Defending the Faith: Diverging lessons from a 'Pale Blue Dot'

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  • spiffy3 South Ogden, UT
    July 18, 2014 10:01 a.m.

    I have thoroughly enjoyed reading the interchange of ideas in these comments. It was quite refreshing to see an honest exchange of ideas between "Pops" "Weber State Graduate" and "Tyler D."

    Normally, I stop reading through the comment section because the conversation degrades into personal attacks on the intelligence of those who disagree. Hardly productive or edifying. This comment section, though fraught with the undertones that typically exist between "religion"-ists and "rational"-ists, there has not been any personal attacks to the intelligence of the opposing view. Thank you for that.

    Science and religion are two among many views and explanations of that illusive concept we call truth. Both religion and science have adherents who are misguided in some mythical battle between two viewpoints of truth. The thing is, both rely on something that cannot be proven, nor disproven. Science relies on reason to define truth, which has exactly zero examples, by it's own standard, of having been practiced with infallibility (except of course by God, but using that example makes the disagreement moot). Religion relies on the existence of a being whose existence has never been proven beyond reason's inherent skepticism.

    June 28, 2014 7:34 p.m.

    @Weber State Graduate

    Actually, what I was saying that there are many human endeavors that each have their place. I wasn't saying that religion is like music or literature. They all differ in important ways that make them viable and useful to humanity.

    Religious claims, as you note, can only be verified subjectively. That's God's choice, not ours.

  • Frank Staheli Santaquin, ut
    June 28, 2014 2:04 p.m.

    Tyler from Meridian, ID:

    Don't tell me that because YOU don't have evidence that neither do I. Because you would be wrong. I respect that you don't have--and that you don't apparently want to have--such evidence. But to thereby claim that I can't or don't have such evidence is mockery.

  • Weber State Graduate Clearfield, UT
    June 27, 2014 12:41 p.m.


    To assert religion is more like "music or literature" is to ignore the countless claims of fact made by religion in that are at diametric odds with scientific reality. I'm surprised that you would make such a statement given the many forthright explanations Joseph Smith provides about the cosmos.

    I've never understood why bold, religious claims of "truth" and "fact" must remain outside the domain of science where it conveniently stays free from any kind of independent, objective, or rigorous validation.

    The old fallback that truth must be authenticated by "faith" or through subjective, supernatural confirmation is nothing more than a convenient means of evasion for an untenable claim...a skilled and somewhat crafty mainstay for avoiding the scrutiny required of science.

    If you treat religion in a poetic fashion similar to music and literature, then perhaps you are's indeed different than science. But many do not. In fact, religion goes so far as to place conditions upon one's eternal salvation with horrible consequences for an unbeliever who doesn't subscribe to the religious explanation of truth...the kind of truth that cannot be independently validated.

    June 27, 2014 10:58 a.m.

    @Tyler D

    To be sure, there are those who claim science to be invalid by the authority of religion, but how is that different from those who claim religion to be invalid by the authority of science? Both are spitting into the wind.


    If God does in fact exist, then His omniscience is anything but partial and fleeting. Religion is the name we give to the human endeavor to determine if God exists, and if so, to find answers to questions outside the domain of science. Yes, many have perverted religion in many ways, just as many have perverted science in many ways. It's not a reasonable justification for the rejection of either as being somehow inherently flawed because its adherents are flawed.

    Religion is often attacked with the accusation that it isn't like science. Well, of course it isn't like science. What would be the point? Neither is music or literature. To imply that any of these human endeavors are inferior to science because they are different is a non sequitur, and those making the accusations display something other than understanding of the human experience.

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    June 27, 2014 9:28 a.m.

    @Pops – “As Richard Feynman stated, the best a scientist can ever say is, "I'm not wrong yet".”

    Yes, and this fact about scientific epistemic humility has unfortunately left the door open for religious people to charge in (with the exact opposite of epistemic humility) ad nauseum claiming to have all the answers science has yet to uncover.

    And yet at some point down the road science finds the answer (which is almost never the answer provided by religion) leaving the “prophets” to backtrack once again into the as yet unknown.

