SPEAKER: This is a production of Cornell University.
REV. KENNETH CLARKE: Good afternoon. My name is Ken Clarke. I'm the director of Cornell United Religious Work. I'm pleased to welcome all of you here for this afternoon's program featuring Ann Druyan who has come to speak with us today and to talk to us in relation to the work of her late husband Carl Sagan and his interaction with His Holiness, the Dalai Lama on several occasions, one during the Dalai Lama's last visit to Ithaca in 1991 and a subsequent trip that Carl and Ann took to India to visit with His Holiness there in the 1990s.
Ann Druyan is an author, lecturer in television and motion picture, writer, and producer whose work is largely concerned with the effects of science and technology on our civilization. She is author or co-author of several books, including the bestsellers, Comet and Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors with Carl Sagan. Ann is co-producer and co-creator of the 1997 film Contact based on the story she co-wrote with Carl Sagan. In far-reaching scientific capacities and regarding many subjects, Ann has lectured widely and appeared on many television programs. For 10 years, she served as Secretary for the Federation of American Scientists, the first group ever organized to deal with the dangers of the misuse of science and technology.
Ann is founder and president of the Carl Sagan Foundation and founder and CEO of Cosmos Studios which has produced several documentaries and films for PBS and the A and E Networks and has done far more work than can be enumerated here. Ann, of course, was married to call Sagan, one of the great Cornellians, for nearly two decades until his death in 1996. Most recently, she has edited Carl's 1985 Gifford Lectures into the book, The Varieties of Scientific Experience, which explores Sagan's views on, among many other topics, the relationship between religion and science.
For those of you who may not know, the Gifford Lectures is a prestigious lecture given in Scotland and which has been given and delivered by a number of notable persons from Arnold Toynbee to Reinhold Niebuhr among others who have talked about significant topics in relation to theology and the sciences among other things. It is from this, and with respect to the Dalai Lama's recent book, The Universe in a Single Atom, that Ann will draw her own reflections on the meetings between these two great and daring intellectual pioneers.
This afternoon, we will see a short clip of the 1991 meeting of Sagan and the Dalai Lama here at Cornell. This film is the contribution from one of the coordinators of the Dalai Lama's 1991 visit, Karen Trueheart, whom we thank wholeheartedly for helping to make this event possible this afternoon. Then Ann will share her reflections on this meeting and a later one that took place in India between Professor Sagan and the Dalai Lama. Ann will then share with us her thoughts on the ongoing, and sometimes vitriolic, interactions between proponents of science and religion.
Are these two, science and religion, utterly irreconcilable as so many would have us believe? Or is there some way for the two to be harmonious partners for the greater good of all living creatures as Carl Sagan and His Holiness the Dalai Lama agreed. I'm now honored to introduce to you Ann Druyan.
ANN DRUYAN: Thank you so much. Good afternoon, and thanks so much for coming here today. Want to thank Ken for his very nice introduction and also to point out that Karen Trueheart who actually produced and directed the footage we're about to see is with us here today, to thank her [APPLAUSE] for her work. Some of you look very young. And so I feel I should probably give you some introductory information about Carl Sagan.
Carl Sagan was born in Brooklyn in 1934-- [CLEARS THROAT] excuse me-- of working class parents. And as a small child, he looked up at the stars and asked everyone he knew, what are they? And most people just said, they're lights in the skies, kid. But he really wanted to know what they really were, and he was very fortunate to have loving parents who schlepped with him to the local Brooklyn public library and began an amazing journey, which has not ended even now.
He became an astronomer. And at a time when it was almost considered disreputable, he believed that science was a kind of birthright for everyone, that you couldn't have a democratic society if you had a tiny elite who understood how things worked and then a great public that was uncomfortable and alienated from the methods and the values and the language of science. And so at a time when scientists really didn't do this very much, he determined that he would go anywhere to share with absolutely anyone the wonder and the awe that science instilled in him. Science was a great liberating force in his life, and he believed that it could be that way for everyone.
