Science Saved My Soul transcript

I ran across a new video on YouTube this week entitled Science Saved My Soul. It is such a compelling multimedia experience that I decided to take the time to transcribe it. In short, it is one part galactic, scientific, poetic “mindgasm”; one part exposition on religion; and one part Arcade Fire music video. (Note that, while educational, there are two uses of profanity.) I will save any other analysis of the video for a different blog post. I don’t know the proper formatting for transcription, and I’ve made at least one guess during a part that I couldn’t understand (it’s underlined)—now corrected; see UPDATE at end.

This is the first time I’ve come across a video from YouTube user philhellenes and he does not include any information about himself (that I could find). His channel page reads, “ANYONE can download, copy or mirror ANY of my stuff without asking for permission,” so I’ve included my own copy of the Flash file here, as well; sorry, I didn’t feel like finding conversion software to make it into an AVI.

Science Saved My Soul, YouTube image

Copies of the video that I’ve uploaded (FLV file type, 76 MB file size): my websiteDropbox and MediaFire, and streaming:

Get the Flash Player to see this content.

The video description on YouTube (posted November 1, 2010; 14:59 long):

Yes, many of those thinkers to whom I owe my mental freedom were religious, like Newton, a Christian, who believed God made the Earth but who then showed me why the Earth would have formed without a god’s help. Or Plank and Schrodinger, two more Christians, who believed God ruled the Universe but showed me how God could not control a single electron. The discoveries these and many other people made, the laws they are famous for, are the very things that make gods getting humans pregnant, or angels whispering to prophets in caves, look infantile. I could never and would never question their intelligence. Their honesty and intellectual consistency are a different matter.

Weird…

I can stand on the shoulders of giants and see what even they seemingly could not.

I’m not against the Creator(s), if they exist, if they ever existed. I’m not against the search for the Creator(s). What blows MY mind is that people think religion has anything to do with it at all.

My transcription. Please let me know of any mistakes and I will do my best to correct them. Also, if anyone cares to identify the celebrities (starting at the 12:28 mark), I can add their names to the transcript in the appropriate places.

[TEXT ON SCREEN]

Warning: Contains flashing images around the 5:30 mark.

[MAN'S VOICE]

Three summers ago, I was staying in a caravan a long way from the nearest city. It was usually pitch black at night. I had given my word that I would not smoke inside, so at 1 a.m. I stepped outside for a cigarette.

After a few minutes of standing in the darkness, I realized that I could see my hand quite clearly—something I’d noticed that I could not do on previous nights—so I looked up, expecting to see the glow of the full moon, but the moon was nowhere in sight.

[INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC FROM JOHN MURPHY'S "THE SURFACE OF THE SUN" BEGINS]

Instead, there was a long glowing cloud directly overhead. The Romans called it the Via Galactica (the Road of Milk); today we call it the Milky Way. For those who missed the lesson at school that day, the basic facts are these:

  • Remembering that 1 light year is equivalent to 6 trillion miles, our galaxy has a total diameter of somewhere around 100 thousand light years.
  • Our Sun is located towards the edge of one of the galaxy’s spiral arms—about 26 thousand light years out from the central bulge of the galaxy. It takes 200 to 250 million years for the Sun to complete one orbit of the central bulge.
  • Surrounding the galaxy, above and below the disc in a spherical halo, there are approximately 200 globular clusters which may contain up to a million stars each. The Milky Way itself contains 200 billion stars, give or take.

These numbers 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.

Science Saved My Soul screenshot

Science Saved My Soul screenshot (@ 2:26)

This is what a galaxy looks like. From the inside. From the suburbs of our Sun.

Through binoculars, for every star you can see with your naked eye you can see 100 around it, all suspended in a gray blue mist. But through a modest telescope, if you wait for your eyes to adjust to the dark and get the focus just right… you will see that mist for what it really is: More stars. Like dust, fading into what tastes like infinity.

But you’ve got to have the knowledge. Seeing is only half of it.

