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The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God

4.3 of 5 stars 4.30  ·  rating details  ·  5,582 ratings  ·  327 reviews
On the 10th anniversary of his death, brilliant astrophysisist and Pulitzer Prize winner Carl Sagan's prescient exploration of the relationship between religion and science and his personal search for God.

Carl Sagan is considered one of the greatest scientific minds of our time. His remarkable ability to explain science in terms easily understandable to the layman in bes
Hardcover, 284 pages
Published November 2nd 2006 by Penguin Press HC, The (first published 2006)
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A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill BrysonA Brief History of Time by Stephen HawkingCosmos by Carl SaganThe Selfish Gene by Richard DawkinsGuns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
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Another reviewer made a comment about this book being safe for those types that believe in big G to read, that it wouldn't offend. I think that reviewer may have read a different version of this book. Sagan casually lobs out atheism grenades to dismantle a whole slew of arguments in favor of whatever you'd like to call that omniscient, omnipotent, prime mover in the sky but he does it so politely and without necessarily pointing out that he is pulling apart entire proofs with just ...more
Where should I begin? A little over two years ago I watched the entire Cosmos television series on Netflix and - despite the fact I've always been scientifically literate and tried to live my day to day life with a healthy dose of skepticism, logic and reason - this television series rocked me to my core.

I am not exaggerating when I tell people Carl Sagan changed my life. Never before had I experienced such depth of personal character and scientific knowledge. Never before had I witnessed such
This is the first book of Carl Sagan's that I've read, and I think it's probably the perfect bridge for me between my science books and the books on religion (or atheism) that I've read.

I have seen Cosmos and found it remarkably ahead of its time, and the same is true for what Carl had lectured on at the Gifford Lectures, from which this book is transcribed. Always ahead of his time, and always showing amazing grasp of the topic at hand, the book is both funny and astonishing. Even though much
Katherine Parker
Carl Sagan rules the Universe, kind of literally. I wish I were as smart as CS.

Eric got me this book for Christmas, and I read it straight through, even the Q&A transcripts in the back. If you are interested in spirituality but don't believe in the Big Daddy in the Sky, if our mere existence (not to mention manatees, ferns, toads, the molten core of the earth, and billions and billions of stars) makes you sorta awestruck when you pause to think about it, this book will not fail to delight. I
Daniel Villines
Aug 01, 2012 Daniel Villines rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Daniel by: Jamie
Imagine that at some long ago point in human history, a human first looked at her hand, and knew for certain that that hand was her very own. And from there she would look at things, think about how things worked, and put things together in order to survive and ultimately to thrive.

Now imagine some distant point in the future. Where will we be? It’s impossible to say but the possibilities, if made simple enough, are clear. We will either be alive and thriving, or we will not be anywhere at all.

This book is a collection of the lectures Sagan gave during his Gifford Lectures appointment in Glasglow. Although he gave the lectures in 1985, they needed very little updating (done with minimal footnotes) upon their publication in 2006. I think the only thing I noticed that is irrelevant now is Sagan's musings about whether or not the universe is forever expanding, and the implications of a universe that expands and contracts (a footnote helpfully reveals that evidence now shows a rapidly exp ...more
The Varieties of Scientific Experience is a transcript of Carl Sagan's presentation of the Gifford Lectures.

While each lecture is self contained, the come together as a whole - each obliquely addressing questions about man's place in the universe, basic science, the relationship of rational inquiry to religion, and the implications of belief in extraterrestrial life.

Here, Sagan is presented in his typical form. He is at once witty, understandable, profound, and compassionate.

Of particular inte
Sagan quietly states in the middle of a sobering paragraph that "God is the sum of all natural laws in the universe." Yes, Sagan challenges the faithful to provide evidence acceptable to him (which is nothing less than a phenomenon observed and replicated by many), and his demand is contrary to the law of faith. However, Sagan's challenge motivates me to undertake careful inventory of my own knowledge, both secular and religious, to substantiate my personal beliefs. In the near future, I hope to ...more
Feb 20, 2008 John rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Dorks
Recommended to John by: Alece
An absolutely positive mindfuck, built as you know Carl Sagan would build a book of his own essays. I particularly liked the section in the back where he's transcribed the post-lecture questions and well-fielded answers. You'll be entirely entertained and interested, guaranteed.