    Really, I just don’t get it. How many times is religion going to play this game (and lose) before giving up? We’ve never seen a body of “knowledge” that is such a glutton for punishment and without embarrassment over its own record.

    @sharrona – “The numinous religious experience…”

    Good stuff!

    And even though I do not believe religion has a monopoly on these experiences, William James wrote a classic on the subject called “The Varieties of Religious Experience” that was illuminating.

    Reached comment limit…

  • Weber State Graduate Clearfield, UT
    June 27, 2014 9:28 a.m.

    "Thus it is that religion, often disparaged as being faith-based and less than rational, is at least theoretically the only path to certainty..."

    Of course, such "certainty" resides only within the mind of the religionist, all of whom are perpetually unable to reconcile whose particular brand of certainty is more certain...and each claiming a monopoly on "certainty."

    Surely such variance is both “partial and fleeting.”

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    June 27, 2014 9:12 a.m.

    @Pops – “Anyone who things science is capable of achieving certainty simply does not understand what science is.”

    Sure, if by “certainty” you mean what is provided by math and deductive logic. Yes, science does not provide that (it is inductive), but I assume you’ll trust your own “certainty” in the theory of gravity and not jump out of an airplane at 30k feet (sans parachute).

    But in this comparison I’ve always restricted my comments to the natural world, and since religion has been making assertions about the natural world since recorded history, it is fair game to see how those assertions stack up. Ask yourself the following two questions:

    1)Name a fact about the natural for which we once had a religious explanation that has now been superseded by a better scientific explanation.

    2)Name a fact about the natural for which we once had a scientific explanation that has now been superseded by a better religious explanation.

    I hope it is obvious that the answers to these questions are “countless” and ”none” respectively.

  • sharrona layton, UT
    June 27, 2014 8:41 a.m.

    RE: Tyler D,“religious experiences”. The numinous religious experience, or man’s experience of God is a primary meaning that it cannot be taught but can only be awakened in the mind.

    Jonathan Edwards(Evangelist)"Signs of a Christian numinous experience: unity love and devotion is qualified by an awareness of a great gulf between sinful creatures and an absolute Holy being.” i.e..( Is 6:5,) “Woe is me! ..for I am a man of unclean lips(sinner).”

    A higher devotion for Jesus and a thirst for the Bible. “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God.”(Psalm 42:1).

    VS,Pray about truth. God says to search the Scriptures to find truth (Acts 17:11; 2 Tim. 3:16
    The problem with sincerity is that it becomes works righteousness because the person is saying "Because of my sincerity, God will listen to me." In other words, because of what's in the person God will look favorably upon him. God does not look into a person and find something good because there is no good in anyone (Rom. 3:10-12; Eph. 2:3).

  • coltakashi Richland, WA
    June 27, 2014 7:06 a.m.

    Sagan's metamessage was really the triumph of science and technology in giving mankind what he may have called a "God's eye view" of the earth without relying on God. When he said that mankind must rely on itself, he meant mankind must rely on people like himself to solve its problems.

    Jung's experience was a revelation that there was something else in the universe, not the wisdom of scientists, that gave him that remarkable view of the very real earth. It was literally a view from God's eye, and thus assumed and affirmed that some entity beyond mankind has that perspective.

    In their book Rare Earth, two atheist scientists pointed out that the development of intelligent life on earth, beyond the bacteria, was dependent on a lot of rare events, such as the collision with a Mars-size world that formed our unusually massive moon, and stabilized the earth's axial tilt and its climate. Earth is a rare gem that is precious for that reason. The thousands of extrasolar planets we have detected confirm this. It is a gift to us from the smartest person in the universe.

  • Karen R. Houston, TX
    June 27, 2014 6:37 a.m.

    Religious belief is supremely malleable and adapts itself quite easily to any new and inconvenient facts. "Oh, this disproves the way we thought before? Then we didn't mean that. We meant this." I used to do this myself. My god could and did accommodate much so that I realized it was meaningless.

