Thursday, January 10, 2013

Sagan's Blunder

But tenets at the heart of religion can be tested scientifically. This in itself makes some religious bureaucrats and believers wary of science. Is the Eucharist, as the Church teaches, in fact and not just as productive metaphor, the flesh of Jesus Christ, or is it, chemically, microscopically and in other ways, just a wafer handed to you by a priest? Will the world be destroyed at the end of the 52-year Venus cycle unless humans are sacrificed to the g o d s ? Does the occasional uncircumcised Jewish man fare worse than his co-religionists who abide by the ancient covenant in which God demands a piece of foreskin from every male worshipper? Are there humans populating innumerable other planets, as the Latter Day Saints teach? Were whites created from blacks by a mad scientist, as the Nation of Islam asserts? Would the Sun indeed not rise if the Hindu sacrificial rite is omitted (as we are assured would be the case in the Satapatha Brahmana)?
 Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World (1997), p. 262

I don't know anything about the Eucharist or the Hindu sacrificial rite beyond what Wikipedia can tell me. Circumcision, however I do know. Judaeus sum, judaici nihil a me alienium puto, as Shadal said. And that's how I know that Carl got it wrong. As far as I know, circumcision is not supposed to make the circumcised fare better in life. He would have had a bone to pick with mezuzot, or better yet, amulets themselves. But circumcision? Where did he get that from?

And if he didn't do his homework on this one, can I still rely on what he says about the others?


  1. Not to say that Sagan was infallible, but since Genesis 17:14 claims that one who is not circumcised will be smitten by Kareis, we may expect uncircumcised Jews to fare worse than circumcised Jews.

    1. Your assumption for your interpretation of kares does not have sufficient basis.