Saturday, November 13, 2010

Carl Sagan -- Happy Belated Birthday (11-9-1934)


I meant to put something up on his birthday but better late than never. For a curious child growing up in the Midwest, Carl Sagan was a rational breath of fresh air. He gave voice to that feeling inside me that things I heard were not quite right and that it was OK to question. Some of his better quotes:

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

"Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense."

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

"The truth may 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."

"Who is more humble? The scientist who looks at the universe with an open mind and accepts whatever the universe 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?"

"We are like butterflies who flutter for a day and think it's forever."

"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."

"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."

3 comments:

CyberKitten said...

I loved that guy. He's sorely missed......

wunelle said...

Excellent quotes, all! His writings were one of life's milestones for me.

tom said...

Boy oh boy do we miss Carl, makes me get all sniffly and such thinking how he would have taken on the Jebus crowd AND the klanbaggers