© Glendon Mellow, The Flying Trilobite

A mindgasm of scientific proportions

This is quite simply one of the most astonishing, original things I have ever seen. Ever.

I’ve said too much. Set aside 15 uninterrupted minutes.

It’s filled with phrases that express what I often find inexpressible. Add your favorites to the comment thread.

(Profound thanks to my step-nephew Dan Nolan for this one.)



This was written on Friday, 05. November 2010 at 13:12 and was filed under belief and believers, critical thinking, meaning and purpose, myths, nonbelief and nonbelievers, Science, wonder. You can keep up with the comments to this article by using the RSS-Feed.

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  1. Thank you, Dale…that’s a marvelous piece of work. The time-lapse shots of the Milky Way rotating in the night sky (1:50-2:35 and 8:05-8:50) are goosebump-inducingly glorious. Here are a few of my favorite phrases from the narration:

    “These numbers [the size and scale of the Milky Way] are essential to understanding what a galaxy is. But when contemplating them, some part of the human mind protests that it cannot be so. Yet an examination of the evidence brings you to the conclusion that it is. And if you take that conclusion out on a clear dark night and look up, you might see something that will change your life.” (1:25-2:00)

    “When I looked at the galaxy that night, I knew the faintest twinkle of starlight was a real connection between my comprehending eye—along a narrow beam of light—to the surface of another sun. The photons my eyes detect, the light I see, the energy with which my nerves interact, came from that star. I thought I could never touch it, yet something from it crosses the void and touches me.

    My eyes saw only a tiny point of light, but my mind saw so much more.” (3:20-3:55, with a brief clip from the incomparable film Blade Runner.)

    “That night under the Milky Way, I who experienced it cannot call the experience a religious experience for I know it was not religious in any way. I was thinking about facts and physics, trying to visualize what is—not what I would like there to be.

    There’s no word for such experiences that come through scientific and not mystical revelation. The reason for that is that every time someone has such a ‘mindgasm,’ religion steals it simply by saying ‘Ah…you had a religious experience.’ And spiritualists will pull the same shit—and both camps get angry when an atheist like me tells you that I only ever had these experiences after rejecting everything supernatural.” (6:20-7:05)

    “If I have something that can be called a soul that needed saving, then science saved it…from religion.” (11:35)

    Comment: cognitive dissident – 05. November 2010 @ 5:26 pm

  2. I just watched this yesterday–this and that passage from Pale Blue Dot (“a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam”) are such perfect expressions of the naturalist worldview.

    Favorite bit: “You will see that mist for what it really is– more stars…like dust…fading into what tastes like infinity.” (around 2:20)

    When my parents moved to Arizona a few years ago, I saw the sky again for the first time since I was a child, camping in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota and Canada. All states should have a dark sky policy.

    (p.s.–I put up my Friday Field Notes every week, and you’re welcome to join me on my walks:-) They were originally for my mom, since she can’t travel, but other people seem to like them, too. It’s not the universe, just the other side of our planet:))

    Amy O in Yokohama

    Comment: yokohamamama – 05. November 2010 @ 6:10 pm

  3. “Dude, I am you.”
    “I stepped out of a supernova… and so did you.”
    Thank you, Dale. Love, love, love it.

    Comment: AmyS – 05. November 2010 @ 6:37 pm

  4. Very nice. Do you know anything about the vlogger?

    I enjoyed the bit about religion threatening children with eternal hellfire… when science (and Moby) tell us that we were made inside stars!

    Comment: Theo – 06. November 2010 @ 6:05 am

  5. “Reality hits me like a winning lottery ticket…”

    What a humbling and inspiring work.

    So serendipitous to stumble onto this today. On Saturday night I stood outside at midnight (after numerous boubons), neck cranked back as far as I could, awestruck at the masterpiece above me. No moon, crystal clear night – cant help but smile and feel very content about my tiny place in this big ol’ universe.

    Just been watching Richard Feynmen on Youtube, and now this – great brain food.

    Comment: Matt D – 08. November 2010 @ 12:58 am

  6. I would make two objections about this video:

    (1) Confusing the Model with the Experience
    This guy calls his experience a “Mindgasm” and describes, loss of fear, a sense unity and belongingness, a peaceful embracement of insignificance, and ecstatic. AND, he happened to be thinking of astronomy, physics and in a science model. Both others have had these experiences while thinking in no science model, in no theist model. Some had them using their religious models. Thus, the experience is independent of science and religions. Lots of different models can be used to embrace it, nurture it and communicate it.

    (2) Deluded by an Abstraction called “Religion”
    His broad stroke attack on religion may stir those who hate the religion they left, but it is naive. He says “religion stole our love”, “religion paints everything, not of itself, as ugly.” Of course I understand his disgust for what many religious folks have tried to do with their ideology, but just as science tries to be careful in analysis, he needs to be more careful. For all the ugliness he sees in religion can be found in practitioners of non-religious ideologies too. That is because humans made them.

    I get his experience but he generalizes it, just as he generalizes the abstract word “religion” to capture his own feelings. It seems his experience was not as purifying as he may like to think.

    Many atheists will let this video slide because they like so many of the other points. Yet we get angry at liberal theists who don’t speak against the fundamentalists in their midst and say that such silence is equivalent to participating in the folly of the fundies. Thus, should we not be diligent to catch our own sloppy habits?

    Comment: Sabio Lantz – 08. November 2010 @ 3:47 pm

  7. I loved this video. Many of my favorite bits have been picked out already, but one that resonates with me is this:

    “Religions tell children they might go to hell and they must believe, while science tells children they came from the stars, and presents reasoning they *can* believe.” (@ 9:36)

    I feel I have another way to articulate how I feel the next time I am told that I am somehow deficient for raising my children without an organized religion.

    Comment: ErinM – 10. November 2010 @ 2:12 pm

  8. This is fantastic – although I found myself needing some context for the vlogger, which I will check for on Youtube… just can’t access it from work 😉 because I found myself at once awed by the scope of the scientific info and switching gears to follow along with his very personal expressions. I guess it’s more accurate to say that the power of the video makes me want to know more about him.

    That aside, my favorite bit is around 11:01 when he talks about the universe not being what “they told us it would be” and the complete sense of calm and excitement of the unknown.

    Just before that “religion stole our love and our loyalty and gave it to a book, to a telepathic father.” What a stark and powerful line.

    Comment: evbois – 10. November 2010 @ 4:26 pm

  9. love it, thank you for sharing 🙂
    I like the way you think

    Comment: nms197 – 09. December 2010 @ 2:01 pm

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    Comment: KarinaWong – 21. December 2010 @ 1:24 am

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