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Ann Druyan re: science and spirituality
Posted: 18 September 2006 02:55 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Aside from the horrible sound quality, I thought it was a great discussion. She sounds a little hippy dippy but I mostly agree with everything she said except that I am not an agnostic I am an atheist. I came across Point of Inquiry by googling Richard Dawkins and I love this podcast. The Carl Sagan lecture at the end of the Druyan episode was also very good. I did not know that he used to be so involved with SCICOP and CFI. I do find it odd that neither Carl Sagan did nor does Ann Druyan use the word atheist, almost as if it is a dirty word. Maybe if Sagan were alive today he would be as outspoken as Richard Dawkins, its interesting to theorize about it. And I almost forgot, the first audio essay was also very good.

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Posted: 18 September 2006 05:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Hi, I am new here also. Hello everyone! I catch many podcasts every week on topics like those covered on POI.  What I like about POI is that it is emotional and not just intellectually stimulating.  For instance, Lauren Becker’s audio essay about the “Gifts of Carl Sagan” this week was deeply moving. It took me back to when I was a teenager and COSMOS transfixed me as well. When she ended her thing, I honestly was choked up. Who knew podcasts could do that to you? Thank you Lauren Becker!

On the other point “blastdistraction,” I do not think it matters if you call yourself an atheist or an agnostic or even if you believe in God, but that it only matters that you have the scientific approach to these questions about the meaning of life, namely having the sense of wonder and also of skepticism that Ann Druyan talked about.

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Posted: 18 September 2006 09:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Carl Sagan Was Very Involved With CFI

There was a GREAT book that Carl Sagan Wrote that was a spin off from the speech he gave in this podcast.  The book is what I would consider the “Holy Grail” of critical thinking.  It is one of the best books I have ever read and always recommend it to others.

The book that this speech became is called:

The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark
 

This week’s Point Of Inquiry was especially moving.  I found myself tearing up with Carl Sagan’s powerful speech at the end of the Podcast.  The speech was given 12 years ago in 1994.  The statements that Dr. Sagan made are very prophetic and as applicable today as if the speech was given yesterday.  The most upsetting point is how instead of progress, we have taken a great leap backwards in respect to the speeches admonitions to the public education of science and its methods.  As I have mentioned to others here, Carl Sagan would be very disappointed with how events in the country have unfolded since his death.

One of Carl Sagan’s prophetic statements from the speech (There were many more):

A reason that popularizing science and its methods is important is a foreboding that Dr. Sagan has. Of an America in his children or grandchildren’s generation when all the manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries and we are a services and information processing economy, when awesome technological power are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues.  When the people in a democracy have lost the ability to set the agenda, or even to knowledgeably question those who do set the agenda.  When there is no practice questioning those in authority, when clutching our crystals and religiously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in steep decline, unable to distinguish between whats true and what feels good, we slide, almost without noticing, into superstition and darkness. That Worries Me. I do not think that we have adequate protections against this and that this is just a kind of fantasy, there are reasons to worry. We have a civilization based on science and technology and we have cleverly arranged things so that almost nobody understands science and technology. That is as clear a prescription for disaster can you can imagine. Its a combustible mixture of ignorance and power. And while we might get away with it for a while, sooner or later, that mixture is going to blow up. The powers of modern technology are so enormous that it is insufficient to say, well those in charge of those powers I am sure are doing a good job. This is a democracy, and for us to make sure that the powers of science and technology are used properly and prudently, we ourselves must understand science and technology.


I miss the visionary genius that was Carl Sagan, and I know that planet is worse off in his absence.  I hope we can head his words and learn from this very deep thinker of our time.

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Jean-Marie G Vaneskahian
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Posted: 18 September 2006 09:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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First, welcome to blastdistraction, Jess and Jean-Marie.

I feel like I’m always behind the eight ball with these podcasts ... haven’t heard this one yet; REALLY looking forward to getting time later in the week to do so.