And so he began appearing on television shows and The Johnny Carson Show, which was one of the first versions of The Tonight Show. And this was at a time when other scientists were horrified at the idea that a reputable scientist, the first man, the first human, ever to know the actual temperature of the planet Venus and to discover many of the wonders about Mars that we know today, that that someone who was such a serious scientist and a researcher would bother himself with, as the phrase goes, popularizing science. In French, it actually is vulgarizing science.
And it's funny that the Roman Catholic Church, which we think of as probably one of the most orthodox institutions in the history of the world, decided to dispense with the Latin mass-- although they're going back to it no-- in the 1960's so that everyone could experience the power of the mass. And Carl believed at that same time that science and the community of scientists should do the same thing, should speak plainly and clearly, not to impress everyone with how much he knew, but with a desire to communicate. And this he did brilliantly in the television series Cosmos, which has now been seen by over a billion people the world over and continues to be shown all around the planet and in 30 books.
And it was in this context that when His Holiness the Dalai Lama came to Ithaca, he was interested in meeting Carl Sagan. And they met in 1991. It was about January, late January or early February. And it was in the immediate aftermath of the birth of our youngest child. So the Carl Sagan you're about to see in this film is a very sleep deprived Carl Sagan, the father of five children, the youngest of whom is only a month old. So let's see this beautiful footage by Karen Trueheart, and then let's talk more about what happened afterwards. Thank you.
CARL SAGAN: So let me now ask, if I may, some questions about religion. What happens if the doctrine of a religion, Buddhism let's say, is contradicted by some finding, some discovery in science, let's say? What does a believer in Buddhism do in that case?
DALAI LAMA: For a Buddhist, there is no problem. The Buddha himself made clear the important is your own investigation and should know the reality no matter what scripture says. In case your finding is something contradiction or opposite that of the scripture's explanation, then you should rely on as a finding rather than on scripture.
CARL SAGAN: So that's very much like science?
DALAI LAMA: That's right. So I think the basic Buddhist concept which is the [? whole ?] thing-- I think at the beginning, it is worthwhile or it is better remain skeptical then carry experiment through external means as well as internal means. Then through investigation, if things become clear and convincing, then the time is come is to accept other belief.
If through science if they prove that after death no more continuity of human mind or continuity of life, if prove, then theoretically speaking, Buddhist have to accept.
CARL SAGAN: So what would that do the doctrine of reincarnation?
DALAI LAMA: But I do not think there's a-- regarding the existence of continuity, continuity of mind or life after death-- the concept about that, I think more reason. Although acceptance that kind of theory may not solve all your question or may not give you the complete satisfaction. But still that theory is better than the theory of non-existence.
Because if there is no the continuation of life or continuation of being, then the original cause of the whole galaxies, including this planet-- now, for example, is the Big Bang Theory. Yes, it is all right. It is possible is a Big Bang Theory. It happened to that way, but doesn't matter. All right. Then why it happen? Then either you have to accept things happen accidentally, without particular cause. That also uncomfortable. Still, [INAUDIBLE] a lot of questions [INAUDIBLE].
Then there is another thing, creator. That also, from the Buddhist view point-- that also not a sound answer. If you say creator, why did a create these things? So more questions still there.
CARL SAGAN: So do you believe in god?
DALAI LAMA: God in the sense is there some kind of ultimate reality, then yes, we accept. But god in the sense as almighty or creator, then Buddhist do not accept.
CARL SAGAN: So there's conceivable finding of science which would make you say that Buddhist doctrine is wrong or that you're no longer a Buddhist.
DALAI LAMA: I think the scientific finding through careful experiment, that Buddhist at once have to accept. So no problem. There's some scientist that believe that all-- there's some scientific minded Buddhist, I think they should say like that way. They consider Buddhism is not religion, but rather it's a science of mind or sometimes they call inner science. Buddhism is something like inner science.
So according my own experience as a sort of meeting with scientist-- in recent years, as I develop much contact with scientist, mainly in the field of cosmology and then neurobiology and also the physics, mainly quantum mechanic field, and then, of course, psychology. It's in these field, there are many has a common parallels. So discussion in length in these field, as a Buddhist, I got much benefit to learn from their finding and very helpful to a Buddhist.