    But learning about the cosmos and biology here on Earth...Wow, the wonders all around me. And to think that I am connected to it all, and it is all connected to me. It doesn't matter what my belief system is, what my political persuasions are. Even if we succeed in destroying ourselves arguing over whose god is right, the atoms that make up this being I inhabit will always be a part of the universe.

    This is enough for me.

    June 27, 2014 6:04 a.m.

    In a curious twist of irony, the only way certainty is through omniscience, meaning that God is the only being that could possibly provide certainty to man. Thus it is that religion, often disparaged as being faith-based and less than rational, is at least theoretically the only path to certainty, whereas science, thought by many to be the epitome of truth and reason, is known by its practitioners to be both partial and fleeting.

    I've heard it said that Hugh Nibley joked that when the breathless scientist finally reaches the peak of the high mountain of the quest for truth, he will find the prophet calmly seated there. (It's a joke in that the scientist has no hope of ever reaching the summit, nor of knowing how close to the summit he is, or even knowing in which direction the summit lies.)

    The pale blue dot is indeed a good representation of intellect of man in comparison to the vastness of knowledge and truth that exists. What cannot be seen in the image is the influence of God to give us a bit of a clue about things.

    June 26, 2014 10:13 p.m.

    "science wins… always"

    Sorry, but that's not even possible given the nature of science. As Richard Feynman stated, the best a scientist can ever say is, "I'm not wrong yet". Anyone who things science is capable of achieving certainty simply does not understand what science is.

    There is no competition between science and religion to those who seek truth, just as there is not competition between science and music, or between science and literature, or between science and sports, or between science and any other human endeavor. The wise among us consider all the available data in their quest to understand.

  • TheProudDuck Newport Beach, CA
    June 26, 2014 6:08 p.m.

    I could never understand why Dr. Sagan, whose logic was rigorous when he wanted it to be, concluded that physical size = significance.

    As my math teacher used to say: Show your work, Carl.

  • Michigander Westland, MI
    June 26, 2014 2:05 p.m.

    Could it also be possible that the new earth will be a giant that will fill up the new heaven of eternally crystal blue color?

  • Michigander Westland, MI
    June 26, 2014 1:25 p.m.

    Is it possible that in the new heaven and the new earth in eternity, that as we have now been conformed to the perfect image of the Son of God (Jesus Christ), that the earth will be conformed to the exact same size as the Sun created by God that of course will be no more in that eternal day. This will be needed in order to accommodate, with no crowding, of all the billions of the redeemed souls from Adam and Eve down to the last soul born on the earth in the 1000 year Peaceful Reign upon earth while men and women are still in the flesh and blood state.

  • GameTheory Salt Lake City, UT
    June 26, 2014 12:11 p.m.


    "But that is, itself, a claim regarding religious claims, and an implicit statement that such claims are essentially false"
    That is of course true that its a claim regarding religious claims. I didn't say that any claim was false however. That is your defensive assumption. But i will say that arguing the case between Zeus being real or not, is trivial. Only nobody bothers to do that anymore, they have just moved on to arguing for other gods; the two arguments being both equally impossible to disprove. I hope you would agree with mine and Carl Sagans view that it really is quite silly to literally kill each other over this. eh?

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    June 26, 2014 11:12 a.m.

    @Twin Lights – “I think the simple point is that science and faith have no need to be at war.

    I would (with certain qualifications) agree but only because whenever they do fight, science wins… always. At some point capitulation (as far as discerning facts about the natural world) is seems order if for no other reason than to save future embarrassment.

    @Twin Lights – “I think the moral teachings of Jesus (as well as others) to bear up over time.”

    I would generally agree – a few things (IMO) that were put into his mouth notwithstanding (e.g., Matthew 5:18-19 and pretty much the entire Book of Revelation).

    @sharrona – ““Jung’s experiences” had a very strong influence on Edgar Cayce”

    And on much of the New Age community, however, you can find many more examples going back centuries in the eastern religions which I think makes that point that many “religious experiences” do not affirm the validity of any belief system.

