All his life, Carl Sagan was troubled by grand dichotomies—between reason and irrationalism, between wonder and skepticism. The dichotomies clashed within him.
. . . In the final analysis, he was the dichotomy: the prophet and the hard-boiled skeptic, the boyish fantasist and the ultrarigorous analyst, the warm companion and the brusque colleague, the oracle whose smooth exterior concealed inner fissures, which, in the end, only one woman would heal.Keay Davidson, Carl Sagan: A life, p. 1
The Abortion Essay of Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan
On April 22nd, 1990, Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan published an article for Parade Magazine called “The Question of Abortion: A Search for Answers.” The essay lives on today as the chapter “Abortion: Is It Possible to Be Both ‘Pro-Life’ and ‘Pro-Choice’?” from Sagan’s last book Billions and Billions. You can read the essay here or listen to it here. I have yet to read the entire book, but I was intrigued by this chance to get Sagan’s and Druyan’s take on abortion, which is a topic I’m becoming increasingly passionate about.Read more
Was Carl Sagan an Atheist?
When I posted Inaccuracy, Eurocentrism, and Antitheism in Carl Sagan’s Cosmos last month, it caused a bit of a stir among Carl Sagan fans (especially on Reddit). Not the least constructive of the criticism was the point that Carl Sagan was not even an atheist. Of course, I already know that he did not identify as an atheist, and in that post I never said he did. I suppose that people who used that as a rebuttal were assuming that one can’t be antitheistic without even being an atheist.Read more
Inaccuracy, Eurocentrism, and Antitheism in Carl Sagan’s Cosmos
“Whatever is inconsistent with the facts, no matter how fond of it we are, must be discarded or revised.” – Carl Sagan, Cosmos Episode 13: “Who Speaks for Earth?”
Since first reading Cosmos by Carl Sagan one year ago, I have revered him. I admire his worldview and his way of expressing it. I’ve dedicated many blog posts to him and to the curiosity that he has inspired in me. I’ve shared dozens of his quotes, many of which carry the same sentiment as the one above. This dedication to the truth, this unwillingness to accept facts only because they were propagated by an authority figure, is what brings me to write that Carl Sagan was wrong.Read more
Book Review: For Small Creatures Such as We by Sasha Sagan
If you’ve read Cosmos by Sasha’s father, and you’re wondering what the universe’s immensity and grandeur mean for humanity, then you will love this book. The title comes from a quote (from Carl’s novel Contact) written by Ann Druyan, Sasha’s mother and Carl’s wife. The quote says in its entirety, “For small creatures such as we, the vastness is bearable only through love.” Cosmos explores the vastness. Sasha’s book explores the rest: how we, the small creatures, can use love to make it bearable. The subtitle, Rituals for Finding Meaning in Our Unlikely World, gives us a hint on how to do that.Read more
How Should Skeptics Approach Pseudoscience?
If you have been following my blog for the past few months, then you know that one of my favorite YouTubers is Progressive Christian Brenda Marie Davies. I feel like I’m talking about how great her channel is in every other post. So you can imagine that when she posted a podcast episode this week all about astrology—interviewing full-time “astrologer” Aliza Kelly—that I was frustrated because belief in the pseudoscience of astrology is my #1 pet peeve.Read more
Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot: Book Review and 17 Best Quotes
After reading Carl Sagan’s Cosmos and The Demon-Haunted World, I decided that it was time to return for Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space, the Cosmos sequel famous for the short but poignant speech of the same name. Pale Blue Dot is possibly the most humbling book you will ever read, and that rings especially true for anyone who believes that the Universe was created exclusively for humans.Read more
Why Atheists Revere Carl Sagan
Since I was a kid, I’ve had a tendency to get “obsessed” with various things. I think “obsessed” might be a harsh word for it, but it’s not entirely inaccurate: over the years I have become enamored with different book series, TV shows, and musicians in the sense that one could have thought that my being a fan of that thing was my main personality trait. As I’ve grown older, this zeal has gone more towards things like atheism, paleoanthropology, and most recently, everything Carl Sagan has ever written.Read more
Is Astrology Really Harmful?
One of my favorite things about my blog has always been the ability to sit down on the weekends and write about whatever topic it is that plagued my mind all week. Sometimes it’s paleoanthropology or progressive Christianity, and this week it’s been astrology. I’ve written about astrology before (why it is pseudoscience, and why mercury retrograde is strictly an astronomical rather than astrological phenomenon), so one might wonder why I can’t just let it go. The fact is, something about astrology really rubs me the wrong way, and anyone close to me knows it.Read more
36 Timeless Quotes from Carl Sagan’s The Demon-Haunted World
As you likely know, I recently finished reading Carl Sagan’s The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark after it was suggested to me by many. For most of the book, I found myself making underline after underline, as Sagan (and in some cases, his beloved wife Ann Druyan) once again captured the awe one feels at the beauty of science and Nature. Additionally, everyone saying that his “foreboding” quotes are so applicable to modern times are correct as well; Sagan explains how only when a society is dedicated to science and skepticism can it stave off the grasp of authoritarian leadership. His stance is so eerily relevant that it feels appropriate for me to be re-reading these quotes on Halloween.Read more