Ann Druyan on the Humility of Science

I think that science tolerates the unknown in a way that religion doesn't. My argument is not with people who search for god. My argument is with people who feel that our understanding of god is completed. And those are the people who make so much of our existence on this planet such a hell, because they really think that they have the right to kill other people, to hurt them, because of what they understand god's will to be. That's a very destructive thing.

So science... Science is--the whole methodology of science is saying that we are not permitted these absolute truths that religion pretends to have. That we do not know the answer to these questions. And not only that, but the little that we think we do know, if you can proove us wrong, we'll give you our highest reward, and that's part of the methodology, that's part of the whole functioning of the system itself.

So yes. In answer to what Joanne was saying earlier, scientists do terrible things, scientists have biases. Religious people do terrible things, and they have biases. But absolutely intrinsic to the whole methodology of science is that error-correcting mechanism which says we must never lose sight of that. That's not in religion. That's not present at all.

Talk about humble, the fact that we do science and that we can bring ourselves to see that little tiny Earth in Carolyn's presentation, that is humility.

What science has done for us spiritually, is that it has been the only thing that I know of that has compelled us to ween ourselves of our infantile need for centrality and that was present--that is very much the essence of so many religious formulations of where we come from, why we came to be. It's the sign of mental health that we can bear to think that this planet was perfectly fine for four and a half billion years without us, that cosmic evolution goes on for 13 and a half billion years before we even get here.

How long have we been at science? How long have we systematically been looking at nature? Not even 400 years, and yet science gets us out to Enceladus, it takes us out of the solar system. It enables us to ween ourselves of that spiritual narcicism that compelled us to be at the center of everything. Though, when it comes to humility, when it comes to a tolerance for ambiguity and for the unknown, I think science worships the unknown. I think scientists are most comfortable in that place of not knowing, and that's where they live, and that's the great strength of science.


Arguing that the ability of science to admit what it doesn't know and adapt it thinking to new evidence demonstrates the greatest humility.

Folksonomies: science religion virtue humility

/science (0.681741)
/religion and spirituality (0.439594)
/religion and spirituality/atheism and agnosticism (0.330973)

science (0.918898 (positive:0.078278)), terrible things (0.732255 (negative:-0.610081)), little tiny Earth (0.598193 (neutral:0.000000)), greatest humility (0.507459 (positive:0.716359)), Ann Druyan (0.407378 (positive:0.716359)), Science Arguing (0.401069 (positive:0.716359)), new evidence (0.397825 (positive:0.716359)), people (0.392055 (positive:0.214970)), destructive thing (0.388762 (negative:-0.811275)), highest reward (0.368857 (positive:0.359304)), absolute truths (0.368514 (negative:-0.548711)), infantile need (0.351529 (negative:-0.273840)), spiritual narcicism (0.348365 (negative:-0.550441)), science worships (0.335558 (negative:-0.237628)), mental health (0.332575 (positive:0.526957)), cosmic evolution (0.330569 (neutral:0.000000)), great strength (0.327431 (positive:0.545437)), religious formulations (0.325918 (neutral:0.000000)), Religious people (0.309491 (negative:-0.664402)), methodology (0.270685 (negative:-0.243927)), unknown (0.239715 (negative:-0.346344)), god (0.231422 (positive:0.303693)), biases (0.209726 (negative:-0.413602)), scientists (0.202528 (negative:-0.478632))

Ann Druyan:Person (0.806176 (positive:0.716359)), solar system:FieldTerminology (0.694255 (neutral:0.000000)), Joanne:Person (0.670363 (neutral:0.000000)), Carolyn:Person (0.654033 (neutral:0.000000)), billion years:Quantity (0.654033 (neutral:0.000000)), 400 years:Quantity (0.654033 (neutral:0.000000))

Truth (0.956389): dbpedia | freebase
Religion (0.946682): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Critical thinking (0.923660): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc | yago
Spirituality (0.863303): dbpedia | freebase
Solar System (0.811322): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Human (0.707738): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Science (0.688012): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
English-language films (0.664844): dbpedia

 Beyond Belief: Science, Reason, Religion & Survival » Session 4
Proceedings of Meetings and Symposia>Conference Session:  Druyan , Ann and Ramachandran, V.S. (November 5, 2006), Beyond Belief: Science, Reason, Religion & Survival » Session 4, The Science Network, Retrieved on 2011-05-18
  • Source Material []
  • Folksonomies: enlightenment science religion skepticism