    These experiences appear to be universal and just like there is no such thing as Christian physics or Muslim math, these experiences are not the monopolistic domain of religion.

  • sharrona layton, UT
    June 26, 2014 10:42 a.m.

    RE: Tyler D, “Jung’s experiences” had a very strong influence on Edgar Cayce which some of the information from his trances were derived from.
    At seven Cayce began school, Mrs. Ellison(a Mormon teacher) was boarding at his aunt's house. During this time period Edgar had his first experience playing with “spirit children.”

    Cayce was introduced to Christianity but he was also exposed to the world of the occult. He was a Campbellite (Restoration movement) an off-shoot Presbyterian denomination. He began to read his Bible and at one time wanted to be a minister. As a child he often visited a place in the nearby woods to read his Bible. At age 13, while sitting at his regular reading place in the woods, an “angelic” woman appeared in white clothing with wings on her back who told him, “Your prayers have been heard. “Tell me what you would like most of all, so that I may give it to you.”

    Biblical Christians are critical of Cayce's source and views on issues such as reincarnations and the Akashic records. i.e.., (All souls will eventually mature and evolve towards the perfect, like Jesus the Christ)

  • happy2bhere clearfield, UT
    June 26, 2014 10:36 a.m.

    I hope we all realize that in this vast universe, if one were to look back at the Milky Way Galaxy, (our home galaxy), from far enough away, it would also appear as a small dot. Somehow I think that Sagan is equating size as some indicator of whether or not there is a God. To my mind the size of the universe is the indicator, not the smallness of our particular planet. Of which LDS theology says there are numbers of beyond counting anyway.

  • Twin Lights Louisville, KY
    June 26, 2014 10:00 a.m.

    Tyler D,

    I think the simple point is that science and faith have no need to be at war. Many in both fields find something fulfilling in the other.

    I think the moral teachings of Jesus (as well as others) to bear up over time. Century in, century out.

  • Craig Clark Boulder, CO
    June 26, 2014 9:56 a.m.


    "Your position, GameTheory, and the position that you apparently attribute to Carl Sagan, is that it's trivial and unimportant to distinguish what is true and what is false in conflicting religious claims. But that is, itself, a claim regarding religious claims, and an implicit statement that such claims are essentially false...."

    Trying to distinguish what’s true or false in religious claims may not seem trivial to those who adhere to those conflicting claims. But it is futile to try to prove the unprovable and can even be dangerous. We live in a world where people sometimes kill other people in the name of religion.

    Not accepting religious claims at face value does not necessarily imply that the claims are essentially false.

  • Michigander Westland, MI
    June 26, 2014 9:53 a.m.

    "But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him." (1 Cor.2:9).

    These things are what will be in the "new heaven" of Rev.21:1, Isa 65:17, and 2 Pet.3:13 - also called the "Eternal Blue Sky Land" by the American Indians.

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    June 26, 2014 9:38 a.m.

    Reading stories like this makes me wonder what possible set of facts could ever disprove religion. My guess is the answer for some is none.

    Religion’s ability to render any discovered fact compatible with faith is mind boggling. If we think of what religion was telling people throughout history about the natural world, and how many of those propositions have been demonstrated to be false, this question and answer becomes painfully obvious.

    So when I hear religious leaders today tell us to “have faith” in their words as they are coming from God and are therefore true (as religious leaders have done since time immemorial), I immediately think “have faith based on what?” What evidence do we have that religion has ever been a reliable source of knowledge (vs. the literally mountain of evidence going the other way)?

    So when Dr. Peterson casually dismisses Carl Sagan’s “atheism” as going against “thousands of confident religions” I’m left wondering what is the standard by which we judge one’s confidence to be justified?

    Jung’s experience is interesting… don’t see how it points to the existence of Yahweh though.

  • Verdad Orem, UT
    June 26, 2014 9:20 a.m.

    Your position, GameTheory, and the position that you apparently attribute to Carl Sagan, is that it's trivial and unimportant to distinguish what is true and what is false in conflicting religious claims. But that is, itself, a claim regarding religious claims, and an implicit statement that such claims are essentially false. As such, it seems self-contradictory -- but also an unwitting attempt to privilege your particular point of view over others.