But I find all your messages about Carl Sagan very moving. He was also a real inspiration to me. I can well remember watching Cosmos and finding it one of the greatest, wisest television programs ever made. I strongly suggest anyone who hasn’t done so already to pick up (or rent) a copy of the remastered Cosmos on DVD. You won’t be disappointed.

Sagan’s other books, of course, were also wonderful—Demon-Haunted World remains a real classic of enlightened skeptical thought.

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Posted: 18 September 2006 09:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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The Demon-Haunted World

dougsmith,

I could not agree with you more.  The Demon-Haunted World helped shape my view of the world.  It is what I personally consider that defacto book on how people delude themselves and a guide to skeptical, scientific and reasoned thought.

I got a rare chance to meet Dr. Sagan once, and I miss him greatly!  The world is much better for having had a great man like Carl Sagan in it.

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Posted: 18 September 2006 09:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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The best podcast yet, but then I am biased because Carl Sagan was the person I most admired.  While he was living I loved his teaching of science and his wonder at the universe.

He is the one who caused me to begin my move away from religion.  I had read most of his books and used Cosmos in my classes, but when he died I can remember thinking, “How could God take away such an important man, a man who was doing so much to improve the world?”  At the time I never thought of Sagan as an atheist.  Strange, huh?  Then I read his final book and the last chapter that Ann Druyan wrote about his death.  Finally, about 6 years ago I admitted to myself that I don’t believe and that I hadn’t really believed for many years.

Great freedom!  Thanks, Carl.

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Posted: 18 September 2006 11:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Billions and Billions

In 1997 or 1998, as I was early on in getting involved with CFI in grad school, I read Billions and Billions, which has Ann Druyan’s essay on Sagan’s death. I had just four or five years earlier left religious fundamentalism behind. Her essay made me cry and also made me zealously (almost religiously) have all my friends to read it. There are so few people on the planet who can write so beautifully about science, reason and humanism. It is a testament to who Druyan and Sagan were and are that they continue to have such impact today. Theirs is the kind of immortality worth having.

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"Few have the courage of their convictions.  Fewer still, for an attack on their convictions."—Nietzsche

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Posted: 18 September 2006 03:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Agreed, DJ. Well said.

Sagan’s death was a real loss to us all. I was painfully aware of that at the time, and even moreso now.

:cry:

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Posted: 18 September 2006 05:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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DJ you were a religious fundamentalist? I am honestly shocked. I would NEVER have guess that based on your open and critical, reasonable, evidence based probing questions that you ask on Point of Inquiry.  This give me great hope! My view on this society becoming more skeptical and reasonable is rather pessimistic. I have wanted to share the optimism that I see from people like Paul Kurtz, Ann Druyan and Carl Sagan, but I seldom find the reason to support such optimism in the people around me.

DJ, do you get many letters of people like you who have changed their worldviews to a adopt skeptical and critical thought as part of their lives?  Keep up the great work with Point of Inquiry, the best podcast on the Internet!

PS: Like thousands of other people I am sure, Carl Sagan was a hero for me.  I got my degree in Physics largely because of the influence he had in my life.  As I have stated before, his and Ann Druyan’s book “The Demon Haunted Word” is a book that I treasure.  I have purchased paperback versions of the book for family and friends.  I even own the complete unabridged AudioBook version of this great masterpiece.  I now have a young son, and I hope to some day share with him the same universe that Dr. Sagan shared with me.

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Posted: 19 September 2006 01:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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It is GREAT to hear from others who share similar experiences and feelings toward Sagan, COSMOS, and the science that influenced them!

I wrote a short note to Lauren about her stirring presentation, as I was surprised at my own emotional reaction; no podcast had ever elicited that response for me.  For me this is evidence that Sagan, Druyan, and the others who spearheaded the presentation of science to “we, the people” in ways that were not only understandable but COMPELLING have a new generation to carry their torch.

Shine on, CFI.

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Posted: 19 September 2006 07:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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dav1264,

Your story about your leaving fundementalism brings me much hope and optimism.  Maybe by own belief that fundementalists are never going to be open to a more secular, rational, and open worldview was too harsh and there is truly genuine reason for optimism.

