Creation, Paganism or Saganism?
John C. Rankin
I conceived the Mars Hill Forums in 1991 and formally initiated them in 1993. Early on I wrote astronomer Carl Sagan of Cornell University, inviting him to address one such forum.
His writings and PBS series Cosmos were popular, as he articulated an awe of the universe and of life, but from a presupposition of macroevolution, no personal God, and no eternal life. Our communications were gracious, and Dr. Sagan expressed genuine interest in addressing such a forum. It did not come to pass, as his battle against cancer ended with his death in December of 1996.
The prior June he sent me a copy of his last book, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, with a personal inscription. In it, he lamented the revival of old paganisms and superstitions in the modern era – astrology and psychic readings as the mainstay of a national psychology – and thus its concomitant abandonment of science. My sympathies are similar, but from a biblical perspective.
When he died, I was about to send him a letter, to pose him a question, as both of us stood in awe of the universe: “Carl – why is there no real difference between paganism and Saganism?” Yes, there is a great difference between the belief in gods and goddesses on the one hand, along with their colorful stories, and belief in no god whatsoever on the other hand, with its colorlessness.
But too, Dr. Sagan and the pagans both start with the assumption of an eternal universe which produces human life as a by-product of chance or fate, and both Dr. Sagan and much paganism believe in the total or partial loss of individuality after death. Therefore, human life has no purpose but to escape suffering as reasonably as possible in the short time before life itself is snuffed out – human life has no greater worth than does the rest of the universe’s molecular dust.
As I put forth in Genesis and the Power of True Assumptions, science and the scientific method are rooted in the Bible, and not in paganism or secular thought. To the extent that any scientific method is embraced in human culture, it is a cognate of the assumptions in Genesis 1-2.