Thursday, May 30, 2013

Carl Sagan

Carl Sagan was an astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist, author, science popularizer, science communicator, in astronomy and natural sciences, and a Pulitzer prize winner. He spent most of his career as a professor of astronomy at Cornell University where he directed the Laboratory for Planetary Studies. He published more than 600 scientific papers and articles and was author, co-author or editor of more than 20 books. He advocated scientifically skeptical inquiry and the scientific method, pioneered exobiology and promoted the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI).

Here's the gist of what he stated in a 1966 interview. "Many of the stars in the sky have planetary systems. We know enough now about the origin of life to appear likely that life arises naturally on the vast bulk of these planets."

"It's possible but by no means certain that life, on many of these planets, evolves into beings which are advanced as we, or more advanced. I don't see any reason why we can't imagine that there's civilizations thousands or millions of years in advance of ourselves, capable of technical feats that we can hardly imagine. The real belief in flying-saucers is much easily obtained if you look at the contact myths. Several hundred people in the U.S. who claimed to have had personal contact with the inhabitants of flying saucers that have landed. If you examine these myths you will find there are some peculiar regularities."

The inhabitants of saucers are benevolent, really concerned for our well-being, they are omnipotent - extremely powerful; omniscient - extremely knowledgeable, and they often wear long white robes. This combination is something you hear in other contexts; this isn't science, this is religion. What I suspect is happening is this: we live in very unsettled times. It used to be possible to believe in a personal, benevolent, powerful, all-knowing God, who cared about individuals, who you could pray to. But now, there are very few people who believe that."