From Flatland to Cyberspace: Reflections on Rogerian Science and Contemporary Media.
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Subject:||Books (Book reviews)|
|Publication:||Name: Visions: The Journal of Rogerian Nursing Science Publisher: Society of Rogerian Scholars Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health; Health care industry Copyright: COPYRIGHT 1998 Society of Rogerian Scholars ISSN: 1072-4532|
|Issue:||Date: Annual, 1998 Source Volume: 6 Source Issue: 1|
|Topic:||NamedWork: Billions and Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium. (Book)|
|Persons:||Reviewee: Sagan, Carl|
A REVIEW OF BILLIONS AND BILLIONS
This is Carl Sagan's last book, written during his final illness. He had been suffering from myelodysplasia but had undergone an apparently successful bone marrow transplant. He had been given an "all clear" from the primary dysplasia but succumbed to a subsequent mysterious lung dysfunction that defied all treatment. To the end, Sagan tackled the tough questions and in this book, he confronted the toughest questions of all in the shadow of illness and death.
Sagan (1997) presented his thoughts on life and death at the brink of the 21't century in a collection of essays. In Billions and Billions Sagan applied principles of science and mathematics to everyday life. The scope of this work is amazing; the essays ranged from football to the abortion debate. In this latest work, Sagan used many examples and metaphors to illustrate science in everyday life. For example, the dripping bathtub faucet was used to explain light. As the drop falls, it creates waves and spreads out in a perfect circle. More drops create further waves which create a frequency of the waves, which to the person in the bathtub is how often the crests of the wavelets pass that person's vantage point. He expanded the two-dimensional water droplet to three-dimensional sound waves and then the complexity of light waves.
True to his strong empiricist worldview, Sagan shunned easy answers and examined the modern world with the strict methods of traditional Western science. Sagan believed in the value of the scientific method to explain life and make it better. "We make our world significant by the courage of our questions and by the depth of our answers" (Sagan, 1997, p.i).
At the core of the empiricist method, the only approach that Sagan (1997) could countenance was "real, repeatable, verifiable observations" (p. 52). According to this view, the natural laws of physics most likely would prevail on this planet and throughout the universe. Thus, observations of all phenomena are reducible and quantifiable. There is a chapter in this book devoted to numbers and quantification. Sagan (1997) illustrated the power of numbers through examples of very large numbers and the ability to quantify all types of phenomena.
Although Rogers was a product of the same scientific educational system as Sagan, she asserted that the pursuit of science may require more than one method (Rogers, 1987). Scholars have struggled with a methodology with which to conduct research in Rogerian science. Many of the unitary concepts--energy fields, perceptions of time, and conscious energy have been difficult using reductionistic methods. Researchers in the Rogerian framework have attempted to develop other measurements such as patterns of emergence, perceptions and field energy.
The phenomenon of the evolutionary emergence of humans is a point of comparison between Sagan's traditional science and Rogerian science. Sagan took a somewhat pessimistic tone is his cautionary tales of humans' impact on the environment of this planet and the destructive tendencies of aggressive humans. He discussed global warming and depletion of ozone as examples of impending doom. He believed, however, in the ability of humans to allay these disasters with reasoning and logical means of restraint. He wrote optimistically about the status of humans on the brink of the 21st century. Sagan saw the advent of space travel as a vast achievement in human history. Likewise, Rogers considered space travel among the most transforming of all human experiences and a sign of evolutionary transcendence. Rogers was resolutely optimistic in her view of human evolution, "...there is the development of outer space communities and multiple other evidences of men's [sic] developmental potentials in the process of actualization" (Rogers, 1986, p. 2).
Sagan (1997) saw no evidence of a spiritual domain. He wrote that science had provided many insights into the universe and that more would be learned that would challenge traditional spiritual beliefs. Sagan did not think that religion could explain a universe of "a magnificence, and an intricate, elegant order far beyond anything our ancestors imagined" (1997, p. 213). He summarized his beliefs as follows: "My own view is that it is far better to understand the Universe as it really is than to pretend to a universe as we might wish it to be" (1997, p. 213).
Although Rogers did not address spirituality in her Science of Unitary Human Beings, some researchers have conceptualized a theory of spirituality evolving from Rogers' framework. Malinski (1994) proposed that spirituality is "intrinsic to Rogerian nursing science as a pattern manifestation of the human/environment mutual process" (p.12). Malinski proposed that the pattern manifestation of spirituality reflects all three principles of Rogerian science, integrality, resonancy, and helicy. Malinski called for challenges to her conceptualization of spirituality.
In this final work we see a more personal and vulnerable Sagan, a man struggling with a perplexing illness that started with a seemingly trivial symptom of a bruise that would not heal. He wrote of learning about a disease he had never heard of and how he was astounded to learn that, untreated, the myleodysplasia would kill him. He longed to grow old with his dearly loved wife, Annie and to witness his children growing into productive citizens. Sagan, a man who had no belief in an afterlife, valiantly faced the end of his cherished life with clarity and grace. Especially moving in the afterward to Billions and Billions is the glowing account of Sagan's last days and his legacy recounted by his wife, Ann Druyan. The many inspiring letters and tributes which came after Sagan's death, "...lift me up from out of my heartache. They allow me to feel, without resorting to the supernatural, that Carl lives" (Druyan, 1997, p.237).
Druyan, A. (1997). In Sagan, C. (1997). Billions and Billions: Thoughts on life and death at the brink of the millennium. Random House: New York.
Malinski, V. (1994). Spirituality: A pattern manifestation of the human/environment mutual process. Visions: the Journal of Rogerian Nursing Science, 2, 12-18.
Rogers, M. (1986). Dimensions of health: A view from space. Paper presented at University of North Dakota, September 12, 1986.
Sagan, C. (1997). Billions and Billions: Thoughts on life and death at the brink of the millennium. Random House: New York.
Pat Christensen, RN; PhD
School of Nursing
The University of South Carolina Spartanburg
800 University Way
Spartanburg, SC 29303
|Gale Copyright:||Copyright 1998 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.|