That night three years ago, I knew a small part of what’s out there—the kinds of things, the scale of things, the age of things, the violence and destruction, appalling energy, hopeless gravity, and the despair of distance—but I feel safe, because I know my world is protected by the very distance that others fear. It’s like the universe screams in your face, “Do you know what I am? How grand I am? How old I am? Can you even comprehend what I am? What are you, compared to me?” And when you know enough science, you can just smile up at the universe and reply, “Dude, I am you.”

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. I might never have known. My eyes saw only a tiny point of light, but my mind saw so much more.

I see the invisible bursts of gamma radiation from giant stars converting into pure energy by their own mass. The flashes that flashed from the far side of the universe long before Earth had even formed. I can see the invisible microwave glow of the background radiation leftover from the Big Bang. I see stars drifting aimlessly at hundreds of kilometers per second, and the space-time curving around them. I can even see millions of years into the future.

That blue twinkle will blow up one day, sterilizing any nearby solar systems in an apocalypse that makes the wrath of human gods seem pitiful by comparison—yet it was from such destruction that I was formed. Stars must die so that I can live.

I stepped out of a supernova… And so did you.

[FADE TO BLACK DURING SIX SECOND PAUSE]

In light of this inarguable fact (this hard-earned knowledge, this partial but informative truth), what place then in the 21st century and beyond for the magical claims of organized religion?

["THE SURFACE OF THE SUN" INSTRUMENTAL FADES OUT, TRIBAL DRUM BEAT BEGINS]

The first religions were primitive by any definition. For reasons of limited population, communication, and plain old geography, they never grew to be anything other than a local concern. But religions mutate in time and grow in sophistication as each generation of holy men learn what works and what doesn’t. What makes people obedient and what causes rebellion. What ideas people can easily escape and which will haunt them until they have to pray just to stop the nagging fear.

When populations grew due to the slow but steady growth of knowledge, as if confronted by a bumper harvest, the religions went into an arms race with each other. From gods of wind and thunder and sea, the threats, incentives, and claims of power escalate until every dominant organized religion has a god that is all-powerful, all-loving, all-seeing, and words like “infinity” and “eternity” are deployed cheaply while all other words are open to abuse until they mean exactly what the religions want them to mean.

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, “Ahh, 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. But I do admit that after such experiences (the moments when reality hits me like a winning lottery ticket) I often think about religion… and how lucky I am that I am not religious. You want to learn something about God? Okay, this is one galaxy.

science-saved-my-soul2

Science Saved My Soul screenshot (@ 7:29)

If God exists, God made this. Look at it. Face it. Accept it. Adjust to it, because this is the truth and it’s probably not going to change very much. This is how God works. God would probably want you to look at it. To learn about it. To try to understand it. But if you can’t look—if you won’t even try to understand—what does that say about your religion? As Bishop Lancelot Andrewes once said, “The nearer the church, the further from God.”

[TRIBAL DRUM BEAT ENDS]

Maybe you need to run. Away from the mosque. Away from the church. Away from the priests and the Imams. Away from the Books to have any chance of finding God. Squeeze a fraction of a galaxy into your mind and then you’ll have a better idea of what you’re looking for. To even partially comprehend the scale of a single galaxy is to almost disappear. And when you remember all the other galaxies, you shrink 100 billion times smaller still—but then you remember what you are.  The same facts that made you feel so insignificant also tell you how you got here. It’s like you become more real—or maybe the universe becomes more real. You suddenly fit. You suddenly belong. You do not have to bow down. You do not have to look away. In such moments, all you have to do is remember to keep breathing.

[MUSIC FROM JOHN MURPHY'S "KANADA'S DEATH, PT. 2 (ADAGIO IN D MINOR)" BEGINS]

The body of a newborn baby is as old as the cosmos. The form is new and unique, but the materials are 13.7 billion years old, processed by nuclear fusion in stars, fashioned by electromagnetism. Cold words for amazing processes. And that baby was you. Is you. You’re amazing. Not only alive, but with a mind. What fool would exchange this for every winning lottery ticket ever drawn? When I compare what scientific knowledge has done for me and what religion tried to do to me, I sometimes literally shiver.

