Saturday, September 13, 2008


"I would love to believe that when I die I will live again, that some thinking, feeling, remembering part of me will continue. But much as I want to believe that, and despite the ancient and worldwide cultural traditions that assert an afterlife, I know of nothing to suggest that it is more than wishful thinking. The world is so exquisite with so much love and moral depth, that there is no reason to deceive ourselves with pretty stories for which there's little good evidence. Far better it seems to me, in our vulnerability, is to look death in the eye and to be grateful every day for the brief but magnificent opportunity that life provides."

[Carl Sagan, 1996 in his article "In the Valley of the Shadow" Parade Magazine Also, "Billions and Billions" p. 215]


Laughing Boy said...

What does Sagan mean by "moral depth"? Whatever it is the world, according to him, is "exquisite with so much" of it (and love). Darwin's world, on the other hand, was "red in tooth and claw", full of amoral violence. This was supposedly a factor in Darwin's desire to remove God from the process, since, in Darwin's thinking, God's program surely wouldn't have been so bloody.

Do astronomers view things from such a distance as to blur the details biologist see? Which world do you live in?

Kevin Parry said...

LB wrote:
What does Sagan mean by "moral depth"?

For me, the main message of this quote is that we can still find meaning in life even if there is no after-life. But I was also wondering this very same thing: does Sagan believe that beauty and ‘moral depth’ are inherent in the universe (something that we discover), or is it something that we impose on the universe? I can’t speak for Sagan, but I’m leaning towards the latter view.

But you raise an interesting point. I view the universe as having both ugly and wonderful elements, but the distinction between ‘ugly’ and ‘beautiful’ is something that I impose on the universe. It is a product of my culture and of the neural make-up of my brain.

Geri said...

Carl Sagan is at his best when he contemplates life and the possibility of meaning of our mortality. Though life is fleeting, it magnifies the importance of every moments of our lives we shared with the humanity.
The aspiration for an after life is the sign of an unfulfilled living. Do not deny our mortality, the very thing that makes us human by surrending to a false hope.