At the same time, some scientist also showing genuine keen interest about Buddhist explanation, about this concerned subject. And as I-- one is quite clear as far the mental science is concerned. Buddhism is very, I think, highly advanced.
ANN DRUYAN: I don't know how much of all of that you could hear. I don't think that the sound was as good as it could have been in this auditorium. And I also am so sorry that because of the ambient light, you weren't able to see how beautifully photographed it was. The colors are very rich, and there's a Christmas to the footage that Karen made that you really couldn't appreciate from this screening, which is a pity. But I think you did get a sense of, first of all, the extraordinary openness of the Dalai Lama and his lack of defensiveness of any kind, which is so impressive, and it speaks so well for him as a human being, but also Carl's humility.
If you saw the longer version of this, you would see that he came with an open mind to ask questions that were what he really wanted to know the answer to the questions. He wasn't just out to create some kind of trap for a person who believed things that he didn't believe. And I think that was one of the many things that was always so impressive about Carl and became more true of him the longer he lived. He really wanted to learn. He was really searching. And he was open.
But for him, the error correcting mechanism of the methodology of science was a critical factor in all of his thinking. And for him, it was the highest form of spiritual devoutness. He knew, as science knows, that we very often wish to believe things that are untrue because they make us feel less afraid or better about ourselves. And he was frightened of that. He felt that science was the greatest mechanism that he had discovered for being able to ferret out those things that we believe merely because we want to believe them but that may not be true.
And I think of him as being one of the most spiritual human beings I've ever known, precisely because of that degree of faithfulness to the methodology of science. One of the many discoveries he made-- he was a participant in every single NASA mission and many international mission from the dawn of the Space Age to his death. And when I said earlier that that journey that began with this trip to the Brooklyn Public Library still hadn't ended, it's not because I believe in reincarnation-- I don't-- but because he was a major experimenter on the Voyager missions, both in terms of the scientific research that the Voyager spacecraft conducted, but also in terms of determining its pathway through the solar system.
And as of now, in the next couple of years, one of the two Voyager spacecraft, will actually leave our solar system. And then about 10 years after that, the other spacecraft will leave our solar system. They are the furthest objects ever created by human beings, ever touched by human hands. And on them, are these golden phonograph records with a message that has a shelf life of 1,000 million years, a billion years. And so these messages, which were largely a result of Carl's work and due to his and Frank Drake, who was then at Cornell also, their work, there's a kind of a very long future which comes about as a result of his work on Voyager.
Well, I don't know if you were able to hear in the course of this discussion, but the Dalai Lama was asked by Carl, what would happen if science were to disprove a major belief, a tenet of Buddhism? And Carl was enormously impressed. I remember that evening when he came home, he was really excited by the Dalai Lama's reaction, which if you could have heard it, he'd said, of course, we'd give it up. We don't want to believe in things that aren't true-- immediately.
Carl was totally enchanted, and there was a connection between the two men which was so positive that that same year, 10 months later, Carl was awarded the Nehru Prize in India, which is the highest award that the Indian government can give. He was invited to come to India. And as soon as he knew this was happening, he communicated with the Dalai Lama, and they decided to meet in what was then called New Delhi.
And I was lucky enough to accompany Carl on this beautiful morning in December to see the Dalai Lama, and the first thing that I remember was how striking and troubling it was that the Dalai Lama's hotel floor was completely surrounded by soldiers with automatic weapons. Of course, this seemed like a powerful contradiction to see someone who's been a voice for peace surrounded by phalanxes of armed guards. And beyond the armed guards were, I would say, 100 or so petitioners, people who were waiting for an audience with the Dalai Lama, to ask for something, for some guidance.