The book is not solely about God, it's also about (other) extraterrestrial intelligence and many other interrelated fields. Also, Sagan's not one tenth so vehement an atheist as Dawkins, and potential readers afraid of le
transcribed from his 1985 gifford lectures in glasgow, carl sagan's the varieties of scientific experience is an intrepid, erudite, and remarkably lucid examination of the universe, cosmology, extraterrestrial intelligence, religion, god, nuclear warfare, and humanity's future. sagan's prose is frequently breathtaking and his ability to succinctly convey and richly illustrate ideas is utterly enchanting.

published ten years after his death in 1996 (and edited by his widow, ann druyan), the variet
Carl Sagan was one of the best at taking an exceptionally complex issue, often fraught with emotional and intuitional baggage, and rendering it into language that anyone can easily understand. He was also extremely generous in allowing that in any discussion of science or religion, no one, not even he, has all the answers, or maybe ever will.

This book is a transcript of a series of lectures he gave at Glasgow University, dealing with natural religion, which basically deals with the intersection
ეს არის სეიგანის მიერ ედინბურგში ჩატარებული ჯიფორდის 1985 წლის ლექციები, რომელიც სეიგანის მეუღლემ ენ დრიანმა 2006 წელს გამოსცა მისი სიკვდილიდან 10 წლის თავზე.
ლექციების თემები მრავალფეროვანია: მეცნიერება, რელიგია, ღმერთი, სკეპტიციზმი, უხო ცივილიზაციები, პოლიტიკა, სიცოცხლე, ბირთვული საშიშროება და ა.შ. თუმცა სეიგანის გამოკვეთილი მესიჯი რომელიც ყველა თემაში ვლინდება არის სკეპტიციზმის და ფხიზელი გონების აუცილებლობა, რომლის გარეშეც თანამედროვე ეპოქაში დიდ გამოწვევებს და საშიშროებებს ვერ გავუმკლავდებით
Well, I do wish everyone would read this book. I know that those with minds that are closed - whether known or not or willingly or not - would still not respond to the arguments that Sagan makes, but it might make a difference for those who are willing to take inquiry seriously. Sagan was a genius, but it was his ability to communicate to the masses that made him historical.

Throughout his lectures, he evokes the wisdom of others --

From the intro: "he insisted with Bertrand Russell that 'what is
Ziqi Wang
Containing entrancing prose with beautifully formatted pictures, the book is comprised of a series of lectures Sagan gave at the University of Glasgow in the eighties, but reads like a continuous work (hats off to Ann Druyan's editing), and contains some Q and A's in the back. I read this a couple of months back, and the conversational passages Sagan penned still resonate in the back of my mind. This book, much like his others, begin with the classic Sagan treatment--pulling you back, back, back ...more
It is so refreshing to finally finish a book. Since my life as an adult has begun (post-college), finishing a book is an increasingly rare event. I currently am on a science kick to such a degree that I have found myself wondering if I ought to go back to school and get an undergraduate degree in biology. Why? Just for fun. Anyway, this book is a book of recorded lectures that Sagan gave in Britain--something called the Gifford Lectures, which are probably prestigious. Anyway, they concern scien ...more
Charlie Wilkins
These are the collected Gifford Hall lectures that Carl Sagan delivered in 1985. There's all the usual stuff about the need for healthy skepticism, as well as a brief tour of the various phenomenon involved in the creation of astronomical bodies, but the key thing I came away from this book with, is that Carl Sagan has found that the pursuit of science, the pursuit of real understanding about the natural world to be even more spiritually satisfying and profound than the mundane religions and fai ...more
This is a must-read for Carl Sagan fans. I love his optimism and open-mindedness, as well as his refusal to accept unsupported beliefs just because they might make us feel better. Today's popularizers of science and skepticism (Richard Dawkins, et al) are saying a lot of the same things, but Sagan had a gift for tempering uncompromising skepticism with an empathy for believers that didn't require them to feel like chumps. He personified the free and responsible search for truth and meaning. I wi ...more
Stefany GG
Me gusta cuando transcriben las conferencias de los grandes pensadores a modo de libro, de esta forma están a tu alcance y te permiten formar parte de ellas aunque no estuviste ahí.

Carl Sagan fue un gran visionario y siempre quiso difundir el conocimiento y la curiosidad como un modo a partir del cual podemos hacernos una mente crítica y valorar lo importante que es indagar más sobre las cosas, formando un entendimiento basado en la ciencia y una continua búsqueda de la verdad. Hace observacion
Jason , etc.
This is easily the best exploration of the relationship between science and religion I've ever read and, given the pedigree of the explorer and his current state (dead), likely a very difficult one to top.

Now, one fairly common refrain that I've seen from people less enamored with the content is that he appears dismissive toward the concept of religion. I understand the beef, but I think Mr. Sagan is less dismissive of belief than with the way it's sold. He picks apart the arguments for the exi
the following quote best represents this excellent read:

"... What we need is a honing of the skills of explanation, of dialogue, of what used to be called logic and rhetoric and what used to be essential to every college education, a honing of the skills of compassion, which, just like intellectual abilities, need practice to be perfected. If we are to understand another's belief, then we must also understand the deficiencies and inadequacies of our own. And those deficiencies and inadequacies a
Michael Scott
[Although I finished this book about a month ago, I decided to let its message sink in before this review. After all, I've added this book on my read list since Dec 2008. To spoil this review: I loved it.]

