Cosmos and Beyond

Looking forward to the new Cosmos TV series, with Neil deGrasse Tyson.

The original series, with Carl Sagan, was not so much an influential event in my life as a realization and visualization and confirmation of what I’d learned to that point; it was broadcast in 1980, by which time I’d been reading Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke and Fred Hoyle and Sagan himself for 15 years; I’d read Sagan’s The Cosmic Connection in 1974, at age 19. (It was a birthday present from my grandmother, who didn’t quite realize what she’d ordered….remember the back cover of the dust-jacket?)

Today, here is a piece at about Why Carl Sagan is Truly Irreplaceable.

We live in Carl Sagan’s universe — awesomely vast, deeply humbling. It’s a universe that, as Sagan reminded us again and again, isn’t about us. We’re a granular element. Our presence may even be ephemeral — a flash of luminescence in a great dark ocean. Or perhaps we are here to stay, somehow finding a way to transcend our worst instincts and ancient hatreds, and eventually become a galactic species. We could even find others out there, the inhabitants of distant, highly advanced civilizations — the Old Ones, as Sagan might put it.

And this worldview is my own. Atheism is not precisely concordant with a realistic understanding of the size and age of the universe, but it is difficult to separate them, though some people apparently manage to do so. So this piece at Salon,

Atheism’s radical new heroes: Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and an evolving new moral view

seems relevant here. It’s an excerpt from a book by Peter Watson called The Age of Atheists, and this excerpt nicely summarizes how writers like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris counter the charges that atheism implies a bleak worldview: reality is more awesome, if you bother to understand it.

The Cosmos TV series did expand my sensibilities to this extent: the music of Vangelis, and Hovhaness, and of Shostakovich (the 11th symphony).

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