would seek to explain. True science
of this kind has never been found to be in conflict with the Bible.

Why is it then that so many public schools in our country manage to get away
with teaching the religions of Scientism
and Secular Humanism even in the face of widespread efforts to erect a "wall
of separation" between church and
state? Where is the indignation and litigation of the American Civil
Liberties Union who seem to fancy themselves as
the "watch dog" against the inroads of religion in our public schools? Has
the ACLU decided that there are
acceptable and unacceptable religions for our public schools? Can, indeed,
any teacher discuss the origin of the
universe, and particularly the origin of man and his "values", with out
teaching or discussing religion? It seems unlikely
that there can be such a thing as "value free" or "religion free" education
on many of those subjects that most intrigue
man. We are led to conclude that all schools are to at least some degree
"religious schools", it is only a question of
which religion is being taught.

Finally, we might ask why Carl Sagan, of all people, was invited, at
considerable expense, to address the recent
conference of Catholic educators and librarians here in St. Louis? Are these
educators unaware of Sagan's openly
professed beliefs? Could it actually be that some of these Catholic
educators share these beliefs?

What do you think?
In Him, -JDF-