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. I’ve told plenty of young kids about stars and atoms and galaxies and the Big Bang and I have never seen fear in their eyes—only amazement and curiosity. They want more. Why do kids swim in it and adults drown in it? What happens to reality between our youngest years and adulthood? Could it be that someone promised us something so beautiful that our universe seems dull, empty, even frightening by comparison? It might still be made by a Creator of some kind but religion has made it look ugly. Religion paints everything not of itself as unholy and sinful while it beautifies and dignifies its errors, lies, and bigotry (like a pig wearing the finest robes). In its efforts to stop us facing reality, religion has become the reality we cannot face. Look at what religion has made us do, to ourselves and to each other. Religion stole our love and our loyalty and gave it to a book—to a telepathic father that tells his children that love means kneeling before him. Now I’m not a parent, but I say that those kids are gonna turn out messed up—it cannot be healthy for a child or a species.

We were told long ago and for a long time that there was only the Earth—that we were the center of everything. That turned out to be wrong. We still haven’t fully adjusted. We’re still in shock. The universe is not what we expected it to be. It’s not what they told us it would be. This cosmic understanding is all new to us. But there’s nothing to fear. We’re still special. We’re still blessed. And there might yet be a heaven, but it isn’t going to be perfect. And we’re going to have to build it ourselves.

If I have something that could be called a soul that needed saving, then science saved it… from religion.

[TEXT ON SCREEN]

There are too many people, to many moments to thank.

[MAN'S VOICE CONTINUES]

Some people find it, really, very depressing that the universe can only support life for another 30 billion years—

["KANADA'S DEATH, PT. 2 (ADAGIO IN D MINOR)" STOPS ABRUPTLY]

30. Billion. Years. Are you fucking kidding me?

[MAN'S VOICE STOPS. MUSIC FROM ARCADE FIRE'S "WAKE UP" BEGINS AND A SERIES OF IMAGES AND VIDEOS BEGINS. LYRICS USED FROM THE SONG:]

Something filled up
My heart with nothing
Someone told me not to cry

But now that I’m older
My heart’s colder
And I can see that it’s a lie

Children, wake up
Hold your mistake up
Before they turn the summer into dust

I guess we’ll just have to adjust

[CELEBRITY PHOTOS AND VIDEO DURING SONG:]

12:28 – lower left - Jonathan Miller (clip from “The Body in Question”)

12:39 – upper left - David Attenborough (broadcaster and naturalist)

12:45 – upper right – clip from Inherit the Wind (1960 film) Scopes Monkey Trial.

12:47 – lower right – clip from Network (1976 film) – it’s the famous angry rant of one of the main charachters

12:52 – left - Jacob Bronowsky (clip from “The Ascent of Man”)

13:03 – astrophysicist Carl Sagan

13:09 – NASA Astronaut Jeffrey Williams on the ISS

13:10 – Thales of Miletus

13:12 – Socrates

13:13 – Archimedes

13:15 – Eratosthenes

13:19 – right – Euclid

13:19 – left –Nicolaus Copernicus

13:20 – center – Galileo Galilei

13:20 – Tycho Brahe (with star globe)

13:21 – right – Antoine Lavoisier

13:22 – Bust - unidentified

13:23 – up – Johannes Kepler

13:25 – Michael Faraday

13:26 – bottom right - unidentified astronaut

13:27 – upper right - Giordano Bruno

13:29 – up center – naturalist Charles Darwin

13:29 – Bust - unidentified (x7)

13:36 – Albert Einstein

13:56 – Martin Luther King, Jr.

14:25 – physicist Richard Feynman (with his bongos)

[FROM 14:11 UNTIL END OF VIDEO, DISTANCE MARKERS FADE IN AND OUT AS THE VIDEO ZOOMS OUT FROM A POINT IN OUTER SPACE. CLIP FROM MILLENNIUM SIMULATION.]