We were ushered into his suite. We sat down in the parlor, and we talked for three hours. And it was a fantastic experience, fantastic for me to see, first of all, the connectedness, the closeness between these two wonderful souls and great minds and the curiosity that the Dalai Lama showed in terms of the Voyager mission, which was very much on our minds at that time and his interest in the latest findings. And Carl had brought along pictures of the outer solar system and various planets, pictures the Voyager had taken. In fact, the only reason there were these pictures was because Carl had insisted early on that there be actual cameras in the visible spectrum on the spacecraft.
NASA was like, what do we need these cameras for? There's no scientific data to be gained from just seeing these worlds. Use the instruments on the spacecraft. And Carl was saying, this is our first chance to see up close what we thought then were something like 100 new worlds or 50 new worlds. And it turned out to be more than twice as many undiscovered moons and such. But he was responsible for Voyager taking those pictures because he was lobbying the whole time so that there could be cameras, so that the people of the United States who had actually paid for the mission could see what Voyager was seeing and be willing to support future missions of reconnaissance and exploration in space.
So the two men were talking in his hotel room, and the time flew by. And after three hours, Dalai Lama said, this is such a stimulating conversation. I am going to ask if I can postpone all of my responsibilities for the rest of the day, and you will stay with us, with me, and we can continue talking. And one of us said, we would love to, but our children are back at the hotel. And we promised that we'd take him out for the afternoon. And the Dalai Lama said, wonderful. I love children. Go and fetch your children. Bring your children back here, and all of us will spend the entire day talking.
Well, we were thrilled at that idea, raced back to the hotel, grabbed Sasha, our daughter, who at the time was 9 years old, and Sam who was now 10 months old. And as we came walking in to see the Dalai Lama again, Carl was holding Sam.
Now, any of you who have ever had a 10-month-old baby, you'll know that 10-month-old babies are shy, that they sit, like all other primates with their parents, usually on a shoulder. And when another person draws near, the tendency of the baby is to pull away. To our astonishment when our 10-month-old baby Sam saw the Dalai Lama, a man dressed as no other man Sam had probably ever seen before, a very beautiful costume, and a total stranger-- as soon as Sam saw the Dalai Lama, to our complete astonishment, he leaped from Carl's arms into the arms of the Dalai Lama.
I was just absolutely flabbergasted. And the Dalai Lama turned to us, and he said, I know you both don't believe in reincarnation. But I have to tell you this is a great soul. And both of us for a moment were transfixed, and then we said, wait a minute, Dalai Lama. If you want to convert someone from hard-edged materialism to mysticism, all you have to do is tell them that their youngest child has some messianic qualities. And that will surely do the trick.
Well, we all had a great laugh that day. And it was such a bonding experience that we came back with the idea that we would make a film of an extended conversation between these two men. And Karen was our partner in this idea in every way. And the idea was that we would go all around the world with Carl and the Dalai Lama and find the loveliest natural settings and just let these two guys rave on together. The film you saw was actually just a little bit of a longer film, but it's true that in that context Carl was really the interlocutor. He was the interviewer.
And he was talking, but the Dalai Lama wasn't asking him questions. And I don't know if you've seen this wonderful photograph by Jon Reis, which is on display at various places in Ithaca I'm told. But here's a moment where Carl was actually giving something back to the Dalai Lama as they discussed Galaxy-- I think-- M31, a nearby galaxy.
And in preparation for this talk and thinking about those times and the sad fact that the film that we all conceived was never to be-- because first of all, for some strange reason in 1992, there didn't seem to be that much interest in producing this kind of film which would enlighten people about the relationship between science and religion, which would have been in a way, as far as I'm concerned, two of the best exponents of both communities, two of the most open hearted people representing both communities. None of the bombast, none of the hostility that so often divides these two important communities.
Carl had done some work starting in 1989. He began with then Senator Al Gore and the Reverend Joan Campbell, head of the National Council of Churches then-- he had started something called The Joint Appeal in Religion and Science. He was a co-discoverer of the nuclear winter phenomenon, the inadvertent climatic catastrophe that would follow a full nuclear exchange. And it was his work on these issues that inspired him to want to bring together the communities of science and the communities of religion.
