Saturday, March 14, 2015

Disliking Carl Sagan

I spend a lot of my time reading the blogs of rather shrill atheists, but those aren't the only ones, nor even the most effective. It is the ones like Carl Sagan that I don't engage with that much, because they are not sufficiently lacerating - whatever I mean by that. But that doesn't mean they are any less insidious. Yes, I said insidious, knowing it makes me sound like the evangelical pastor of a megachurch. I don't care.

Take a look at this and this.

I know perfectly well, dear reader, that you may well be moved by this. Especially the former - why, with such a mellifluous tone and tinkling music, why the Pope himself might cry out, "Ah, it has all been for naught, all these years, we do not indeed live in a privileged reference frame, we must find some worthy goal as this man has said."

The hell we don't and the hell we must.

Isn't this exactly what the Underground Man despised, this nonsensical idea that science and pursuing our rational betterment will be our salvation. If "We long to be here for a purpose, even though, despite much self-deception, none is evident", then let us throw off the final self deception that there is any goal worth pursuing. 

Maybe it is different for you reader, but for me, this is the only conclusion I can come to. For you, there may be some sense of secular meaning. Me, I spit at it. All the familial love and friendship in the world, all the protection of civil and human rights, all the feeding of the hungry and nursing of the sick, all of it doesn't mean a damn to me if the goodness of it isn't metaphysically significant.

For me, all I can say so a statement that we are unimportant and therefore should pursue our rational interests -- to hell with that. If I am unimportant, I have all the more reason to be as irrational as I feel like. But I am not unimportant. This is not a pale blue dot, but the seat of a finer majesty than any star however massive.
Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner. How frequent their misunderstandings; how eager they are to kill one another; how fervent their hatreds. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light.
But you're wrong! They were justified, in their cruelty, in their hate, in their killing, in their misunderstandings, in their spilling of blood, in their glory, in their triumphs, in their posturings, in their self-importance, in their delusions.

I may just be dashing my head against the wall of materialism, but I'll do it again and again. They were right, and you are wrong Mr. Sagan. It isn't naive romanticism to say so. The murderers and the saints, the victors and the failures, the singers and the silent, none of them were obscure, none of them were specks.

They were men.

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