The Fire Breathing Dragon in My Garage

Discussion in 'Comparative Studies' started by Vajradhara, Sep 28, 2005.

  1. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    Namaste all,

    The Dragon In My Garage
    [size=+0]by
    Carl Sagan[/size]


    "A fire-breathing dragon lives in my garage"


    [size=-1]Suppose (I'm following a group therapy approach by the psychologist Richard Franklin) I seriously make such an assertion to you. Surely you'd want to check it out, see for yourself. There have been innumerable stories of dragons over the centuries, but no real evidence. What an opportunity![/size]

    [size=-1]"Show me," you say. I lead you to my garage. You look inside and see a ladder, empty paint cans, an old tricycle--but no dragon.[/size]

    [size=-1]"Where's the dragon?" you ask.[/size]

    [size=-1]"Oh, she's right here," I reply, waving vaguely. "I neglected to mention that she's an invisible dragon."[/size]

    [size=-1]You propose spreading flour on the floor of the garage to capture the dragon's footprints.[/size]

    [size=-1]"Good idea," I say, "but this dragon floates in the air."[/size]

    [size=-1]Then you'll use an infrared sensor to detect the invisible fire.[/size]

    [size=-1]"Good idea, but the invisible fire is also heatless."[/size]

    [size=-1]You'll spray-paint the dragon and make her visible.[/size]

    [size=-1]"Good idea, but she's an incorporeal dragon and the paint won't stick."[/size]

    [size=-1]And so on. I counter every physical test you propose with a special explanation of why it won't work.[/size]

    [size=-1]Now, what's the difference between an invisible, incorporeal, floating dragon who spits heatless fire and no dragon at all? If there's no way to disprove my contention, no conceivable experiment that would count against it, what does it mean to say that my dragon exists? Your inability to invalidate my hypothesis is not at all the same thing as proving it true. Claims that cannot be tested, assertions immune to disproof are veridically worthless, whatever value they may have in inspiring us or in exciting our sense of wonder. What I'm asking you to do comes down to believing, in the absence of evidence, on my say-so.[/size]

    [size=-1]The only thing you've really learned from my insistence that there's a dragon in my garage is that something funny is going on inside my head. You'd wonder, if no physical tests apply, what convinced me. The possibility that it was a dream or a hallucination would certainly enter your mind. But then, why am I taking it so seriously? Maybe I need help. At the least, maybe I've seriously underestimated human fallibility.[/size]

    [size=-1]Imagine that, despite none of the tests being successful, you wish to be scrupulously open-minded. So you don't outright reject the notion that there's a fire-breathing dragon in my garage. You merely put it on hold. Present evidence is strongly against it, but if a new body of data emerge you're prepared to examine it and see if it convinces you. Surely it's unfair of me to be offended at not being believed; or to criticize you for being stodgy and unimaginative-- merely because you rendered the Scottish verdict of "not proved."[/size]

    [size=-1]Imagine that things had gone otherwise. The dragon is invisible, all right, but footprints are being made in the flour as you watch. Your infrared detector reads off-scale. The spray paint reveals a jagged crest bobbing in the air before you. No matter how skeptical you might have been about the existence of dragons--to say nothing about invisible ones--you must now acknowledge that there's something here, and that in a preliminary way it's consistent with an invisible, fire-breathing dragon.[/size]

    [size=-1]Now another scenario: Suppose it's not just me. Suppose that several people of your acquaintance, including people who you're pretty sure don't know each other, all tell you that they have dragons in their garages--but in every case the evidence is maddeningly elusive. All of us admit we're disturbed at being gripped by so odd a conviction so ill-supported by the physical evidence. None of us is a lunatic. We speculate about what it would mean if invisible dragons were really hiding out in garages all over the world, with us humans just catching on. I'd rather it not be true, I tell you. But maybe all those ancient European and Chinese myths about dragons weren't myths at all.[/size] [size=-1]Gratifyingly, some dragon-size footprints in the flour are now reported. But they're never made when a skeptic is looking. An alternative explanation presents itself. On close examination it seems clear that the footprints could have been faked. Another dragon enthusiast shows up with a burnt finger and attributes it to a rare physical manifestation of the dragon's fiery breath. But again, other possibilities exist. We understand that there are other ways to burn fingers besides the breath of invisible dragons. Such "evidence"--no matter how important the dragon advocates consider it--is far from compelling. Once again, the only sensible approach is tentatively to reject the dragon hypothesis, to be open to future physical data, and to wonder what the cause might be that so many apparently sane and sober people share the same strange delusion.[/size]

