|My second 1/3/03 diary entry
||[Jan. 30th, 2012|08:33 pm]
"A religion old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the universe as revealed by modern science, might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths. Sooner or later, such a religion will emerge." -Carl Sagan
Look around the room for a moment, and let's say your eye comes to rest on a plant, or an animal. Millions of years of evolution, and untold thousands of generations, incrementally perfected the life you see in front of you. Even the smallest part of the lowliest form of life, in complexity and robustness and perfection to its task, is awe-inspiring.
Now, let's say your eye comes to rest on a man-made object. Maybe it's painted: think about all of the hundreds of years of experimentation with different dyes and pigments that led up to modern paints and painting technology. Maybe it's electronic: think about all of lifetimes of work first in science and then in engineering which led up to our ability to create that object for you. Think about the lifetimes of human work and research into materials and construction which went into its physical formation, leading all the way back to the raw materials from which it was made, incrementally improving just as evolution has glacially improved the plants and animals.
Now, let's say you look out the window (through the amazing man-made glass) at the sky: if it's daytime, then you can think about the amazing fact that we have a livable layer in which to live, with an atmosphere and absolutely filled with life and all of the resources we need to eventually achieve space travel and begin to colonize other worlds. If it's nighttime, then you can think about how complex and wonderful modern science tells us through cosmology and quantum mechanics that the universe really is: matter and energy, interchangeable, and on that ultimate level not subject even to the words "pollution" or "extinction" or "waste".
Even if you can't see, then you can reflect on your own mind, and on the wonder that individually lifeless elements could combine in such a way as to give you a feeling of self-awareness, and of enough capability to, at some point in the distant future, colonize new worlds and create new forms of intelligent, self-aware life.
Doing this "thankfulness" exercise could probably be a religion in and of itself, specifically one which doesn't just co-exist with science but is actually catalyzed by it.