It's the birthday of one of the most prominent skeptics of the 20th century: Carl Sagan. He also happens to be one of my heroes; alas that he passed away when I was too young to appreciate his brilliance.
Some quotes in honor of his memory:
"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."
"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."
"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?"
"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."
"For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring."
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to bake an apple pie from scratch. ;)
Yay! I loved Carl Sagan so much I named my daughter after him.
Thanks for doing this, Suzanne! i took a screenshot of it and posted it on the Ardent Atheist Facebook page to spread Sagan's good words.
I like it too.
Excellent stuff, Demon Haunted World is one of my favourite books and I have a link to a PDF file which will allow you to read it for free. If anyone wants the link ( as long as it does not break the terms and conditions of this site) I can post it here for you.
The famous introduction to "Pale Blue Dot", for me, is one of the most profound and beautiful things ever written. It's what I loved most about Sagan - he wasn't just a scientist, he was a poet; he reminded us that reality is truly more awesome than any fantasies our imaginations can conjure, and we should embrace it, not delude ourselves with bronze-age fairytales.
I've only discovered Carl Sagan in the last two years and I love how he articulates it all...good role model!
Mmmmmmmm, apple pie. :-)
I really need to pick up a few of Sagan's books. I've already collected so many skeptic and counter-apologetics books, but I haven't gotten any of his, yet. Horrible oversight, on my part.
His inquisitiveness and childlike wonder for the universe is what continues to inspire a generation after his death.
I remember watching him on the tonight show (With Johnny Carson). When asked if he beleived that we were being visited by aliens, he answered that there was no evidence for it. I remember being so mad at him. It eventually sunk in that he was right. My first skeptical moment.... I owe to him.