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Carl Sagan (Astronomer)

The fact that somewereat does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at , they laughed at , they laughed at the . But they also laughed atthe .
Carl Sagan genius
Imagine, a room, awash in gasoline. And there are two implacable enemies in that room. One of them has 9,000 matches. The other has 7,000 matches. Each of them is concerned about who’s ahead, who’s stronger. Well, that's the kind of situation we are actually in. The amount of weapons that are available to the United States and the Soviet Union are so bloated, so grossly in excess of what's needed to dissuade the other that if it weren't so tragic, it would be laughable.
Carl Sagan need
It seems to me what is called for is an exquisite balance between two conflicting needs: the most skeptical scrutiny of all hypotheses that are served up to us and at the same time a great openness to new… If you are only , then no new ideas make it through to you … On the other hand, if you are open to the point of gullibility and have not an ounce of skepticalin you, then you cannot distinguish the useful ideas from the worthless ones.
Carl Sagan time
Init often happens that scientists say, "You know that's a reallyargument; 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 areandis sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened inor .
Carl Sagan time
We live in aabsolutely dependent on science and technology and yet have cleverly arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. That's a clear prescription for disaster.
Carl Sagan science
We live in aexquisitely dependent onand , in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.
Carl Sagan science
We’ve arranged a society based on science and technology, in which nobody understands anything about science and technology. And this combustible mixture of ignorance and power, sooner or later, is going to blow up in our faces. Who is running the science and technology in a democracy if the people don’t know anything about it?
Carl Sagan science
is much more than a body of . It is a way of . This is central to its success. Science invites us to let the facts in, even when they don’t conform to our preconceptions. It counsels us to carry alternative hypotheses in our heads and see which ones best match the facts. It urges on us a fine balance between no-holds-barred openness to new ideas, however heretical, and the most rigorous skeptical scrutiny of everything — new ideas and established wisdom. We need wide appreciation of this kind of thinking. It works. It’s an essential tool for a democracy in an age of change. Our task is not just to train more scientists but also to deepen public understanding of science.
Carl Sagan wisdom
is [...] a way of skeptically interrogating the universe with a fine understanding of human fallibility. If we are not able to ask skeptical questions, to interrogate those who tell us that something is true, to be skeptical of those in authority, then we’re up for grabs for the next charlatan, political or religious, who comes ambling along.”
Carl Sagan understanding
The idea thatis an oversized white male with a flowing beard who sits in the sky and tallies the fall of every sparrow is ludicrous. But if by God one means the set of physicalthat govern the universe, then clearly there is such a God. This God is emotionally unsatisfying... it does not make much sense to pray to the law of gravity.
Carl Sagan lies
— who enslave, castrate, experiment on, and fillet other— have had an understandable penchant for pretending animals do not feel . A sharp distinction between humans and 'animals' is essential if we are to bend them to our will, make them work for us, wear them, eat them — without any disquieting tinges of guilt or regret. It is unseemly of us, who often behave so unfeelingly toward other animals, to contend that only humans can suffer. The behavior of other animals renders such pretensions specious. They are just too much like us.
Carl Sagan war
Themay be puzzling. It may take some work to grapple with. It may be counterintuitive. It may contradict deeply held . It may not be consonant with what we desperately want to be true. But our preferences do not determine what's true.
Carl Sagan work
Themay be puzzling. It may take some work to grapple with. It may be counterintuitive. It may contradict deeply held prejudices. It may not be consonant with what we desperately want to be true. But our preferences do not determine what's true. We have a method, and that method helps us to reach not absolute truth, only asymptotic approaches to the truth — never there, just closer and closer, always finding vast new oceans of undiscovered possibilities. Cleverly designed experiments are the key.
Carl Sagan truth
Every kid starts out as a natural-born scientist, and then we beat it out of them. A few trickle through the system with their wonder and enthusiasm for science intact.
Carl Sagan science
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.
Carl Sagan love
If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the .
Carl Sagan you
That kind of skeptical, questioning, "don't accept whattells you" attitude of science — is also nearly identical to the attitude ofnecessary for a functioning democracy. Science and democracy have very consonant values and approaches, and I don't think you can have one without the other.