We recognized that while we had the terrible facts at our disposal in the scientific community of what the misuse of science and high technology could do to this planet, we didn't have the human social organization which the religious community has and the ability to inspire and to move people to act. And so this became a worldwide movement, and it still exists to this day.
I wanted to say that I've just recently read the Dalai Lama's book, The Universe in a Single Atom, and it is completely consonant with the person that I met that day in India. It is the work of a brilliant searching mind that is unafraid of being disabused of his most cherished beliefs, the greatest quality that either a religious person or a scientist could possibly have. And lest you think that this is something that he has come to recently, I happened just in the last week to find my own copy of The New York Times from July 21, 1969.
And I was fascinated to see that among the many people who The New York Times saw fit to interview on that day about the moon landing, there was Pablo Picasso who said, "This doesn't interest me one bit." Which is pretty good. There was Vladimir Nabakov who I think was an Ithacan at that time who had a typically brilliant response. And there was the Dalai Lama looking strangely exactly as he does 40 years later, which really I thought was pretty impressive. But if you read what he said that day and what he has written much more recently in this fine book, you'll see that he has consistently been a voice for openness, for exploration, for increasing our horizons.
One of the great things that Carl Sagan wrote in a beautiful book called Pale Blue Dot was that someday there would be a religion which when confronted with the latest revelations on the part of the scientific community of the much greater, vaster, older, more complex universe that science revealed, instead of my god is a little god and I want it to just stay a little god and I want this universe that I believe in to stay with the Earth and me at the center-- instead of saying those things, that religion would say, yes. Yes. The greater, the more complex, the more different, from what we expected, the more we love and cherish and take into our hearts the beauty of this insight. Carl Sagan wrote, now that would be a really good religion.
And thank you so much for listening to me today. And if you have any questions, I'd be more than happy to respond to them. Thanks.
Anybody want to know anything? OK. Well--
AUDIENCE: Is there going to be any opportunity to gain access to those complete [INAUDIBLE]?
ANN DRUYAN: Karen, would you like to answer this question?
KAREN TRUEHEART: It is at the moment-- it's not so much as asking if it was on YouTube. We can work on that. It is part of 35 hours of footage that we shot in 1991 with His Holiness, about 25 of those here on the Cornell campus. And just as the world was not all that interested in documentaries about science and religion, it was not all that interested in documentaries about His Holiness. This was just as the edge of his soar to being a global figure. So it is sad really, and we are donating the original footage to Namgyal Monastery. [INAUDIBLE] are also always looking for ways that we can bring it out into the public. So I hear your question, and we'll see what we can do.
ANN DRUYAN: Please.
AUDIENCE: So did Carl Sagan believe in God?
ANN DRUYAN: Well, he was asked that question many times, probably in this very room at least one of those times, but he was asked that question all over the world. And he always said it depends upon what you mean by god. He said if you mean an oversized white man who sits in the sky and tallies the fall of every sparrow, then he said, I would have to say that I have yet to see any good evidence for that god. Moreover, the possibility that that God is a projection of our needs, our psychological needs, is so great that I would have to discount it.
But he said if you speak of the god of Spinoza, the god of Einstein, the god who is the sum total of the physical laws of the universe, which is not very different, in fact, than what the Dalai Lama was saying in this interview, then, he would say, I would be a fool to say that that god didn't exist. He was a true agnostic. He believed that our knowledge of the universe and nature was so limited and immature that anyone who could say with any confidence that they knew the nature of the creator of that universe when our familiarity is only with f tiny percentage of that universe was probably overly confident.
And so he withheld judgment in the absence of evidence. And as I say, I think he took the best values of our religious traditions and lived them in the most conscientious possible way. But he certainly did not believe in God in the conventional sense.
AUDIENCE: I couldn't quite understand what the Dalai Lama said to the same question. Can you paraphrase what he said?
ANN DRUYAN: Yes. He talked about in fact-- and this may not be part of what was actually shown here, but is elsewhere in Karen's film. He talked about the problem of evil and said that if you believe in a god who is both all compassionate and all powerful, there's a contradiction there which is unsupportable. And that was the Dalai Lama's-- he was saying that you don't have to believe in a conventional vision of a powerful god in order to be a Buddhist, that Buddhism is not a religion in that sense, but much more a philosophy of thought. And that's what he was saying. Please.
