“A religion 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 traditional faiths. Sooner or later, such a religion will emerge.”
-- Carl Sagan --
In an insightful interview in EnlightenNext magazine, husband-and-wife research team, Joel Primack and Nancy Ellen Abrams (coauthors of The View From the Center of the Universe) make a strong case for the need for a new cosmocentric religion that takes into account all that we now know of the universe, from the smallest quark to the dark energy that appears to fuel the cosmos. Such a religion is an imperative, they note, if humanity as a species is to take advantage of the unique circumstances in which we find ourselves at this singular point in the history of the cosmos.
"The experiment of intelligent life is (now) giving the universe its own way of looking at itself," Abrams notes. "All of us together—we and any intelligent aliens that might be out there—we are the consciousness of the universe. We are the way the universe reflects on itself, and without us, the universe is utterly meaningless and will forever be meaningless. A beautiful planet could be here with animals and plants, but the whole thing would be meaningless. Those environmentalists who imagine this planet from their point of view as a pristine beautiful Eden are giving the planet meaning. Without us, no one’s going to be imagining that."
"(W)e’re in an extraordinary position from the point of view of human meaning," says Abrams, "because we’re now at a place where we can satisfy this deep need to understand ourselves as central to the universe. We can make it scientifically rigorous and accurate at the same time. That’s what has never been possible before. That’s what we really need to develop now."
"Throughout all of history," she notes, "people have needed to experience their place in the universe because it gave them grounding, made them feel that their lives were real and that they mattered. It was the basis of their various religions. We still are the same kind of people. We really do need meaning. And we need meaning that is grounded in the best picture of reality available to us in our time. Now, for the first time, we have a new picture of reality, and our meaning has to be grounded in that."
"We can experience the entire universe spiritually if we realize that . . . what spiritual means is experiencing our connection to the cosmos," Abrams points out. "That is all it means; it has nothing to do with anything supernatural. The universe itself is so much grander than anyone imagined. If we even attempt to feel that we’re part of it, that is a spiritual action."
"Basically," says Primack, "the bottom line is that you never find meaning without looking at the big picture. You can’t understand what a little piece of a picture means until you see the big picture; you see how the little piece fits in. Cosmology is the biggest picture we have. It can help us find meaning by letting us see ourselves as part of a grand story."
"The amazing thing," Abrams points out, "is we have this opportunity right when the world is falling apart. There are a lot of people who are scared of these ideas. They’re scared partly because they feel they can’t understand the science. We have to understand how the universe works and make our spirituality as real as possible. The whole idea of trying to spend your life understanding your spiritual connection to the universe but not having any interest in how the universe actually works seems to me absolutely bizarre. We need to be coherent beings. That’s how it’s going to matter."