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Chapter 15: Newton's Sleep 
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 Chapter 15: Newton's Sleep
Chapter 15: Newton's Sleep

This thread is for discussing Chapter 15: Newton's Sleep.

We read and discussed this book back in 2003 and then had a live chat session with Ann Druyan. We've decided to pull this discussion out of the BookTalk.org Archives and give the book a second reading/discussion and chat with Ann Druyan. Ann has agreed to another live chat too.

Below you can read the older posts. Just look at the dates on each post to see if they are from the original discussion or the current discussion. Many of the members from 2003 are still members now so don't be shy about responding to their posts.

-- Chris O'Connor





I hope I'm not jumping too far ahead. But since the month is almost over I thought I would go ahead and post on this chapter. This has been my favorite so far. There were so many good points made, some things I hadn't thought about.

Humans have limitations, and no one knows this better than scientists. But a multitude of aspects of the natural world that were considered miraculous only a few generations ago are now thoroughly understood in terms of physics and chemistry. At least some of the mysteries of today will be comprehensively solved by our descendants. The fact that we cannot produce a detailed understanding of, say, altered states of consciousness in terms of brain chemistry no more implies the existence of a "spirit world" than a sunflower following the Sun in its course across the sky was evidence of a literal miracle before we knew about phototropism and plant hormones.

And if the world does not in all respects correspond to our wishes, is this the fault of science, or of those who would impose their wishes on the world?

Interesting point.

By making pronouncements that are, even if only in principle, testable, religions, however unwillingly, enter the arena of science. Religions can no longer make unchallenged assertions about reality - so long as they do not seize secular power, provided they cannot coerce belief.

That's really interesting. In the past, religions were the experts, the authorities. Truth was determined by the religion and in many cases not questioned. But now religion has someone to answer to and if the "truth" of a particular religion can be disproven it greatly undermines the credibility of that religion.That's the case with creationism. A few hundred years ago it couldn't really be challenged. Now it can be proven that the earth and universe have been in existence much longer than 6,000 years. So much of religion has changed it's view regarding the age of the earth. It's interesting that there are still those who cling to their beliefs even though they've been proven wrong scientifically.

What would happen if science demonstrated an infinitely old Universe? Then theology would have to be seriously revamped. Indeed, this is the one conceivable finding of science that could disprove a Creator - because an infinitely old universe would never have been created. It would have always been here.

I had never thought about that. If science could demonstrate an infinitely old universe do you think that people would eventually accept that and theism would dwindle out or do you think that people would find other reasons to believe in god?

Cheryl



Fri Aug 23, 2002 1:27 am
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Post Re: Newton's Sleep
An interesting question. I think the more rational of the religious might reconsider some things, but I would imagine the bulk would simply redefine what God is. Perhaps God wanted the universe to seem infinite to test our faith. Perhaps God and the universe are one. I can imagine an infinite number of rationalizations that would accompany a finding such as this. I can't conceive of any amount of proof swaying some of the more fanatically religious.

They just have too much emotional stock in their religious beliefs. They won't listen to logic, rationality or science.



Fri Aug 23, 2002 9:19 am
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Post Re: Newton's Sleep
LanDroid

It looks like you have to have a membership to the NY Times to access that article. Can you copy and paste the article here in this thread?

Chris



Sat Aug 31, 2002 12:10 am
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Post Re: Newton's Sleep
Chris, I don't know if you mind registering for things online, but the NYTimes registration is free, and I don't seem to have gotten any spam from them. Due to the number of articles people link to from them, I consider it a worthwhile risk, especially considering the lack of negative results from doing so thus far (I've been registered for about a year now).



Sat Aug 31, 2002 12:15 pm
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Post Re: Newton's Sleep
Zach:

I didn't realize registration was free so I'll go ahead and do so tonight.

Chris



Tue Jan 13, 2015 5:39 pm
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Post Re: Chapter 15: Newton's Sleep
From this point forward all posts are new and a part of our current discussion. Posts up to this point were from the previous discussion of The Demon-Haunted World.



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Tue Jan 13, 2015 5:41 pm
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Post Re: Chapter 15: Newton's Sleep
I can appreciate some of what Sagan says about how far we have come in terms of scientific progress.
The order of the Cosmos is exactly what you'd expect from a universal creator. Sagan himself says something similar near the end of the chapter. (Page 274).

The expectations of simplicity, elegance, and Law, are based on a rational faith.
If the natural philosopher had no such faith science could not be done.

The complexities of the development of science pose a challenge to the historian.
Science is never practiced in a vacuum. A proper political, social, and religious context must always be considered when attempting to reconstruct the historical record.

It is often too tempting to impose our modern standards on the scientists and the science of yesterday.
Often times that is the most common mistake committed by the non historian.
Sagan is no historian. His tone throughout this chapter (and others) toes the line of triumphalism.
The true historian of science is always vigilant of this danger.

I should not expect more from Sagan because he is not a historian of science. He is a promoter of science.
That can be a good thing, if its done properly.



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Post Re: Chapter 15: Newton's Sleep
ant wrote:
The expectations of simplicity, elegance, and Law, are based on a rational faith.


They might be based on precedent instead. Many of the ways the universe works have turned out to be elegant and more simple than their hypothetical counterparts.


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Mon Feb 09, 2015 11:35 am
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Post Re: Chapter 15: Newton's Sleep
I really loved this chapter, because it deals with the subject that I find most enthralling. What do our psychic experiences mean?