    metta,

    ~v
     
  2. lunamoth

    lunamoth Episcopalian

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    Even more maddening, at times there are mass sightings of the dragon, many who witness it get dragons in their garage, although some still say it was just a trick or mass hysteria. And people who were staunch skeptics of the dragon sometimes open their garage door and, what do you know, it's there.

    But, to counterbalance, there are always some who once swore they too had dragons in their garage, but now, alas the dragon is gone. And some have invisible pink unicorns, instead.

    I liked Carl Sagan. I only got to hear him speak once, but it was not one of his best talks. Can't really even remember what he said. :( Nevertheless, he turned many people on to science and stirred the imaginations, and scientific creativity, of more than one generation.

    Plus, I LOVE the move Contact. :)

    lunamoth
     
  3. dauer

    dauer Active Member

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    I've seen this one before. Good one. Excellent reminder not to believe in our own images of God. Thanks.

    Dauer
     
  4. iBrian

    iBrian Peace, Love and Unity Admin

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    I do think the problem with the Sagan example is that it works with a rather caricatured perception of God, and from a perception that fails to appreciate the subject matter being addressed.

    This is perhaps highlighted by associating the dragon with other abstract conceptualisations, such as "time", "love", and "theory".

    The problem is especially acute when the Dragon is seen to be completely apart from the garage - but what if the Dragon made the garage, or else the Dragon is the garage?

    Good discussion topic, though. :)
     
  5. bananabrain

    bananabrain awkward squadnik

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    good point, brian. especially if the dragon used to be around all the time, but nowadays doesn't reveal itself to people, because if it did they'd put it in a zoo rather than let it carry on being a dragon.

    b'shalom

    bananabrain
     
  6. Awaiting_the_fifth

    Awaiting_the_fifth Where is my mind?

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    I do not think that this is a good analogy for God (which I assume it is intended to be).

    The concept of God can be used to explain a great deal, such as creation and the meaning of life. If we had no knowledge of God, someone would think of him as a solution to these big questions and the concept of God could be born.

    The invisible fire breathing dragons seem to serve no logical purpose, so there is no reason for the human mind to create them, so where did the belief in said dragons come from? If we are not imagining them for some subconsious, philosophical reason, then the probability is that they are real and we are percieving them on some level.

    So my conclusion would have to be that it makes more sense to believe in the invisible, firebreathing dragon than to believe in God
     
  7. DrewJMore

    DrewJMore Logical Demonstrator

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    /*mocking tone

    I LOVE Sagan's writing.
    He opened up my mind.
    Contact was such a blessing of a film: in affirmed my faith.

    There is no such thing as an invisible dragon!
    That's stoopid!
    I dare to you to prove that there is!

    mocking tone*/

    Sagan, as an atheist, was diplomatic to a fault. His writing allowed the faithful to access much of his thinking, without immediately abandoning their own. However he maintained that there are no such things as gods; to believe otherwise is, at best, a wasteful distraction and, at worst, a dangerous mistake. I tell you a fire-breathing dragon created the universe; prove me wrong and win a prize.
     
  8. Iyad

    Iyad New Member

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    You have to understand that if proving god was similar to proving a mathematical theory then there would be no "Faith" involved in this proccess... Only people denying it would be stupid people :)

    Faith is the core of this... If God wanted us to know by hard undeniable evidence that he's out there he would've done so... oh wait he did and they are called Angels... they accept God cuz they have no other choice... they just do.

    We on the other hand, have a choice in accepting God or not and this is exactly what we will be rewarded for...Free Will Decisions...

