Happy Carl Sagan Day!

Today is Carl Sagan's birthday! He was born November 9, 1934. Over the past several months, my wonderful husband Butch and I watched the Cosmos series on Netflix instant view. I never saw them when I was a kid, and I never even knew about Carl Sagan until I was an adult. When I was in school I loved science but didn't think it was anything I could pursue.

In the last couple of years I've discovered the world of citizen science. And I've also discovered skepticism and, as you know, many wonderful podcasts that have inspired me with talk of great men like Carl Sagan. If I had to choose, astronomy is not the most interesting subject to me, but the Cosmos is wonderful. And Carl Sagan made everything fascinating. Watching Cosmos recently, I was filled with so much inspiration and wonder about the universe and our humble, small place in it. Cosmos has been seen by a billion people in sixty countries, according to the Carl Sagan Portal. What a legacy!

The 11th episode of Cosmos, The Persistence of Memory, is probably my favorite, even though I found them all to be excellent and still relevant today.  Here is the episode in 6 parts. If you can, watch the whole series. You'll be glad you did! See below for some quotes from this awesome man that is such a wonderful inspiration.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Here are some quotes from Carl Sagan:

On Religion:

A celibate clergy is an especially good idea, because it tends to suppress any hereditary propensity toward fanaticism.

For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.

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?

The universe seems neither benign nor hostile, merely indifferent.

Personally, I would be delighted if there were a life after death, especially if it permitted me to continue to learn about this world and others, if it gave me a chance to discover how history turns out.

On Science and Society:

I can find in my undergraduate classes, bright students who do not know that the stars rise and set at night, or even that the Sun is a star.

We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.

We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces.

Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

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.

It is of interest to note that while some dolphins are reported to have learned English — up to fifty words used in correct context — no human being has been reported to have learned dolphinese.

In every country, we should be teaching our children the scientific method and the reasons for a Bill of Rights. With it comes a certain decency, humility and community spirit. In the demon-haunted world that we inhabit by virtue of being human, this may be all that stands between us and the enveloping darkness.

I maintain there is much more wonder in science than in pseudoscience. And in addition, to whatever measure this term has any meaning, science has the additional virtue, and it is not an inconsiderable one, of being true.

A Quest For Understanding:

Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere.

One glance at a book and you hear the voice of another person, perhaps someone dead for 1,000 years. To read is to voyage through time.

Our passion for learning is the tool for our survival.

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