  • Weber State Graduate Clearfield, UT
    June 26, 2014 9:17 a.m.

    We all have a fervent desire to know if there is someone out there who can define our existence...someone tangible who can give comprehension to unrecognizable reality...someone who can provide us with meaning and deliver confidence that we will indeed continue to exist, even after death?

    Our fear of the unknown has precipitated the invention of a supernatural deity who can provide us with this desired hope. Religion is a social construct...the communal byproduct of an anthropomorphic deity socially created to give us optimism and meaning to events in life beyond our control.

    Unfortunately, religion has been high-jacked by those who would exploit our fears of the unknown in an effort to acquire power and purchase dogmatic control over men and women of good faith. Power is an intoxicating elixir and there are willing charlatans ready to relieve us of our temporal fears in order to secure that power.

    What's worse, we are most willing to surrender our reason and compromise our rational abilities...all in an effort to preserve comfort, security, and hope for a meaningful that will continue even beyond the grave.

    We are indeed spiritual creatures programed to believe.

  • John Marx Layton, UT
    June 26, 2014 9:00 a.m.

    The validity of out of body experiences are a different topic though. The article is comparing the views derived from seeing the world "from a distance." But the comparison doesn't work IMO because the perspectives in the two are radically different. One is from a distance of one thousand miles, the other from a distance of 3.7 billion miles.

  • Verdad Orem, UT
    June 26, 2014 8:47 a.m.

    The amazing thing to me, John Marx, is the thought that Carl Jung might actually have been looking at the surface of the earth from roughly a thousand miles out . . . while his body lay in a Swiss hospital in 1944. That wouldn't seem to fit Carl Sagan's model of the universe.

  • GameTheory Salt Lake City, UT
    June 26, 2014 8:47 a.m.

    I think you completely misunderstand Carl Sagans "Pale Blue Dot." His view of the world wasn't diminished by the picture of the pale blue dot. He was simply saying that wars are fought over simple and unimportant things. Religions fight and kill over extremely vain and selfish world views. In reality we are all here together on this tiny blue dot. It is up to us to try to make it a better world. It's not up to God and the world isn't going to fix itself.Tell me if I'm wrong but I think this is rather a correct idea and nothing to ridicule. Carl Sagan's atheistic views are irrelevant to the idea that we, in fact, are a microscopic piece of dust in the scheme of the Universe. Our fights are silly. Who's religion is right or wrong? Defending the faith? whats to defend against different perspectives? so trivial.

  • Craig Clark Boulder, CO
    June 26, 2014 8:34 a.m.

    Daniel Peterson twice alludes to Carl Sagan’s atheism. Sagan was no religious traditionalist and he didn’t believe in an anthropomorphic deity. But from my readings about him, I can't call him an atheist. He was in fact fascinated with questions of religion and science.

  • John Marx Layton, UT
    June 26, 2014 8:14 a.m.

    I'm not sure these two stories make for a good comparison.
    The significance and uniqueness of the pale blue dot photograph is indicated by the name. At that distance the earth is only a dot. Only a speck of light. To Sagan that challenged the idea that earth, humanity, or a religion was at the center of the universe.
    But at 1000 miles you can still see a lot of detail (you can see this perspective on Google Earth). At 1,000 miles the earth can still fill your field of vision. It can fill your whole perspective.

  • slowdive Salt Lake City, UT
    June 26, 2014 8:13 a.m.

    a welcome surprise to see some of Jung cited in this column. though, do recall, Jung never believed experiencing the divine required No mediation via Org Religion. if anything, and echoing William James, he felt the Eastern traditions (having to mind/consciousness) prob had a better grasp on the Big Picture than any Western churches.

  • Twin Lights Louisville, KY
    June 26, 2014 8:04 a.m.

    Science is simply the archaeology of God's creation. We look to put back together that which was built long ago.

    I have no argument with someone who has no faith. But there are many who take from the world about them a sense of awe and a reverence for God.