3.9 Mpc/h
7.8 Mpc/h
15.6 Mpc/h
31.25 Mpc/h
62.5 Mpc/h
125 Mpc/h
250 Mpc/h

[THE MUSIC BEGINS TO FADE OUT AND THE FINAL WORDS APPEAR ON THE SCREEN]

Science saved my soul…
…from religion
500 Mpc/h
1 Gpc/h

[FADE TO BLACK]

<UPDATE Nov14> Additions and corrections made. Of particular note: Thanks to Giacomo Boschi’s comment, I’ve labeled some of the popular figures from the song montage at the end. He also points out that the second strophe from “Wake Up” is edited out, something I didn’t bother mentioning initially since the song also fades out before the last couple of stanzas, as well. Thanks also to Freethinker69 who commented with the—hopefully the only one—correction to the narrative: “errors” instead of “areas”. I’ve also added a second screenshot (from 7:29). </UPDATE>

<UPDATE ’11Jan22> Another update integrating user comments. There are still many more! </UPDATE>

<UPDATE ’11Sep1> Updates from user comments. We’re not done yet! </UPDATE>

  • http://www.facebook.com/Gwilbor Giacomo Boschi

    Oops double post :-)

    • http://zepfanman.com zepfanman

      Yeah, Disqus commenting has nice features, but more often than not it doesn’t operate the way one would hope. Sorry about the frustration there!

  • http://www.facebook.com/Gwilbor Giacomo Boschi

    Thank You! I was looking for such a transcription!

    Note that the second strophe of “Wake up” is missing in the video.
    I can give you some details about the pictures and clips at the end:

    12:47 – lower right – clip from “Network” (1976 movie) – it’s the famous angry rant of one of the main charachters

    13:05 – astrophysicist Carl Sagan

    13:09 – NASA Astronaut Jeffrey Williams on the ISS

    13:12 – The second “head” is the greek philosopher Socrates

    13:19 – left – astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus

    13:20 – center – philosopher and astronomer Galileo Galilei

    13:23 – up – Johannes Kepler

    13:29 – up center – naturalist Charles Darwin

    13:36 – Albert Einstein (ok, that was too easy) :-)

    13:56 – Martin Luther King

    14:25 – physicist Richard Feynman (with his bongos)

    • http://zepfanman.com zepfanman

      Thanks so much! I’ll add these.

  • Evanbradley91

    Can anyone give me the author of this or source, I want to quote this in a paper I am writing and need a source I don’t get screwed with plagiarism.

    • http://zepfanman.com zepfanman

      I’m very curious, too. Let me know if you find out. I’d like to do a little more detective work on that myself. When’s your paper due?

    • Moogly

      I’m probably too late for the paper, but you can find the video on youtube posted by user “philhellenes” and it appears to be his real name. Phil Hellenes. You can also get from the YT account that:

      He is 47. (YT account)
      He’s a science teacher. (video)
      And it’s no longer listed but I think I remember he was in Afghanistan recently. (formerly on the YT account)

      That’s all I remember and I may be wrong, so don’t take my word for it. That is all assuming that the YT account and the narrator of the video and writer of the text are all the same guy. Which I’m not sure of.

      Btw, you can always quote using “unsourced” or “anonymous”, it’s all okay as long as you don’t attribute yourself the merit who’s due to someone else. And the YT channel specifies that: “ANYONE can download, copy or mirror ANY of my stuff without asking for permission (and without mentioning me or my channel if they so wish).” What this basically means is that he forfeits all intellectual rights. So plagiarism isn’t a possibility. (but I wouldn’t expect a teacher to understand that…)

      But as Newton said: “Science is built on the shoulders of giants.” And if you consider science as a career choice, get used to quoting, a lot. And properly. Like I just did.

      • Moogly

        I now only realize that his name can’t possibly be Phil whatever…

        It’s a reference to Philhellenism.

        My bad. Greek culture never was my strong suit.

  • Freethinker69

    i believe the word you weren’t sure of is “errors” and not “areas”.

    • http://zepfanman.com zepfanman

      Ahh, excellent. Thanks! I’ll make the correction ASAP.

  • Freelancer

    Lol…coincidentally I was doing the same thing…It is kind of hard to listen then pause and input the words…yet I find it strangely entertaining doing this for it is one of the most wonderful kind of compositions ever made by a complete stranger … not a writer not a composer not a poet not nothing…It was just pure epicness…

    • http://zepfanman.com zepfanman

      Indeed, you gain a deeper understanding of what the narrator is saying, for sure. Picking where to begin and end paragraphs was a challenge. Did you end up publishing your translation on a website? What’s the link?