AUDIENCE: I have two things. One is, did they speak about genetic engineering and cloning and also how-- the Chinese said to the Dalai Lama, and I saw this in a documentary that religion is poison. So it's interesting what you're saying and how you are explaining what you've learned from the Dalai Lama and just seeing for the first time something much more broader, that it's not just religion. So anyway, I'm very concerned about what China has done to Tibet and also to Buddhism and religion. And the more you learn about it, like what you're saying now, it's so incredible that the Dalai Lama had that. I mean, I'm learning for the first time just the diversity of the [INAUDIBLE]. So if you could talk about those two things, I'd appreciate it.
ANN DRUYAN: Thank you, [? Fay. ?] Well, I don't know if they specifically talked about cloning and genetic engineering. They certainly talked about the danger of the misuse of science and high technology, which was of grave concern to both of them, and for obvious reasons. But I do remember them agreeing that the greatest possible antidote to the inevitable misuse of science was an informed public, and that was the only hope. That just as religion has been horribly misused, obviously science has also been horribly misuse and that the only hope are these error correcting mechanisms and the idea that each of us become someone who's aware-- awareness-- who's aware of what is going on and does what we can to combat that.
And then the second question was about China. Yes, he talks in the interviews very forcefully-- the Dalai Lama does-- about his concern that his need to be a political leader as well as a religious leader and his concern for his people. And I remember that the very first thing that he said to us in India was that sci-- he had been thinking about their conversation. And he said science is what we need. I can't think of anything that could more quickly empower my people than an understanding of science and technology, that that would be absolutely the first thing that I would like my people to have.
And he saw that as a liberating force in Tibet. And I think he very much regrets the fact that the times, the last 50 years, have required him to be in exile and to be a political leader. But it is certainly necessary, and I think he embraces that responsibility and has conducted himself really magnificently in that very difficult role.
AUDIENCE: In some respects, an Eastern religion's--
AUDIENCE: Speak up.
AUDIENCE: In some respects, an Eastern religion's experimental method is a meditation practice. Did they talk about that? And did Carl ever experiment with stilling the mind?
ANN DRUYAN: Yes. He did experiment with meditation. And I remember specifically on the particular occasion that he felt that it was a transporting experience. He didn't think there was anything supernatural about it. Obviously, it was just a purely physiological reality which through discipline you could obtain this effect. But yeah. He was very interested in that. And in some sense, I felt that he was in a kind of perpetual state of meditation because he was someone for whom there was absolutely no seam between his joyful personal life with our family and his work and our work together, that there was no border between those things.
He was, to me, my very biased view, the most fully realized person that I've ever met in that I felt that he was able to manifest his gifts and to be so generous with them because he was a fully alive person. And I've often thought-- I knew his parents very well. They lived with us until their deaths. And I often thought that I wished that I could in some way reproduce their child rearing practices. Because for the most part, you're not a perfect human being, but for the most part, so vividly alive. How is it that the child who is in ever one of us, who has that hunger for information and curiosity and that sort of capacity for wonder-- how was that child not in any way diminished or killed off into his adulthood as it is with so many of us?
AUDIENCE: Have you seen messianic qualities with your son?
ANN DRUYAN: No. [LAUGHS] Let me tell you, my son who is probably taking his written driving test this moment or has probably just finished-- my son is-- see? That's the wonder of life. That's why I love science. And for me, science is my spiritual discipline. Here is this 16-year-old boy who when I look at him, I see Carl, not that he and Carl are indivisible in terms of their personalities. But there's so much of Carl that lives on in him, and it's such a thrill-- and in my daughter as well. Although in my son, my son is tall, slender, black hair, eyelashes out to here. I look at his hands. He has these beautiful long tapered fingers, and I see Carl's hands.
