From my perspective, Carl Sagan has literally brought a revolution in the way people see and understand the world. Although it could be argued that his view on our society is in many ways self-evident, it is the beautiful way in which he can articulate and express this view that is really outstanding and touches not only the mind, but also the “soul” of those who are willing to listen to him. It is highly likely that his perspective on humanity and our place in the universe will leave an important mark on our history, even if this claim may sound farfetched today.

My main argument in this regard is the fact that, in his attempt to popularize science, Sagan has struggled to give meaning to human existence in a way which inspires us to do greater things, things which far surpass our focus on everyday personal achievements. In this way, his view on our place in the universe can give meaning to our lives in a way similar to religion.

I will leave you to him now:

Ever since the first humans walked upon the face of the Earth they have always shown an insatiable desire to know more about themselves and the world around them. A thirst for knowledge as it is often called. This thirst has developed over the millennia and today exists as a structured method, guided by well-defined rules, known as science. Science has taken humanity away from its harsh life only 5 centuries ago and is now universally embraced as a fundamental method of inquiry. However, this is not without its flaws as it will be further shown.

Although this may not seem obvious for everyone, humans actually live in two worlds. One world is the physical world, the world were science originated from, the world of physics, chemistry, astronomy, computer science and the like. The world were the laws are natural laws, completely independent of humanity, and where in fact human existence is dependent on them. For example most of the goods consumed in society are the result of humanity’s understanding and usage of these laws.

The second world is the world of humans. It is a world made up of social constructions like economics, politics and law. A world which is not independent of human existence, in fact it is the creation of humanity. From governments to economic systems and laws, all are products of human endeavours and will always be created and recreated based on what humans see fit. Yet this is where the problem of science arises, because being a universally embraced method it is also used in order to find the fundamental laws that make the world of humanity work (social sciences). Yet, these laws are not natural laws, these are laws created by humans themselves and as history teaches us, they can always change. Applying science in the world of humanity to understand why things are the way they are, is as if a person keeps forgetting the reasons for his or hers decisions and keeps asking himself or herself “why did I do what I did”? By no means is the scientific method useless in humanities (social sciences) but the task it sets to achieve, that is finding an explanation to why things are the way they are, is simply never in reach. Even after decades of research there is little hope for one to find fundamental truths or a certain set of laws, like the laws of gravity in science, on which all social scientists agree. If this is the case, then it must be that something is missing…

It just might be the case that for understanding the human world, something slightly different than the scientific method is needed. Although it may use the same tools, like logical deduction and empirical testing, it may have to look at the world from a different perspective then to simply understand it,  possibility by adding a drop of creativity. The closest analogy to a proper human science can be found in architecture. Where if someone tries to use the scientific method to study for example all the cathedrals in the world, he or she will never find some fundamental law that explain their construction or the factors that determined  each one of them to be different from the other and even if it did, the answer will have little usability for the rest of the world besides being a simple curiosity. This is because the correct approach would be not to understand why cathedrals are made the way they are, but to see how cathedrals can be built, how can they be improved and how can the knowledge used in their construction help in other  architectural projects. The same applies in social sciences, where the goal is not to decipher why we do things the way we do, but how they should be done. How can we make a better constitution, a better economic system, a better international order?  The world of humanity is a construction and social sciences are the art of constructing this world.Catherdal design