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Richard Dawkins & Carl Sagan: "Will the Universe Be the New Religion?"


In his classic on the place of planet earth in the universe, Pale Blue Dot, Carl Sagan asked how is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and said "This is better than we thought. The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant. Instead they say, 'No. no. no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way."

Carl Sagan dreamed of a world where a new religion that stressed the wonder and awe and magnificence of the Universe as revealed by science "might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths." 

In a similar vein, Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins debates physicist Lawrence Krauss ("The Physics of Star Trek") asks and answers some of the big questions about religion and our existence on Earth. 

A key focus is the impact of Darwin and "The Origin of the Species" on modern thought. Dawkins is the Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University. He first came to prominence with his 1976 book The Selfish Gene, which popularized the gene-centered view of evolution and introduced the term meme into the lexicon. In 1982, he made a widely cited contribution to the science of evolution with the theory, presented in his book The Extended Phenotype, that phenotypic effects are not limited to an organism's body but can stretch far into the environment, including into the bodies of other organisms. He has since written several best-selling popular books, and appeared in a number of television and radio programes, concerning evolutionary biology, creationism, and religion including The Selfish Gene, River Out of Eden, and most recently, Unweaving the Rainbow and The God Delusion, a New York Times bestseller.

Dawkins sees himself as a "religious non-believer" who's career has revolved around Darwin's view that all was 'produced by laws acting around us' described so powerfully in the Origin of the Species:

"Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. 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."

Casey Kazan


a new religion that stressed the wonder and awe and magnificence of the Universe as revealed by science "might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths." --- Carl sagan

carl sagan can be considered as a agnostic (yet technically leaning towards atheism ) .Richard Dawkins simplifies this kind of thought as 'i don't know whether God exists but i am inclined to be skeptical'.

"Dawkins is the Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University."

Not any more, the chair is now held by Marcus du Sautoy.

I think the choice of words is unfortunate. The universe itself, our existence in it, and our ability to comprehend it, are far greater and more powerful wonders than any religion can concot.

To offer religious (i.e., supernatural) explanations to these wonders is to belittle and diminish these breathtaking phenomena.

Religion (the superstitious element of it in particular) is dangerous, since it requires uncritical acceptance of spurious beliefs without any evidence or compelling logical reasoning, or, indeed, in the face of evidence to the contrary. Religions are not open to challenge the same way science is -- religion is, indeed, anathema to scientific inquiry. To name something as religion of the universe would thus mean rejection of the study of it.

Charles Darwin's monumental book that changed the world was not called "Origin of the Species" as noted here (and believed by many naive people). The proper title is "On the Origin of Species" or more completely "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life." I'm surprised that Richard Dawkins (or The Daily Galaxy) did not know!

please credit the image that you used on this sept 14th Daily Galaxy

The simplest answer to the question "Will the universe be the new religion?" is that the universe has always been the one parent religion to all of the others and always will be. In that sense, the universe is the oldest religion of all and will outlive all of those invented by human beings. This truth is nowhere stated more clearly than in Francis Bacon's statement (paraphrased) - "Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed."

All commandments take their lead from nature. One cannot command that which hasn't already been commanded by the universe itself.

Like it or not, no matter what you believe or wish to believe is true, the universe or "nature" has been and is the final and only judge. You live and can only live in its temple. You can only read from the book it has written and is writing still. What you have is what is has given to you and what you lose is what it deems to take. You can only learn what it already knows. You can only understand what it allows you to understand. You only create from what it has already created. You can only express what it allows you to express. You can only perform the rituals it makes possible. You are forever committed to its limitations which are inviolable. Both reward and punishment are swift and unambiguous and there is no reprieve, parole or retirement from it. Your values are the values it makes available to you and only those. Your virtues are those it makes possible and only those. You are a disciple of that religion and never its master and will be until you are ended.

That human beings ask such a question is an indication some are prepared on a stiil simple level to move beyond the small-minded humanocentric religions of the past and present to something more genuinely, unquestionably and indefinitely true everywhere, everywhen.

Brilliant! As an Agnostic leaning toward atheism,i share Carl Sagan's view of the Cosmos. There is more wonder in creation than all the past prophets and designers of organized religion could possibly have imagined.

Religion that we are talking about; is just old technology that is soon going to be updated with the experience that the human races have got in the trust of how much we can believe in science instead. It's just taking a little bit longer to update, but it surely will and i think it's soon. Now, the thing to worry about is just how much fiscal insterest would stop that change in consciousness.

Isn't it bizarre how science and religion remain so far apart, surely there is a place for them both to marry, since both seem to have some validity?

I know low IQ people who is actually much much smarter than Darwin.If we would assume there was a God and he created everything from the endless universe to super small molecules and every thing in between and beyond either end. Then Darwin is a very narrow minded person.Is he so narrow minded that he can.t see "Working Order in everything there is. From the tiny ants busy daily in their own world and order . The same goes for the bees, birds even the trees with their leave cycle to feed themselves on compost and give to us fire wood,beauty and oxygen we need and we give back to them their need. Their wood for us is orderly also . Soft pine for nailing and building ,hard oak for furniture and ramps and so forth. Then there's the redwoods and cedars for long lasting wood to be exposed to the weather. It is all order. Then there's the created variety and beauty on earth. Sand on the beachs and waves "WHAT" a playground for humans . Mud or all rock beaches and still water would not have worked . Then there's great mountains with beautiful trees and beautiful mountains barren and rocky, Devil's Tower , Grand Tetons, Mt Everest and many more. This earth has so much beauty and variety built in it for us the occupants.
It all points to an order much bigger than Darwin and chance and theory.
Everything we need for our daily lives and our pleasures is here on this great earth not by chance nor could so much just evolve and still have a order that runs as smooth as a clock.
Can you tell me anything or creature that lives in disorder? No way.
All mens knowledege put together would not touch the master mind behind all this creation. Thus man shows how narrow his mind is when he makes such statements as Darwin Thanks

Worshiping nature as God is called pantheism it is nothing new. This article "back to nature" is worth reading on the subject:

also google:

"the modern rise of paganism" and watch the youtube video.