The Varieties of Scientific Experience is a book about science viewed as "everything about the world not supplied by revelation". Many books have been written on this topic, that is, of science as the complement or even supplement of religion, from the most playful (Surely You're Joking Mr. Fey
Nov 04, 2008 Daniella rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Angela; anyone interested in the correllations/differences between science and religion
Recommended to Daniella by: No one
Vonnegut summarized this book far better than I ever could when he said:

"Find here a major fraction of this stunningly valuable legacy left to all of us by a great human being. I miss him so."

As do I.

The Varieties of Scientific Experience is largely a transcription of Professor Sagan's (and he truly deserves that title) 1985 Gifford Lectures, which may sound, to the uninitiated, rather dry and uninteresting. However, as I read this book I found myself wholly engrossed, as if he was speaking dire
In 1985, Carl Sagan gave the Gifford Lectures on Natural Theology in Scotland. His wife, Ann Druyan, found the transcripts, together with Sagan's notes for a book he had hoped to write with her about a synthesis of the spiritual perspectives they had derived from the revelations of science. Druyan, noting that William James turned his own Gifford lectures into his famous and influential book, The Varieties of Religious Experience, collected and edited Sagan's Gifford lectures, and titled the boo ...more
I was drawn to this book because I had read William James' The Varieties of Religious Experience years ago. And the title indeed was based on James' title, each book being a series of lectures given as the Gifford Lectures on Natural Religion at the University of Edinburgh.

Carl Sagan never really spells out what he believes about God. This is something everyone must discover for himself. Sagan gives us a set of tools for baloney detection which will work for every subject we come across. He spe
Plamen H.

Не твърдя, че съм изчел всяка точка и запетайка, родили се в съзнанието на Карл Сейгън. Но твърдя, че съм чел достатъчен процент от книгите, които е написал, за да мога с право да кажа, че рядко се раждат подобни хора. Пардон, рядко израстват подобни хора. На които системата не е притъпила и удушила вътрешното чувство за добра воля и желанието да се задават неудобни въпроси, относно различните парадигми, в които живеем.
За разлика от повечето му творби, ко
I enjoyed the survey of Sagan's thought presented in Varieties thoroughly. As ever, Sagan gently and compellingly presents his poetically scientific view of the universe. While there were no surprises here —no message that can't be found elaborated upon in Sagan's other works —I found this book unique for two reasons.

First, Sagan's audience is made up of at least as many theologians as scientists. The book collects his Gifford lectures, whose premise is to discuss "natural theology" —the ways in
My copy of this stays loaned out about ten months out of the year, so whenever it falls back into my hands for a week or two I’m practically duty-bound to eat it up as quick as I can.

Verdict: best as ever. If you read this book and don’t have some fundamental opinions changed, then we’ll probably be friends because you hold them in the first place.

Also, I always forget (though probably no longer, writing something down has a way of solving that problem) that Kurt Vonnegut is the only blurb for
Sep 25, 2009 Rhesa marked it as to-read
Shelves: science
I think all serious Christians must read this book, in my opinion, Sagan is a humble, honest & warm agnostic. This book is derived from his Gifford lecture. Here he explains & argues why science finds it hard to believe in a personal benevolant God. For him, if God is defined as the governing order of the universe, which is the law of astrophysics, then He will bow his head in adoration.

I find this book stimulating, it delivers a deep looking into the universe and then forming ideas abo
a remarkably humble, accessible and inspiring insight into the nature of the universe. Carl Sagan was a man who truly embodied the importance and virtue of science moving into a post-god world. His passion and love for science is wonderfully captured in these chapters, and made me feel a deep sense of remorse for my wilful resistance to physics and chemistry during my own schooling days.
In the land of platitudes and prophets, here is the real thing: an American hero. How tragic they we need to resort to Sagan's 1985 Gifford Lectures for a sober analysis of man's continual search (and redefinition) of his place in the universe. Avoiding the distracting (although admittedly funny) polemics of the "New Atheists" Sagan wrestles with God and green men alike, considering the likelihood of each with the same equanimity that he gives to all natural phenomena. No, it's not his most ambi ...more
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in 1934, scientist Carl Sagan was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. After earning bachelor and master's degrees at Cornell, Sagan earned a double doctorate at the University of Chicago in 1960. He became professor of astronomy and space science and director of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies at Cornell University, and co-founder of the Planetary Society. A great popularizer of science, Sagan produced th ...more
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