I just finished my fourth book of the year (and no, i’m not reading at the same clip i was last year, but hey – i’m reading): The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God and i want to recommend it to everyone. It’s a kind of response by Carl Sagan to William James’ The Varieties of Religious Experience, which is a famous old book that i have not in fact read.
This is not a militant atheist manifesto like The End of Faith or God is not Great. If you’ve ever watched The Cosmos, it reads more like a few episodes of that. In fact, it contains some of the same content. If you have not watched The Cosmos, you really ought to. You can stream it on Netflix or Hulu and it’s educational (if occasionally outdated) and fantastic. It’s not about God, it’s about – you guessed it. If you’re unfamiliar with Carl Sagan entirely, he’s also the guy who wrote Contact. I didn’t understand the flick as a kid but man, do i appreciate it now. Ok – watch this, this is a sweet song composed of auto-tuned clips of Carl Sagan:
He was a brilliant scientist who was extremely passionate about astrophysics and the possibility of life beyond Earth. This particular book was published by his widow Ann Druyan after his death, and it’s actually a transcription of a lecture series he gave on how the idea of God fits in with the scientific perspective. It’s really thought-provoking, and it makes you feel like you’re auditing a fascinating course at an Ivy League school for free. There are even visuals and Q&A sessions included. Almost makes me want to go back to school… 😉
Reading this book, i saw a lot of the same ideas that Dawkins likes to talk about, but i think here they’re presented in a more approachable and open-minded manner. I don’t know why they decided to make The God Delusion blindingly shiny-metallic/day-glo orange considering that nobody wants to be seen reading it in the first place. But if you’re even the least bit curious about how anyone could be passionate about the fact that there is no scientific evidence for the existence of God, nobody will sneer at you if they see you with your nose buried in this one.