A Wonderful and Welcome Dose of Reality

Here is another installment of my favorite parts of The Demon-Haunted World by Carl Sagan.
It's disheartening to discover government corruption and incompetence, for example; but is it better not to know about it? Whose interest does ignorance serve? If we humans bear, say, hereditary propensities toward the hatred of strangers, isn't self-knowledge the only antidote?

If we long to believe that the stars rise and set for us, that we are the reason there is a Universe, does science do us a disservice in deflating our conceits?

In the Genealogy of Morals, Friedrich Nietzsche, as so many before and after, decries the "unbroken progress in the self-belittling of man" brought about by the scientific revolution. Nietzsche mourns the loss of "man's belief in his dignity, his uniqueness, his irreplaceability in the scheme of existence."

For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring. Which attitude is better geared for our long-term survival? Which gives us more leverage on our future? And if our naive self-confidence is a little undermined in the process, is that altogether such a loss? Is there not cause to welcome it as a maturing and character-building experience? (pg 12)
I couldn't agree more. Humans seem to be developing an even stronger sense of egotism and narcissism as time goes on. I see it in so many people today. Thinking the whole Universe is created for us only serves to increase that delusional sense of entitlement.

This is common both in religion and in the self-help, prosperity gospel/The Secret philosophies that abound today. They've been around for awhile now, but are becoming increasingly widespread.

The Secret and the evangelical prosperity gospel that is rampant today are both basically the same thing. If you wish for it hard enough, and show the Universe that you really want it, then you will get whatever you ask for.

That's right, the Universe/God will do your bidding because you're so important, the whole world revolves around you and just wants you to be happy. If only you will think positively enough and/or send seed money to the millionaire televangelist with the bad hair, you can have whatever your heart desires. (so the starving, tortured children in Darfur obviously have a negative attitude and brought their suffering on themselves. Don't think about them because that will bring negativity into your life! Happy Thoughts Only!)

Carl said it perfectly. Reality is so much healthier than willful ignorance and delusion, isn't it? I prefer it. It's not easy, but it's honest. Actually, in the long run, it's often less painful than lying to yourself or being duped and then finding out later after you've wasted time/energy/money/hope on lies.

Knowing we are made of star stuff, that the atoms in our bodies are from the Big Bang, how awe-inspiring is that?

To know that we orbit a mediocre star in a nondescript part of an immense galaxy, and that there are billions of other galaxies is, and should be, humbling. What else is out there? Science can help us discover the Universe, and our place in it.

We have a choice. We can try to stop time, and live by one book (technically an artificially selected set of 66 books) written over 2,000 years ago by angry desert goat-herders who thought the earth was flat.

Our other option is to explore, observe and try to understand our world as it is. To seek out new information, to grow and progress and investigate the Universe. To discover everything we can about the Cosmos and our little place in it.

Carl said that through us, the Cosmos can know itself. Isn't that awe-inspiring? So much more than bowing and scraping to a murderous, angry, jealous, blood-thirsty local deity from 3,000 years ago.

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