Carl Sagan science
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?
Carl Sagan truth
Anhas toa lot more than I know. An atheist is someone who knows there is no god. By some definitions atheism is very stupid.
Carl Sagan god
(and ), written in 1969 for Marihuana Reconsidered (1971) by
Carl Sagan
There is aabout such highs: the user has an illusion of great insight, but it does not survive scrutiny in the morning. I am convinced that this is an error, and that the devastating insights achieved when high are real insights; the main problem is putting these insights in a form acceptable to the quite differentthat we are when we're down the next day.
Carl Sagan illusion
I had become friendly with a group of people who occasionally smoked cannabis, irregularly, but with evident pleasure. Initially I was unwilling to partake, but the apparent euphoria that cannabis produced and the fact that there was no physiological addiction to the plant eventually persuaded me to try. My initial experiences were entirely disappointing; there was no effect at all, and I began to entertain a variety of hypotheses about cannabis being a placebo which worked by expectation and hyperventilation rather than by chemistry. After about five or six unsuccessful attempts, however, it happened.
Carl Sagan success
There's a part of me making, creating the perceptions which in everydaywould be bizarre; there's another part of me which is a kind of observer. About half of the pleasure comes from the observer-part appreciating the work of the creator-part. I , or sometimes evenout loud at the pictures on the insides of my eyelids. In this sense, I suppose cannabis is psychotomimetic, but I find none of the panic or terror that accompanies some psychoses. Possibly this is because I know it's my own trip, and that I can come down rapidly any time I want to.
Carl Sagan time
The cannabis experience has greatly improved my appreciation for , a subject which I had never much appreciated before. The understanding of the intent of the artist which I can achieve when high sometimes carries over to when I'm down. This is one of many human frontiers which cannabis has helped me traverse. There also have been some art-related insights — I don't know whether they are true or false, but they were fun to formulate.
Carl Sagan time
Cannabis also enhances the enjoyment of— on the one hand it gives an exquisite sensitivity, but on the other hand it postpones orgasm: in part by distracting me with the profusion of image passing before my eyes. The actual duration of orgasm seems to lengthen greatly, but this may be the usual experience of time expansion which comes with cannabis smoking.
Carl Sagan time
When I'm high I can penetrate into the past, recall childhood memories, friends, relatives, playthings, streets, smells, sounds, and tastes from a vanished era. I can reconstruct the actual occurrences in childhood events only half understood at the time. Many but not all my cannabis trips have somewhere in them asignificant to me which I won't attempt to describe here, a kind of mandala embossed on the high. Free-associating to this mandala, both visually and as plays on words, has produced a very rich array of insights.There is aabout such highs: the user has an illusion of great insight, but it does not survive scrutiny in the morning. I am convinced that this is an error, and that the devastating insights achieved when high are real insights; the main problem is putting these insights in a form acceptable to the quite differentthat we are when we're down the next day.
Carl Sagan time
Incidentally, I find that reasonably good insights can be remembered the next day, but only if some effort has been made to set them down another way. If I write the insight down or tell it to someone, then I can remember it with no assistance the following morning; but if I merely say to myself that I must make an effort to remember, I never do.I find that most of the insights I achieve when high are into social issues, an area of creative scholarship very different from the one I am generally known for.
Carl Sagan self
My high is always reflective, peaceable, intellectually exciting, and sociable, unlike most alcohol highs, and there is never a hangover. Through the years I find that slightly smaller amounts of cannabis suffice to produce the same degree of high, and in one movie theater recently I found I could get high just by inhaling the cannabis smoke which permeated the theater. There is a very nice self-titering aspect to cannabis. Each puff is a very small dose; the time lag between inhaling a puff and sensing its effect is small; and there is no desire for more after the high is there.
Carl Sagan time
I think the ratio, R, of the time to sense the dose taken to the time required to take an excessive dose is an important quantity. R is very large for(which I've never taken) and reasonably short for cannabis. Small values of R should be one measure of the safety of psychedelic drugs. When cannabis is legalized, I hope to see this ratio as one of the parameters printed on the pack. I hope that time isn't too distant; the illegality of cannabis is outrageous, an impediment to full utilization of a drug which helps produce the serenity and insight, sensitivity and fellowship so desperately needed in this increasingly mad and dangerous world.