And without believing in anything supernatural, but just the wonder of biology and the wonder that we, when we become as close to another person as we are capable of becoming, that our DNA which goes back three and a half, four billion years, an unbroken thread going back to the very, very first beginnings, the first stirrings of life, that at that moment of rapture with another person, we combine the secret message of life that goes back to the very beginning of life. And another person, another being, or more, or two, come to be. That is the wonder of it, and how I wish that that's what we instilled in our children when they're very small instead of stories, which in a way, are a little bit antithetical to the natural and to nature and the glory of nature. If we told our children the wonder of this amazing reality.
My son, he is not a scientist. He's a great writer, terrific, talented writer, brilliant. But the thing about him, very great sense of humor, witty. He's only 16. People think he's 24. The thing about him is that he has his father's character, that goodness. That really, really is striking, and I don't know-- not messianic. Pretty normal, but a really great kid.
AUDIENCE: Did Carl and the Dalai Lama have any dialogue about the place of faith, that if Carl had such a sense of wonder and awe and was looking for an explanation, where did faith fit in? Because it seemed from listening to what was going on here as well as the little bit I know, that both believed in a rational consciousness. So where does faith fit in to a rational consciousness.
ANN DRUYAN: Well, I wouldn't presume to speak at all for the Dalai Lama, and I wouldn't presume to do that for Carl. But I can tell you that he had absolutely no faith. He had hope. He had optimism. But he believed that faith was antithetical to the values of science.
AUDIENCE: Did they speak about that at all?
ANN DRUYAN: [? He ?] spoke about it quite a bit.
AUDIENCE: No. Together, the two of them.
ANN DRUYAN: Ah! That, they must have. But I kind of think since they both had very much a very similar perspective that it may not have been something they dwelled on because they were probably looking for the places that they didn't agree about because they agreed about so much. And faith wouldn't have been one, Karen I think--
KAREN TRUEHEART: I might be able to say at least something about that. Ted might-- was from [INAUDIBLE]-- might also. In the interview when Carl asked the question about is there any finding of science that would make you say you're not a Buddhist anymore, the Dalai Lama's response then-- and I've seen it in writing as well-- was that even the Buddha said that we should question his teachings, that when you find something that doesn't sit with you, that you should-- in the beginning, it's always best to remain skeptical.
And then you heard him say-- if you heard-- that through inner and outer investigation-- here's where the use of contemplative practices in inner investigation and then outer investigation-- the way is really a scientific method-- you come individually to know what you accept and you believe, but that that is my understanding of one of the foundations of Buddhism. Start out skeptical.
Now, in answer director to where does that leave faith, maybe you start with skeptical faith that there's an answer or a hope that there's an answer. But to come to something really concrete within you, really meaningful, really sustainable within yourself, it requires your dedication, discipline, both an inner and an outer way to come and that even the Buddha's teaching or maybe especially the Buddha's teaching should not be exempt from that inquiry, and to which Carl responded, well, that's a lot like science. So I don't know if that gives you an idea of where faith fits in to the picture, but I do know that that was part of the dialogue and has been part of His Holiness' writings.
ANN DRUYAN: Beautifully said, and I think that's absolutely right, Karen.
AUDIENCE: I just had a curious question. What were Mr. Sagan's views on humanism? Or if that was ever brought up.
ANN DRUYAN: Well, it's funny. He was by all definitions a humanist, but I think he felt that the term humanist was speciesist if I can say that. Just to give you an idea of how broad his identification horizon was-- one of his earliest books, The Cosmic Connection , if you look under chauvinism in the index, the entry is carbon. He was a carbon-based chauvinism. He was a chauvinist about carbon-based life he said. But he truly, truly was not a chauvinist in any other way. And this not only encompassed humanity, but all living things.
So he was a humanist in the sense that he certainly could be categorized through the values of humanism if at all, but he didn't like the phrase. He saw science as a series of great demotions, that going back to Galileo's first look through a telescope, which is not even 400 years ago. I mean, think about the awesome power of the error-correcting mechanism of science-- to go from taking what was a tool that Dutch cloth merchants used to examine the thread count, and in the hands of a genius like Galileo-- to go from that first look through a telescope to see the rings of Saturn.
