What do Carl Sagan and Richard Dawkins have in common?

Quite a lot, actually, IMHO.

A lot of people use Carl Sagan as an example of how Richard Dawkins should change his ways to be more accommodating of religion. But aside from differences in 'tone', I think they have a lot more in common, in terms of their personal philosophies, than they have differences. If Sagan was alive today, I think he would get along very well with Dawkins, and vice versa. I could even imagine them working together on the common project of promoting reason and science to the larger public.

It was around the time I started to get more involved in online atheist activism (around 2004) that I started to notice these similarities in the philosophies of various science-minded people, especially including the most outspoken atheists. Similarities like reliance on science and evidence-based reasoning, logical and rational thought, use of popular media to reach a broader public audience than science magazines and academic books, openness to reasonable criticism and a willingness to engage in public criticism of their own, etc.

I tried to boil it all down to one concept, and that's where I hit on the idea of 'wonder'. So, I started to work on collecting these common ideas, and called it 'wonderism'. See What is wonderism? for my current position on this idea.

A few quick quotes:

"I maintain there is much more wonder in science than in pseudoscience. And in addition, to whatever measure this term has any meaning, science has the additional virtue, and it is not an inconsiderable one, of being true." -- Sagan

"Far from science not being useful, my worry is that it is so useful as to overshadow and distract from its inspirational and cultural value. Usually even its sternest critics concede the usefulness of science, while completely missing the wonder." -- Dawkins

"I wonder why I wonder why. I wonder why I wonder. I wonder why I wonder why I wonder why I wonder!" -- Feynman

"It is our responsibility as scientists, knowing the great progress which comes from a satisfactory philosophy of ignorance, the great progress which is the fruit of freedom of thought, to proclaim the value of this freedom; to teach how doubt is not to be feared but welcomed and discussed; and to demand this freedom as our duty to all coming generations." -- Feynman

"All of my life, I have been fascinated by the big questions that face us, and have tried to find scientific answers to them. If, like me, you have looked at the stars, and tried to make sense of what you see, you too have started to wonder what makes the universe exist." -- Hawking

"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." -- Darwin

"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed." -- Einstein

Who would not think these were people all striving for the same thing? I think there is something more to this than just nice quotes. I think there is a genuine agreement on some basic ideas and values. I know many, many atheists who would concur with these very same foundations.

We all have our differences of opinions, for sure. But is it also not true that many of us share more in common than merely atheism? Would identifying this common ground be a worthwhile endeavour?

Am I on the right track in pointing out this similarity? I'm I completely off my tracks? ;-) Questions. Questions. Always questioning. Always wondering....

Tags: Darwin, Dawkins, Einstein, Feynman, Hawking, Sagan, foundationism, science, wonder, wonderism

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"There is another form of temptation, even more fraught with danger. This is the disease of curiosity." -- Saint Augustine.

Also - did you ever notice that "demonstrate" (or provide direct evidence) has the word "demon" in it? - okay, that one is a little bit of a etymological subtrefuge - but rather fun, nevertheless. However, the word "creature" actually does suggest creationisim in its etymology.
So many religions try to kill wonder, while loudly proclaiming that they are the only source of it.
Amen! Can I have a hallelujah!

Weirdly, raised Cathloic as I was, my church didn't want me to read the Bible because it was better they selectively read it to me and splained it. Meanwhile, they made sure I had a good dose of Math, Science, Critical Thinking, and Literature - and I was encouraged to interpret that however I liked!

Good ole Catholics - practically begging me to forsake their religion. Amazing.
Demonic possession was blamed when I first stated that I didn't believe in god. And all I could think was, "if I'm being possessed by a demon, shouldn't I feel different?"
The title: "saint" ?












Just kidding.

I'm kidding.
Hehe.

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