Carl Sagan hope
Cosmos. New York: Random House. 1980.. .
Carl Sagan random
Our feeblest contemplations of thestir us … We know we are approaching theof .
Carl Sagan
I believe ourdepends powerfully on how well we understand this Cosmos in which we float like a mote of dust in the morning .
Carl Sagan power
It is all a matter ofscale. An event that would be unthinkable in a hundred years may be inevitable in a hundred million.
Carl Sagan think
Every one of us is, in the cosmic perspective, precious. If adisagrees with you, let him live. In a hundred billion galaxies, you will not find another.
Carl Sagan perspective
In the vastness ofand the immensity of , it is myto share a planet and an epoch with .
Carl Sagan men
Theisthat is or ever was or ever will be. Our feeblest contemplations of the Cosmos stir us — there is a tingling in the spine, a catch in the voice, a faint sensation as if a distant memory, of falling from a height. We know we are approaching theof .
Carl Sagan memory
The size and age of the Cosmos are beyond ordinary human . Lost somewhere between immensity andis our tiny planetary . In a cosmic perspective, most human concerns seem insignificant, even petty. And yet our species is young and curious and brave and shows much promise. In the last few millennia we have made the most astonishing and unexpected discoveries about the Cosmos and our place within it, explorations that are exhilarating to consider. They remind us that humans have evolved to , thatis a , thatis prerequisite to survival. I believe ourdepends powerfully on how well we understand this Cosmos in which we float like a mote of dust in the morning .
Carl Sagan power
will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere.
Carl Sagan world
We are like butterflies who flutter for a day and think it's forever.
Carl Sagan lies
The fossil record implies trial and error, an inability to anticipate the future, features inconsistent with an efficient Great Designer.
Carl Sagan future
If a marker were to be erected today, it might read, in homage to his scientific courage: “He preferred the hard truth to his dearest illusions.”
Carl Sagan truth
The suppression of uncomfortable ideas may be common in religion and politics, but it is not the path to knowledge; it has no place in the endeavor of science.
Carl Sagan religion
With insufficient data it is easy to go wrong.
Carl Sagan wrong
Ourand ourhave given us theto affect the climate. How will we use this power? Are we willing to tolerateand complacency in matters that affect the entire human family? Do we value short-term advantages above the welfare of the ? Or will we think on longer time scales, with concern for our children and our grandchildren, to understand and protect the complex life-support systems of our planet? The Earth is a tiny and fragile world. It needs to be cherished.
Carl Sagan life
Human beings have a demonstrated talent for self-deception when theirare stirred.
Carl Sagan self
For a long time the human instinct to understand was thwarted by facile religious explanations.
Carl Sagan war
They (i. e., the ) did not advocate the free confrontation of conflicting points of view. Instead, like all orthodox religions, they practised a rigidity that prevented them from correcting their errors.
Carl Sagan religion
The Platonists and their Christian successors held the peculiar notion that thewas tainted and somehow nasty, while thewere perfect and divine. The fundamental idea that the Earth is a planet, that we are citizens of the , was rejected and forgotten.
Carl Sagan success
For as long as there been humans we have searched for our place in the cosmos. Where are we? Who are we? We find that we live on an insignificant planet of a hum-drum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people. This perspective is a courageous continuation of our penchant for constructing and testing mental models of the skies; the Sun as a red-hot stone, the stars as a celestial flame, the Galaxy as the backbone of night.
Carl Sagan people
If we long for our planet to be important, there is something we can do about it. We make our world significant by the courage of our questions and by the depth of our answers.
Carl Sagan courage
We embarked on our journey to the stars with a question first framed in the childhood of our species and in each generation asked anew with undiminished wonder: What are the stars? Exploration is in our nature. We began as wanderers, and we are wanderers still. We have lingered long enough on the shores of the cosmic ocean. We are ready at last to set sail for the stars.
Carl Sagan nature
Astronomically, the U. S. S. R. and the United States are the same place.
