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09 November 2011

On (what would have been) Carl Sagan's 77th Birthday

Today Dr. Phil Plait reminded me that today is the day that Carl Sagan would have turned 77. I really don't think that I could say anything better than Dr. Plait said it, nor even the way that Dr. Sagan would have said it.  I think that Dr. Plait selected one of the best videos from the pile to choose from.  Generally I hate autotune, but I was tempted to go with the Symphony of Science series, but I will stay with regular convention.

And I figure that I would close it out with a couple of quotes from Dr. Sagan that I think really sum up so many things so beautifully on top of the Pale Blue Dot video.

In science it often happens that scientists say, "You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken," and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion.
  • Keynote address at CSICOP conference (1987)
Who is more humble? The scientist who looks at the universe with an open mind and accepts whatever it has to teach us, or somebody who says everything in this book must be considered the literal truth and never mind the fallibility of all the human beings involved?
  • Interview with Charlie Rose (1996)
I would love to believe that when I die I will live again, that some thinking, feeling, remembering part of me will continue. But much as I want to believe that, and despite the ancient and worldwide cultural traditions that assert an afterlife, I know of nothing to suggest that it is more than wishful thinking.  The world is so exquisite with so much love and moral depth, that there is no reason to deceive ourselves with pretty stories for which there's little good evidence. Far better it seems to me, in our vulnerability, is to look death in the eye and to be grateful every day for the brief but magnificent opportunity that life provides.
  • "In the Valley of the Shadow", Parade, 1996-03-10
In some respects, science has far surpassed religion in delivering awe. How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, "This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant. God must be even greater than we dreamed"? Instead they say, "No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way."
  • Pale Blue Dot, p. 50

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