The closing passage of Dawkins’ new book (quoted here in TJ's newest article) is a case in point. Dawkins describes in detail the wonder of the evolutionary process:
“we find ourselves perched on one tiny twig in the midst of a blossoming and flourishing tree of life…”
He continues by evoking Darwin’s “endless forms, most beautiful and most wonderful,” the contemplation of which has left many a thoughtful human dumbstruck by the shocking truth of our place in this universe.
And here’s the puzzling part for me. Dawkins, like other scientific skeptics, are so sunk in materialism that they seem unable to fully appreciate the deep spiritual implications of their own work.
I’ll let Carl Sagan, that most prolific of spiritual scientists do the talking for me:
“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.”
“We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.”
This is such a deeply profound and spiritual point. And it’s completely scientific. We now know that the human being who looks out on the stars above is not separate from that which she is observing. How could she be?
We know we’re a part of an evolving universe, and that the universe is a single unfolding event. Science has uncovered the incredible truth of who and what we are; and frankly, to me it’s more awe-inspiring than even the great religious traditions. In this light I’m tempted to thank Mr. Dawkins. He’s a scientific messiah, an unwitting champion of the spiritual and religious underpinnings of the next thousand years.
I guess God has a sense of humor...
[In the video below, Sagan tries to illustrate the reality of an evolving universe. We’re a part of this universe; we’re not separate from what we look out on. Sagan was both scientifically skeptical and deeply moved by his contemplations of the universe. This clip attempts to convey the compatibility of those seemingly disparate experiences. Enjoy!]