Carl Sagan
Relativity does set limits on what humans can ultimately do. But the universe is not required to be in perfect harmony with human aspirations.
Carl Sagan man
I have...a terrible need...shall I say the word?...of . Then I go out at night and paint the stars.
Carl Sagan pain
Matter is composed chiefly of .
Carl Sagan
A googolplex is precisely as far from infinity as is the number 1... no matter what number you have in mind, infinity is larger still.
Carl Sagan mind
The universe seems neither benign nor hostile, merely indifferent to the concerns of such puny creatures as we are.
Carl Sagan universe
Nobody listens to mathematicians.
Carl Sagan body
The neurochemistry of the brain is astonishingly busy, the circuitry of a machine more wonderful than any devised by humans. But there is no evidence that its functioning is due to anything more than the 1014 neural connections that build an elegant architecture of consciousness.
Carl Sagan man
permit us to voyage through time, to tap theof our ancestors. The library connects us with the insights and knowledge, painfully extracted from Nature, of the greatest minds that ever were, with the best teachers, drawn from the entire planet and from all of our history, to instruct us without tiring, and to inspire us to make our own contribution to the collective knowledge of the human species. Public libraries depend on voluntary contributions. I think the health of our civilization, the depth of our awareness about the underpinnings of our culture and our concern for the future can all be tested by how well we support our libraries.
Carl Sagan knowledge
Other things being equal, it is better to be smart than to be stupid.
Carl Sagan art
As the ancient myth makers knew, we are children equally of theand the .
Carl Sagan children
iswrit large.
Carl Sagan
We have heard the rationales offered by the nuclear superpowers. We know who speaks for the nations. But who speaks for the human species? Who speaks for Earth?
Carl Sagan art
Those afraid of the universe as it really is, those who pretend to nonexistent knowledge and envision a Cosmos centered on human beings will prefer the fleeting comforts of superstition. They avoid rather than confront the world. But those with the courage to explore the weave and structure of the Cosmos, even where it differs profoundly from their wishes and prejudices, will penetrate its deepest mysteries.
Carl Sagan knowledge
There is no other species on the Earth that does science. It is, so far, entirely a human invention, evolved by natural selection in the cerebral cortex for one simple reason: it works. It is not perfect. It can be misused. It is only a tool. But it is by far the best tool we have, self-correcting, ongoing, applicable to everything. It has two rules. First: there are no sacred truths; all assumptions must be critically examined; arguments from authority are worthless. Second: whatever is inconsistent with the facts must be discarded or revised. We must understand the Cosmos as it is and not confuse how it is with how we wish it to be.
Carl Sagan truth
can be viewed as a slowly dawningthat we are members of a larger group.
Carl Sagan
We are the local embodiment of a Cosmos grown to selfawareness. We have begun to contemplate our origins: starstuff pondering the stars; organized assemblages of ten billion billion billion atoms considering the evolution of atoms; tracing the long journey by which, here at least, consciousness arose. Our loyalties are to the species and the planet. We speak for Earth. Our obligation to survive is owed not just to ourselves but also to that Cosmos, ancient and vast, from which we spring.
Carl Sagan war
Contact : a novel. New York: Simon and Schuster. 1985.. . For quotes from the motion picture based on this novel, see:All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Pocket Books
Carl Sagan quotes
Look, all I'm asking is for you to just have the tiniest bit of . You know, to just sit back for one minute and look at the big picture...
Carl Sagan you
For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through .
Carl Sagan
I wish to propose a doctrine which may, I fear, appear wildly paradoxical and subversive. The doctrine in question is this: that it is undesirable to believe a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true. I must, of course, admit that if such anbecame common it would completely transform our social life and our political system; since both are at present faultless, this must weigh against it.
Carl Sagan life
Humans are good, she knew, at discerning subtle patterns that are really there, but equally so at imagining them when they are altogether absent.
Carl Sagan man
We could not guess how different from us they (extraterrestrials) might be. It was hard enough to guess the intentions of our elected representatives in Washington.
Carl Sagan present
If we like them, they’refighters, she thought. If we don’t like them, they’re . In the unlikely case we can’t make up our minds, they’re temporarily only guerrillas.