To think that the world and the universe was adapted for our use and survival instead of the other way around is not simply narrow minded, it is the type of arrogance only humans are capable of. Then to cap it off with the comforting (to some) image of some benevolent (only if you believe in him) deity is just lazy.
The reason for the illusion of "a working order" is because the species that you see are the ones most capable of filling their niche. If you can't see the simplicity and elegance in that, well, god help you.

I don't believe this article was meaning to say that we should start worshiping nature. I believe it meant to say that religions as a whole pale in comparison to the reality and wonder that is the universe. With that said, I can see how most of the religious responses missed the point and misunderstood the articles meaning...After all most "religious people" miss the point when it comes to the meaning of the metaphors of their own religions.

Dawkins is a tool. The Buddha was talking about things that took science 2000 years to catch up to, like the Dharmakaya and law of impermanence. Zen was never meant to be, or practice as a religion of beliefs and undeniable truths.It has a very "go find out for yourself", investigative attitude and took it step further to acknowledge that any written text, scientific or otherwise, is useless without practical momentary function, and that things even bigger then that exists. This stuff has been around for ages, we don't need, and never needed any religion at all. This guy is just a tool, he wants to trade "god will save me" for "science will save me".

@Phil And which "god" would that be that you invoke in your final sentence? Odd, isn't it that the language of "god" is still used by those who don't believe.

@Phil Not all religions "requires uncritical acceptance of spurious beliefs without any evidence or compelling logical reasoning, or, indeed, in the face of evidence to the contrary. Religions are not open to challenge the same way science is -- religion is, indeed, anathema to scientific inquiry." Agreed, unfortunately, many religions HAVE acted in that manner. But I believe that ALL truth is God's truth. God has nothing to be afraid of from science. Religion may, but God does not.

Sorry, my previous post should have been directed to @Vinay and @E Autio, respectively.

get it through your heads - its turtles all the way down.

Science, scmience. If God wants your experiments to be repeatable, He will let it be. If God doesn't want your experiments to be repeatable, you may wind up in the garbage collection field. Take a look around for His wonders to behold. God can be a lot bigger than you may think, but if He desires, He can be smaller than the smallest particle. The heart is more important than any physics; God knows this, and you should too. That is what makes the Universe go 'round happen at all.

I am now a Carl Sagan-ist.

Beautiful, how Naumadd said it above.

It took me some 35 years to realize that my unfathomably beautiful infinite-layered multi-dimensional spacetime "universe" had a direct correllary to the non-scientific word "God"--it makes up everything, is everywhere, is all powerful, all knowing yet ultimately unknoweable, it just is is is... And just like that the line between skeptical agnosticism and religious spirituality turned out to never have existed at all--just a trivial dispute over words representing the same thing.

As a dedicated physics student, I had been searching for God all along, just as every monk, priest, rabbi, imam or indeed any religious seeker since the beginning of time had sought their own glimpses of the infinite elegance that has been and will always be our common Universe.





Ivar Nielsen
Natural Philosopher

"a new religion that stressed the wonder and awe and magnificence of the Universe ". Excuse me but Christianity and Judaism have the true living God, the God that created the magnificent Universe with all its stars. The Bible does "stress" the wonder and magnificence of the Creator, and asks us to look at the Creation and realize how magnificent the Creator is. It bugs me that even in these days when we know so much (yet so little) of the Universe we still refuse to accept the existence of God. It surprises me that people are ready to believe that there exists aliens and other forms of life in some distant planet, yet they can assure 100% that there is no God.
Dear friends, wake up and realize, that the universe you are looking at is magnificent, but that makes its Creator even more magnificent.

If god is everywhere, he's in your feces too. Next time you look down the toilet bowl, better say a little prayer. Good luck with that stone-age attitude, I'm sure it would come in very handy in the 21st century.

@Bud: "Soft pine for nailing and building ,hard oak for furniture and ramps and so forth."

That's REALLY funny. I suppose god also carefully aligned our ears and the bridge of our nose, so we can rest our glasses on them? I am awed by his benevolence and attention to detail.

If god loves so much and gives us wood (pardon the pun), why do we also have to deal with bad stuff from mosquito bites to terrible diseases?

"I know low IQ people who is actually much much smarter than Darwin" - 'nuff said...

Bud, we are the creation of god too, i think we are the success of god though since we are creation of god. As a species with consciousness we might even actually be the "AI" produce of god in some ways. We are the ones looking for the answers. We are the ones yet to know explorirng the universe and may be continue forever in the universe and studying it, colonise it etc. But, at this stage in human evolution, from the tool that human invented for it's survival, religion was one of them; and it served it's purpose. God, there is no Him Or Her, god may even not be human, God the great Architect could even just be a program or a formulae of the universe itself. Conciousness is the answer for real survival. Why are we evolving so much! There could even be planet with consciousness. Who knows. There can be other forms of life out there. There can even be consciousness, and it can be in any form.
At this stage of human evolution, and at the speed that we communicate now, there is no stopping human. We could see soon a One belief type, a planet that will change for the better so fast, clean energy and a better temperature, less polution etc..

In reference to the first paragraph:

You should read Psalm 19:1-2:

"The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge."

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