Sagan agrees,
Quote:
'there is much about human consciousness that we do not fully understand and cannot yet explain in terms of neurobiology


then he goes on to spoil that statement with:

Quote:
The fact that we cannot now produce a detailed understanding of, say, altered states of consciousness in terms of brain chemistry no more implies the existence of a 'spirit world' than a sunflower following the sun in its course across the sky was evidence of a literal miracle before we knew about phototropism and plant hormones.'


Altered states of human consciousness imply much more than the sunflower hypothesis......not the same thing at all. Harrumph!!

Quote:
The idea of a spiritual part of our nature that survives death, the notion of an afterlife, ought to be easy for religions and nations to sell.


Unless you have lead a selfish and harmful life as many have........then I should think one would welcome oblivion.

Quote:
He who shall teach the child to doubt
The rotting grave shall ne'er get out.
He who respects the infant's faith
Triumphs over Hell and Death.


Sagan quotes this as though it is a threat....but it is only the equivalent of recommending a childlike faith. Not a 'childish' faith. It warns of the dire consequences of a big ego.

I was interested particularly in the paragraph beginning 'The religious traditions......on my page 264. Here Sagan, a Jew, commenting on Roman Catholicism......I enjoyed this, in the same way that I enjoyed Leon Uris's book 'Trinity'.....a Jew commenting on the sectarian struggles in Northern Ireland.

The last sentence of the penultimate paragraph is interesting to ponder:

Quote:
If our basic moral laws are merely invented by fallible lawgivers, isn't our struggle to maintain an orderly society undermined?



Of course it is. If we start upholding a mere book full of random writings - as the inspired word of God. If we put mere men in between us and the lifeforce (God?), and listen to them rather than to our own consciences. If we don't believe in the power of our own heartfelt prayers and trust in those words that others write/say for us. We as spiritual beings are undermined.

Jesus is reputed to have said

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”



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Mon Feb 09, 2015 11:46 am
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Post Re: Chapter 15: Newton's Sleep
Interbane wrote:
ant wrote:
The expectations of simplicity, elegance, and Law, are based on a rational faith.


They might be based on precedent instead. Many of the ways the universe works have turned out to be elegant and more simple than their hypothetical counterparts.



Yeah, they might.
But before precedent, there was an expectation..

I think Sagan suggests the same thing.

Are you reading the book or just making guest appearances to champion naturalism?

I know you walk around with a giant "N" on your chest, but, please.., are you actually reading this book?
I got asked the same question once when I interjected myself in a book discussion.



Mon Feb 09, 2015 11:55 am
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Post Re: Chapter 15: Newton's Sleep
Penelope wrote:
If we put mere men in between us and the lifeforce (God?), and listen to them rather than to our own consciences.


I have to point out here that if we put men in between us and the source of our morality, the source would be our own consciences. You even say it yourself. Men only have the power over us that we collectively give them(as long as it's a democracy). This is why, in spite of politician-voter disenfranchisement, laws regarding behavior tend toward the more liberal.

We are the source of morality, though we should agree as a group and not go with what a small group(or holy book) says.


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Post Re: Chapter 15: Newton's Sleep
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Jesus is reputed to have said

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”


I noticed here that this advice is a total discouragement of self obsessed grandiosity - the very opposite of hubris. Which is a common trait of anti-THEISM.



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Post Re: Chapter 15: Newton's Sleep
Quote:
We are the source of morality, though we should agree as a group and not go with what a small group(or holy book) says.


The famous psychology experiment, whereby they put a white coat on people and gave them permission to torture others, using electric shocks.....would not work if we were truley Christian and took to heart the suggestion that we love our neighbour as ourself.

We appear to have all nodded our heads in agreement that we will be Christians and do what Jesus is reputed to have taught......then gone ahead and done what our governments or politicians teach us.

They put on purple robes and and crowns and proceed to over-ride our own inclinations to virtue. We being impressed by the regalia, or sometimes merely the charisma of a madman.


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Post Re: Chapter 15: Newton's Sleep
Penelope wrote:
We appear to have all nodded our heads in agreement that we will be Christians and do what Jesus is reputed to have taught......then gone ahead and done what our governments or politicians teach us.


There are many strange quirks to our psychology. The experiment you mention isn't so much a deviation of our moral understanding, as it is a failure to behave as we know we ought. Many such circumstances change us, and we can collectively analyze these circumstances post hoc and ponder our failures, all without the lens of religion.

To emphasize my point, there are many such experiments that show Christians to do wrong just as much as anyone else, including atheists. What we gather from this is that religious affiliation isn't a factor. As a disclaimer, there are experiments that show Christians being nicer to other Christians, even if they are meaner to non-Christians. A strange amplification of in-group out-group mentalities.


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Post Re: Chapter 15: Newton's Sleep
Quote:
Interbane:

What we gather from this is that religious affiliation isn't a factor. As a disclaimer, there are experiments that show Christians being nicer to other Christians, even if they are meaner to non-Christians. A strange amplification of in-group out-group mentalities.

amd
Religious affiliatiion is certainly a factor in wrongdoing in the case of Islam at this point in history. And definitely Roman Catholics and Jews are famous for being nicer to their own faith followers, in that they will always employ one of their own, or patronise the businesses of their own. I'm sure this goes for all denominations to a certain degree.

In a lot of ways, this is understandable, as some one of the same faith is 'perhaps' going to have the same values.

This is when faith is used like a secret society, as in the case of Freemasonry. They will always favour their own members. I disagree strongly with this practise but never-the-less, if you actually look at the teachings of the man himself, he was the one who said, 'Love your neighbour as yourself' and when asked 'Who is my neighbour?' told the parable of the good Samaritan. Everyman is your neighbour. Nothing wrong with the teachings at all.......just not practised.


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He was born with the gift of laughter and a sense that the world is mad....

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