Carl Sagan mind
If the press descended, thewould surely suffer.
Carl Sagan end
It’s hard to kill a creature once it lets you see its consciousness.
Carl Sagan consciousness
“Let’s see if I’ve got this straight,” he returned. It was a phrase of hers that he had adopted “It’s a lazy Saturday afternoon, and there’s this couple lying naked in bed reading the Encyclopaedia Britannica to each other, and arguing about whether the Andromeda Galaxy is more ‘numinous’ than the Resurrection. Do they know how to have a good time or don’t they?”
Carl Sagan time
Do we, holding that theexist, deceive ourselves with insubstantialand , while random carelessand alone control the world?
Carl Sagan world
The major religions on the Earth contradict each other left and right. You can’t all be correct. And what if all of you are wrong? It’s a possibility, you know. You must care about the truth, right? Well, the way to winnow through all the differing contentions is to be skeptical. I’m not any more skeptical about your religious beliefs than I am about every new scientific idea I hear about. But in my line of work, they’re called hypotheses, not inspiration and not revelation.
Carl Sagan truth
What I’m saying is, ifwanted to send us a message, and ancient writings were the only way he could think of doing it, he could have done a better job.
Carl Sagan writing
Anything you don’t understand, Mr. Rankin, you attribute to God. God for you is where you sweep away all the mysteries of the world, all the challenges to our intelligence. You simply turn your mind off and say God did it.
Carl Sagan intelligence
Jingoistic rhetoric and puerile self-congratulatory nationalism.
Carl Sagan self
Many harebrained interpretations were also widely available, especially in weekly newspapers.
Carl Sagan rain
is the chastity of the intellect, and it is shameful to surrender it too soon or to the first comer; there is nobility in preserving it coolly and proudly through long youth, until at last, in the ripeness of instinct and discretion, it can be safely exchanged for fidelity and happiness.
Carl Sagan happiness
A celibate clergy is an especially good idea, because it tends to suppress any hereditary propensity toward .
Carl Sagan war
The chiliasts made an atheist out of me.
Carl Sagan atheist
In Mozambique, the story goes, monkeys do not talk, because they know if they utter even a single word some man will come and put them to work.
Carl Sagan work
“Do you understand what’s going on?” “Not at all,” he shouted back. “I can almost prove this can’t be happening.”
Carl Sagan you
Humans are very good at dreaming, although you’d never know it from your .
Carl Sagan dream
In the long run, the aggressive civilizations destroy themselves, almost always. It’s their . They can’t help it.
Carl Sagan help
That it will never come again Is what makes life so sweet.
Carl Sagan life
This planet is run by crazy people. Remember what they have to do to get where they are. Their perspective is so narrow, so...brief. A few years. In the best of them a few decades. They care only about the time they are in power.
Carl Sagan time
She too had found the experience transforming. How could she not? A demon had been exorcised. Several. And just when she felt more capable of love than she had ever been, she found herself alone.
Carl Sagan love
In the fabric of space and in the nature of matter, as in a great work of , there is, written small, the artist’s signature.
Carl Sagan art
Quotes that need to be located
Carl Sagan need
Science fiction. You’re right, it’s crazy. In fact, it’s even worse than that, it’s nuts. You wanna hear something really nutty? I heard of a couple guys who wanna build something called an airplane, you know you get people to go in, and fly around like birds, it’s ridiculous, right? And what about breaking the sound barrier, or rockets to the moon? Atomic energy, or a mission to Mars? Science fiction, right? Look, all I’m asking is for you to just have the tiniest bit of vision. You know, to just sit back for one minute and look at the big picture. To take a chance on something that just might end up being the most profoundly impactful moment for humanity, for the history…of history.
Carl Sagan history
You can’t convince a believer of anything; for theiris not based on evidence, it’s based on a deep seated need to believe. [This is from Dr. Arroway in Carl Sagan's Contact (New York: Pocket Books, 1985]
Carl Sagan believe
Some part of our being knows this is where we came from. We long to return. And we can. Because theis also within us. We're made of -stuff. We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.
Carl Sagan art
We wish to pursue theno matter where it leads. But to find the truth, we needandboth.
Carl Sagan truth

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