    Can someone prove to you with a pen and paper that there is a God? Don't count on that... Can you at somepoint experience the faith that we have? Maybe. At any rate we make Decisions using our Free Will. That's what makes us humanbeings...

    You have to remember that when God did perform miracles in the old days (Splitting of the sea for Moses (S) and his people) it only took them a few days afterwards to warship the caf... Even that didn't help much! (I know that you don't believe that, but for us who do, even that much of a miracle didn't helpwith the faith...) Faith is hard;y learned by miracles or by scientific experiments... If it was they would've called it proof.... they don't! They call it faith for a reason! I hope you someday get one :)

    Were you ever scared to death of some situation? didn't you feel like you wanted to call upon someone (not the cups lol)?

    All ways path to God
     
  9. Awaiting_the_fifth

    Awaiting_the_fifth Where is my mind?

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    But even if we knew for certain that he was "Out There" we would still have the choice of whether to follow him and worship him or not. I for one would not. In my opinion, if he is real, he is cruel and has a terrible sense of humour.

    Of course there will always be situations when we wish we had someone to rely upon, someone to trust in and feel safe, but to convert this into an actual belief is called wishhfull thinking.
     
  10. Popeyesays

    Popeyesays New Member

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    One man's wushful thinking is another's faith. Free will is a concept. To say that "There is no God" is yet another form of wishful thinking.

    One cannot prove empirically that God exists. Neither can one prove empirically He does not.

    To set up one's own belief and enshrine it is what my faith refers to as "vain imaginations" and "idle fancy". That can be seductive.

    In my estimation it as much a vain imagination to see the absence of God as truth allowing us to do what we will without concern - all is illusion anyway is it not? Then the choice of doing no harm to others is one way to appear superior to another.

    It is also an idle fancy to see myself as a piece of God. Again it is seductive to see judgement for my actions as immaterial because I am God anyway.

    If there is a Creator, He appears to make demands upon us. I remember an old book by Phillip Jose Farmer in which all of mankind is resurrected on the banks of a world spanning river because an advanced race feels we need to pursue our salvation. In a dream before waking one of the characters is visited by God and old man with a walking stick, who prods him in the ribs and says: "Come on sir! Get up! You owe for the flesh."

    Mr. Sagan's view of the dragon in the garage makes an interesting story, but it is yet another version of the agnostic argument demanding proof for the existence of God. They won't get it. And the story won't prove the absence of God either.

    Regards,
    Scott
     
  11. Iyad

    Iyad New Member

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    I don't think this is a realistic statement. You mean to tell me that if you knew for a fact that there is a God out there who would reward or punish you based on your judgement, you would choose not to accept him? Even if that means eternal anguish and torture? That's doesn't seem to be a sane decision :)
    I think it's only possible to say that, cuz you don't really accept God's existence, but if you knew he's out there you probably would not choose to burn in eternal hell... Just my opinion :)

    Hey, you didn't choose your mom & dad... you didn't even choose to be born!
    We humans have some guts demanding our "personal" plan to be in place... something that would "make sense"... You were not asked how youl'd want your life to be... It was designed for you... If thinking that all of the above just happened due to the "game theory" makes more sense to you than thinking that there is a "Creator" who created and who maintains this world... then it's really "your choice" :)
     
  12. Popeyesays

    Popeyesays New Member

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    Hope of reward and fear of punishment should not enter into it.
    From my sacred scriptures:
    "WORSHIP thou God in such wise that if thy worship lead thee to the fire, no alteration in thine adoration would be produced, and so likewise if thy recompense should be paradise. Thus and thus alone should be the worship which befitteth the one True God. Shouldst thou worship Him because of fear, this would be unseemly in the sanctified Court of His presence, and could not be regarded as an act by thee dedicated to the Oneness of His Being. Or if thy gaze should be on paradise, and thou shouldst worship Him while cherishing such a hope, thou wouldst make God's creation a partner with Him, notwithstanding the fact that paradise is desired by men.
    Fire and paradise both bow down and prostrate themselves before God. That which is worthy of His Essence is to worship Him for His sake, without fear of fire, or hope of paradise.
    Although when true worship is offered, the worshipper is delivered from the fire, and entereth the paradise of God's good-pleasure, yet such should not be the motive of his act. However, God's favour and grace ever flow in accordance with the exigencies of His inscrutable wisdom."
    (The Bab, Selections from the Writings of the Bab, p. 77)
     
  13. Awaiting_the_fifth

    Awaiting_the_fifth Where is my mind?

