The Christian Worldview versus the Naturalism Worldview and Carl Sagan

From Chuck Colson and Nancy Pearcey’s book “How Now Shall We Live”. 

“If you live according to a certain worldview but keep bumping up against reality in painful ways, you can be sure something is wrong with the worldview.  It fails to reflect reality accurately. 

Let’s apply this test to the naturalistic worldview of the well-known science popularizer Carl Sagan.  Sagan literally canonized the cosmos, openly plugging his personal philosophy on his popular television program.  And far from repudiating this transformation of science into religion, the scientific establishment richly rewarded him, even awarding him the National Academy of Science’s Public Welfare Medal in 1994. 

One consequence of Sagan’s religion of the cosmos was that he was actively committed to the cause of animal rights.  And quite logically so.  For if humans evolved from the beasts, there can be no intrinsic difference between them.  It would be just as cruel and immoral to kill a cow as to murder a person.  “In my writings,” Sagan said in a Parade magazine article, “I have tried to show how closely related we are to other animals, how cruel it is to gratuitously inflict pain on them.  As a result, he was adamantly opposed to using animals for medical research.  For if animals have the same value as humans, how can we justify expending their lives to save humans? 

But on this issue, Sagan bumped up against reality in a very painful way.  In 1994, he discovered that he had myelodysplasia, a rare blood disease.  With possibly just months to live, he was told that his only chance for survival was an experimental bone-marrow transplant.  But there was one catch: The procedure that might save his life had been developed by research on animals –the kind of research Sagan passionately opposed. 

Sagan faced an excruciatingly dilemma: Should he remain true to his naturalistic philosophy and reject the marrow graft as something acquired by immoral means?  Or should he agree to undergo the medical treatment in hope of saving his life, though it meant acting in contradiction to his moral convictions? 

Sagan didn’t take long to reach a decision: He underwent three bone-marrow treatments, which did extend his life for a time (though he ultimately succumbed to the disease and died in 1996).  At the time Sagan wrote the Parade article, he was still, in his words “very conflicted” over the choice he had made.  He recognized clearly that his decision to accept the treatment was a practical denial of his naturalistic worldview.  But when he came up against reality, he abandoned his naturalistic road map and, whether he admitted it or not, implicitly shifted to the biblical road map, which say humans do have value transcending that of plants and animals. 

Christianity is not merely a religion, defined narrowly as personal piety and corporate worship.  It is also an objective perspective on all reality, a complete worldview.  Only Christianity consistently stands up to the test of practical living.  Only Christianity gives us an accurate road map.  Only Christianity matches the way we must act if we are to live humanely and rationally in the real world.”  

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