  • http://www.facebook.com/Gwilbor Giacomo Boschi

    Hi, some other detail:

    12:28 – lower left – Jonathan Miller (clip from “The Body in Question”)
    12:52 – left – Jacob Bronowsky (clip from “The Ascent of Man”)
    13:25 – Michael Faraday

    From 14:13 to end – clip from the “Millennium simulation”

  • Huanmanwe

    12:39 – upper left – David Attenborough (broadcaster and naturalist)
    13:10 – Aristotle (bust) I think he’s Aristotle, but not sure
    http://www.liberal-vision.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/aristotle.jpg

    Thank you for the transcript.

  • Arc Wing

    13:27 upper right man in the hoodie, Giordano Bruno. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giordano_Bruno

  • Darwin1859

    You missed the photo of the one woman at the end. It’s Marie Curie…the only scientist to win the Nobel Prize for both Physics and Chemistry.

  • indonesian atheists

    thx so much for the transcript, translating and subtitling to Indonesian :)

  • Dstanton

    At 12:52 – left – Jacob Bronowsky (clip from “The Ascent of Man”) outside Auschwitz concentration camp where the ashes of millions of people fell after cremation in the ovens, quoting Cronwell ““I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken”

  • Thanks.

    Thank you for taking the time to do this!

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  • Saxon57

    this is wonderful to watch, to listen to. I have had moments of profound understanding and connectedness of myself and the universe. Fleeting and rare they are but when they happen it feels really good, really old, really right and really familiar. When they are done they leave a residue, like a dream you know you had but can’t put your finger on exactly what it was about or who was in it. I can’t force those moments to happen. I wish I could.

  • Empusa23

    The first bust is Thales. Three busts starting from 13:13 are Archimedes, Eratosphenes and Euclid.
    After Galilei the guy with the star globe in front of Kepler is Tycho Brahe.
    After that in the right half there is Antoine Lavoisier in his lab.

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  • Valerie_ann_1975

    Sooo glad I found this, great work! Maybe you can show this page to Philhellenes–he might post it as a link on his YouTube account.

    • http://zepfanman.com zepfanman

      Thanks! I tried contacting him when I first typed this up but haven’t gotten a response.

      • Valerie_ann_1975

        Yeah, he probably gets tons of mail, hard to sort through it all, I guess…

  • Rick

    At 3:55 we can see android the climax from Blade Runner, where Roy Batty tells Rick Deckard: “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I’ve watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those … moments will be lost in time, like tears…in rain. Time to die.” (He then dies because his time ran out, this is pretty significant here given the context of this video)

    • Rick

      Whoops, forgot to move the word “android” before “Roy Batty”.

    • Rick

      Whoops, forgot to move the word “android” before “Roy Batty”.

  • Paullamar3

    The bust after Michael Faraday is Ludwig Boltzmann.  :-)

     

  • Boxofslavery

    I can’t thank you enough for transcribing this!  I’m performing an analysis on his style in my writing class at St Edward’s University (oh, the irony) and the teacher gave permission to use his work, but only if I could find ten pages worth.  This cut my initial legwork in half!  Does anyone know where one can find other “fanscripts”?  I’ve also sent philhellenes two personal messages but have not received a response, although not much time has passed.  (I am kind of on a time budget…)
    Again, thank you for taking the time to do this.

  • JK

    Thank you very much for taking the time to sort this out…

  • http://www.facebook.com/teresa.slavenblair Teresa Slaven-Blair

    I have only one quip with that. At the end there was only 1 female who’s picture appeared, and it was obscured. Granted through history there have been few women who have been allowed to contribute, but the more recent faces that appeared could have been female. Other than that, it is a beautiful clip and completely awe-inspiring.

    • http://zepfanman.com zepfanman

      I agree!

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=561923981 Benjamin Hwang

    Thanks for this. Quoting him in my essay.

  • Keren B.

    Thanks for this.

  • Kathleen Jackson

    This is truth and freedom, so sad that “the religious”do not buy it and never will.

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