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    Popeyesays,

    You are quite right, I will not categorically say that there is no God, all I am saying is that a desire for God to exist is not enough to believe that God exists. I also agree that reward or punishment should not enter into it.

    and Iyad,

    I most certainly would not follow him even if he revealed himself to me unless he gave me a damn good explanation of some of the things that go on on earth. I suppose that after I died and I was buring in hell I would probably regret my decision, but a God who would use such methods to convince me to worship him would be even less likely to recieve my worship.

    Personally, I have no more reason to accept God than I have to accept the Invisible Firebreathing Dragon or my preffered deity, her magnificence the Invisible Pink Unicorn. Having said that, I understand that many other people have found reason to accept God and would no doubt argue that there is no reason to accept the Buddha Dharma as I do.
     
  14. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    heh!

    no doubt about it.. dragons do love to fly and resent being contained in chains.

    metta,

    ~v
     
  15. pohaikawahine

    pohaikawahine Elder Member

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    in my culture we would say that dragons exist because we are the dragons .... they are merely symbols of the spiralling energy that moves within the human body up the spinal column into the brain to open us to visions and revelations .... the hawaiian word for dragon is "mo'o" and it is an important element in words such as "mo'owini" (a vision), "mo'olio" (our pathway), "mo'olelo" (our history and traditions) and also "mo'oku'auhau" (our genealogy chants) ..... we also have "mo'owahine" (dragon woman) and a whole legend around her sacredness .... but in the end, even these are simply reminders about a more basic sense of movement, that of the spiralling energy within .... call it kundalini, or dragon energy, or snake energy .... whatever, all the same just different names ..... we need more dragon masters in this world, those ready to protect the dragons and their history ..... in reality, to remember who we are .... hmmmmmm and let's not forget the tales of king arthur and the pendragon clan .... ohhhh and a grandchild in hawaiian is called "mo'opuna" and my grandson's nickname is "mo'o" little dragon ..... so there are dragons all around us but they remain invisible until we are ready to see them ..... just my few thoughts on the topic .... he mo'o au, poh
     
  16. earl

    earl ?

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    Indeed, Brian. The panentheistic view wherein an individual is mysteriously made up/out of "God" yet not comprising "God," might say that we cannot see "God" both because it is the very essence of us and because it far exceeds our "part" in it\the "part" cannot see the "Whole." Perhaps metaphorically we are as individual cells in the body of God-God the force that brought the cell into its being and subtly guides/directs its movements in growth & integration of the whole. Of course, both physics and Buddhism might assert no thing really exists. Afterall everything is made up not only of constituent, impermanent forces, processes and material but within the atoms of everything there's more space (emptiness) than matter-thingness. My skull is nothing & the wall is nothing. Yet if I run my skull into that wall 1 thing resists another thing. What a marvelous paradox. I and everything are nothing yet all those nothing things have their affect on my nothing self and vice versa.

    Be there dragons? Jungians speak of the "psychoid" the realm that cannot be pinned dowm to the polar opposites of spirit or matter. They apply that notion to archetypes, speaking of how at 1 pole, the material, archetypes may manifest physically. Largely, we can know archetypes by the function or effect they are having, physcially, imagistically, affectively, etc. "I" am empty, yet I affect and am affected. Guess maybe dragons do exist as not only have they kept folks imagining for millenia, but got us discussing them don't they? Vajrayana Buddhist practitioners of Tibet like to answer the questions of their Western students as regards whether the deities of Tibetan/vajrayana Buddhism are real or "all in the mind" by saying "they're all in the mind...and very real." ;) Have a good one, Earl
     

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