You will really enjoy Carl Sagan’s Demon Haunted World. There is also a fantastic unabridged audiobook version of the book that is great for people who listen to podcasts.

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Posted: 20 September 2006 07:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Kudos to Lauren for a wonderful summary of Carl Sagan’s impact on her youth. In truth, his impact on mine was pretty similar. But yes, it is amazing how personally we all feel his loss, even after a decade.

The interview with Ann Druyan was also excellent; I do have to reiterate the concern of blastdistraction with the audio, however. DJ made clear that they were having issues with the weather, but in this day and age we should have some way to either wait for a better opportunity, use some other technology (Skype?) or do post-processing. The same problem presented itself in a much less severe form with Carl Sagan’s speech, which had an annoyingly persistent high-toned hiss throughout.

I expect that DJ, Thomas and the good folks who put together these podcasts are well aware of the issues, and that really this will end up being a matter of funding some higher-end audio equipment. But I do want to reinforce my concern anyhow, since it appears that a great number of these PoI interviews are being done by telephone.

Something to keep hammering away at.

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Posted: 20 September 2006 09:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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[quote author=“dougsmith”]Kudos to Lauren for a wonderful summary of Carl Sagan’s impact on her youth. In truth, his impact on mine was pretty similar. But yes, it is amazing how personally we all feel his loss, even after a decade.

The interview with Ann Druyan was also excellent; I do have to reiterate the concern of blastdistraction with the audio, however. DJ made clear that they were having issues with the weather, but in this day and age we should have some way to either wait for a better opportunity, use some other technology (Skype?) or do post-processing. The same problem presented itself in a much less severe form with Carl Sagan’s speech, which had an annoyingly persistent high-toned hiss throughout.

I expect that DJ, Thomas and the good folks who put together these podcasts are well aware of the issues, and that really this will end up being a matter of funding some higher-end audio equipment. But I do want to reinforce my concern anyhow, since it appears that a great number of these PoI interviews are being done by telephone.

Something to keep hammering away at.

Doug: The good news is that you are exactly right—the problem is that we were using old legacy phone equipment, along with a new top of the line mixer and mics, for the recording. And this is what caused us to need to use the copper phone lines which are affected by wet soil (or so I was told, and it did seem worse when it rained). Because of a generous gift of a donor who loves Point of Inquiry, we have invested this week in digital phone recording equipment, so bad phone interviews should be a thing of the past.

Cheers,

Thomas

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Posted: 20 September 2006 09:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Yes, it is good that there won’t be bad quality audio on phone interviews any more. Upcoming episodes where we hope to feature Michael Shermer (this week), E.O. Wilson, Dawkins and Sam Harris again, Julia Sweeney, Bill Maher, Penn Jilette, and others should all be good audio quality.

On another note, I should add that the generous donor helped out immensely, but CFI, as a non-profit educational organization has invested considerably more in Point of Inquiry than it has brought in, so it is our hope that by continuing to produce such popular episodes, we may begin to attract additional support for our mission.

If you would like to support CFI or Point of Inquiry in advancing the scientific outlook in society, you can do so by emailing me or anyone else at http://www.pointofinquiry.org

—End of Sales Pitch—  smile

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"Few have the courage of their convictions.  Fewer still, for an attack on their convictions."—Nietzsche

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Posted: 20 September 2006 11:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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DJ,

With as much as I have received from POI, a monetary donation is the very least I can do!

I want to thank you again! And keep up the EXCELLET work that you all at CFI are doing!

Jean-Marie

PS: There is a freeware public domain application called Audacity that does a very good job of cleaning up audio with a Noise Removal function. Just a note…

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Jean-Marie G Vaneskahian
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Posted: 21 September 2006 10:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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FYI: I have just posted this info that Ann Druyan will be giving a talk at the Natural History Museum in NYC with Dr. Neil Tyson .

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Doug

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