Carl Sagan

“The truth may be puzzling. It may take some work to grapple with. It may be counter-intuitive. 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.”

I stumbled upon this quote and it made me read all the others and about the author that is Carl Sagan. This post is one of those unplanned posts. Today is Carl Sagan’s birthday. I don’t really have much of information about him, however I wanted to share some of his thoughts. Here they are;

“We are like butterflies who flutter for a day and think it’s forever.”

“The fossil record implies trial and error, an inability to anticipate the future, features inconsistent with an efficient Great Designer.”

“It is all a matter of time scale. An event that would be unthinkable in a hundred years may be inevitable in a hundred million.”

“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 10 to the power 14 neural connections that build an elegant architecture of consciousness.”

“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.” 

“The beauty of a living thing is not the atoms that go into it, but the way those atoms are put together. Information distilled over 4 billion years of biological evolution. Incidentally, all the organisms on the Earth are made essentially of that stuff.

“All my life, I’ve wondered about life beyond the earth. On those countless other planets that we think circle other suns, is there also life? Might the beings of other worlds resemble us, or would they be astonishingly different? What would they be made of? In the vast Milky Way galaxy, how common is what we call life? The nature of life on earth and the quest for life elsewhere are the two sides of the same question: the search for who we are.”

“In our tenure on this planet we’ve accumulated dangerous evolutionary baggage, propensities for aggression and ritual, submission to leaders, hostility to outsiders, all of which puts our survival in some doubt. But we’ve also acquired compassion for others, love for our children, a desire to learn from history and experience and a great soaring passionate intelligence, the clear tools for our continued survival and prosperity. Which aspects of our nature will prevail is uncertain, particularly when our visions and prospects are bound to one small part of the small planet Earth. But up there in the Cosmos an inescapable perspective awaits.”

“The secrets of evolution are death and time—the deaths of enormous numbers of lifeforms that were imperfectly adapted to the environment; and time for a long succession of small mutations.”

“We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.”

“While our behaviour is still significantly controlled by our genetic inheritance, we have, through our brains, a much richer opportunity to blaze new behavioural and cultural pathways on short time-scales.”

“And after we returned to the savannah and abandoned the trees, did we long for those great graceful leaps and ecstatic moments of weightlessness in the shafts of sunlight of the forest roof?”

“There is no reason to think that the evolutionary process has stopped. Man is a transitional animal. He is not the climax of creation.”

“The Darwinian insight can be turned upside down and grotesquely misused: Voracious robber barons may explain their cut-throat practices by an appeal to Social Darwinism; Nazis and other racists may call on “survival of the fittest” to justify genocide. But Darwin did not make John D. Rockefeller or Adolf Hitler. Greed, the Industrial Revolution, the free enterprise system, and corruption of government by are adequate to explain nineteenth-century capitalism. Ethnocentrism, xenophobia, social hierarchies, the long history of anti-Semitism in Germany, the Versailles Treaty, German child-rearing practices, inflation, and the Depression seem adequate to explain Hitler’s rise to power. Very likely these or similar events would have transpired with or without Darwin. And modern Darwinism makes it abundantly clear that many less ruthless traits, some not always admired by robber barons and Fuhrers – altruism, general intelligence, compassion – may be the key to survival.”


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