Monday, January 18, 2010

The Profound Brilliance Of Carl Sagan

I belong to a book discussion group at the Seaford Library in Seaford, DE. We just finished reading Carl Sagan’s book, “The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark.” I highly recommend this book to anyone with an open mind and follows science where the facts take them.

Below are some quotes I would like to pass on from the book because I thought they were so profound.

“When asked merely if they accept evolution, 45 percent of Americans say yes. The figure is 70 percent in China. When the movie Jurassic Park was shown in Israel, it was condemned by some Orthodox rabbis because it accepted evolution and because it taught that dinosaurs lived a hundred million years ago--when, as is plainly stated at every Rosh Hashanah and every Jewish wedding ceremony, the Universe is less than 6,000 years old.”

Think how profound and foresight this next quote was. Carl Sagan predicted the George Bush years so accurately back in 1995 when it was published.

“I worry that, especially as the Millennium edges nearer, pseudoscience and superstition will seem year by year more tempting, the siren song of unreason more sonorous and attractive. Where have we heard it before? Whenever our ethnic or national prejudices are aroused, in times of scarcity, during challenges to national self-esteem or nerve, when we agonize about our diminished cosmic place and purpose, or when fanaticism is bubbling up around us-then, habits of thought familiar from ages past reach for the controls.
The candle flame gutters. Its little pool of light trembles. Darkness gathers. The demons begin to stir.

If we're capable of conjuring up terrifying monsters in childhood, why shouldn't some of us, at least on occasion, be able to fantasize something similar, something truly horrifying, a shared delusion, as adults?”

I think that this next quote applies to the delusional, narcissistic aspect of the fundamentalist Christians that think the world revolves around them and their viewpoints.

“If we long to believe that the stars rise and set for us, that we are the reason there is a Universe, does science do us a disservice in deflating our conceits?....For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.”

Then he goes onto say, “At the extremes it is difficult to distinguish pseudoscience from rigid, doctrinaire religion.” I see this could very well be applied to the “Intelligent Design” that was trying to be shoved into our public school systems by the Religious Nut Jobs!

“Think of how many religions attempt to validate themselves with prophecy. Think of how many people rely on these prophecies, however vague, however unfulfilled, to support or prop up their beliefs. Yet has there ever been a religion with the prophetic accuracy and reliability of science?”

These are just a few examples of how profound Carl Sagan really was in his time. Even though the book was written over fourteen years ago and Carl has since passed away, his words are even more current today than they ever were!


  1. Thanks for the recommendation and those fantastic quotes. I always liked Carl Sagan.

  2. Although I read most of Carl Sagan's work, I have to pick this book as his most important and profound piece of work. To me, his work was as significant as Albert Einstein's or Copernicus in terms that he dared to be brilliant in today's world, plagued by the temptations of mysticism. I think this book should be part of every high school curriculum only because thinking like a skeptic is paramount for our species.

  3. It is pretty bizarre to a rational person to read the arguments for creationism and the "evidence" cited and the customized research used as reference.
    The creationists cannot really compete in a real discussion because so much of the doctrine is based on finite absolutes. The biblical age of the earth has to be used as finite absolute measure that they must make their theories to explain reality conform to.
    Science is not absolute, yes, the priciples of physics and math might seem as absolutes, but we are always discovering areas beyond.
    The "Theory of Evolution" is a framework...a work in progress, so there is argument constantly in the community of different schools of thought.
    There is constant critical analysis of science.
    There is a history of peer review of ideas.

    The pseudo scientists, evolutionists and climate change denial experts use this peer discussion and the unfinished aspect of any science as a percieved weakness to exploit with their golden apple of magic absolutism.

    Weak minds do not like the prospect of unfinished ideas...It's either cold or it's hot!
    I'm freezing my ass off so what's this global warming stuff...huh?

    Me, well, I rather enjoy the idea of the expanding unknown.

  4. Yes, Carl Sagan was a prophet in his time, hooking millions of people on the beauty and mystery of science. America especially needs another Sagan to teach yet another generation about the marvels of the universe rather than those myths taught in bible school.

    Thanks, Engineer, for a remembrance of a distant time and place when science writings were 'believed' more than the writings of an ancient Hebrew tribe.