In 1609 to now, to the Hubble telescope, to educated guesses, which are always subject to revision, but educated guesses about the actual age of the universe and possibly the beginning of approximations of understandings of how it came to be in 400 years-- what power. And so he really believed that it was the methodology of science that had taken us from that first glimpse of Saturn to absolutely an amazing scientific revolution in which we have space craft that are leaving our solar system. How do we figure out how to do that so quickly?
It was that constant searching, a constant ferreting out of all the things that weren't right. And so he applied that to everything. It's a great thing in a marriage actually because if both people are willing just to completely constantly be looking unflinchingly at what is really happening now, what is going on between you, and if there are no holds barred in terms of the searching you're willing to do, there are heights that you can achieve. 10 years, almost 11 years since Carl has died, and still every time I think about our 19 years together, I am filled with wonder, just an amazement.
AUDIENCE: It started me just now thinking about Carl Sagan's life that he was active during this period of just immense excitement about exploration of the universe on the part of Americans in particular and maybe the world as a whole. And while I don't want to say that the excitement is gone, I feel like it's greatly diminished in the way that we think about space now. It just seems so much more-- I don't know-- just cramped and prosaic and just not as big. And I was wondering what your thoughts are on that and whether there is a way maybe to recapture that feeling.
ANN DRUYAN: Oh, what a great question. Well, I completely agree with your assessment, and I think one of the reasons we're in this predicament is that spiritually, we have been through a long great leap backwards. You know how a toddler, two-year-old, leaves the mother's skirts-- so the mother's knees-- and goes out into the world, makes some little quick foray into the world and then comes scrambling back for the safety of the mother? I feel like that's what happened since this.
Part of it is because we've been in an incredibly reactionary period of American history, horrendous in the values that we had 30, 40 years ago, that we have turned our back on and that we have gone backwards. And I don't have to go into any of the details. I know they're all vivid in all of your minds, but that's the fact of it is that we're living in a sad little moment in our history. But it's also true that the pendulum has a tendency to swing back and forth.
And I'm 58. In my lifetime, I've seen the pendulum go back and forth several times. I feel like now we're on a bit of an upswing. And while it's true that we've lost the magical excitement about exploration, in my opinion, to a small degree. It's because we don't have a Carl Sagan right now who can excite people with our oneness with the cosmos. We don't have someone who is both a first rate scientist who has made major scientific traditions but who is also a first rate citizen who is impassioned.
Carl Sagan gets his doctorate from the University of Chicago, gets two doctorates in physics and astronomy, goes off to teach at Harvard. What does he do his first summer? It's 1962, he goes to Tuskegee University in Alabama to teach a course called The Search for Intelligent Life on Earth. Now, this is very early on when a lot of people in this country were not awakened to the horrors of our apartheid society. That's what he did. That's the kind of man that he was.
I know I sound like a broken record, just extolling him, but what I'm saying is that we don't have that kind of passionate leadership which is both so informed that the government cannot make up a bunch of highly technical lies to deceive him or to throw him or her off their balance, so knowledgeable, so able to talk on any subject, but also so passionately ethical and concerned about the state of the planet.
We have good scientists who are able to articulate the kind of work and to give the public, to share with the public, information about the kind of work that they're doing. We certainly have that. We have people who are doing great science, no question. But we haven't really found somebody who's willing to stick his neck out or her neck out at the same time as doing all these other things. And I think that's what we need, is we need someone who is both versed in these arcane arts and sciences, but who is also willing to get into any kind of trouble for the sake of the human future. Thank you so much for honoring me with your time here.
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Religion and science do not have to be at odds. Science, says Ann Druyan, widow of Cornell astronomer Carl Sagan, can communicate with, learn from and even benefit from religion and vice versa.
Druyan, a writer and media producer who collaborated with Sagan for 19 years until his death in 1996, reflects on dialogues in the early 1990s between Sagan and the Dalai Lama. For the first time, film excerpts of the meeting between the two are shown in a public venue.