The Truth About Our Existence and Life | Carl Sagan

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We were wanderers from the beginning. We knew every stand of tree for a hundred miles. When the fruits and nuts were ripe we were there. We followed the herds in their annual migrations. We rejoiced in fresh meat. Through stealth, feint, ambush and main force assault. A few of us co- operating accomplished what many of us each hunting alone, could not. We depended on one another, making it on our own was as ludicrous to imagine as was settling down. Working together we protected our children from the lions and the hyenas. We taught them the skills they would need, and the tools. Then, as now, technology was the key to our survival. For 99.9% of the time since our species came to be we were hunters and foragers, wanderers on the Savannahs and the steps. There were no border guards, no customs officials the frontier was everywhere. We were bounded only by the earth, and the ocean, and the sky.

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    Books permit us to voyage through time, to tap the wisdom of our ancestors. The library connects us with the insight and knowledge, painfully extracted from Nature, of the greatest minds that ever were, with the best teachers, drawn from the entire planet and from all our history, to instruct us without tiring, and to inspire us to make our own contribution to the collective knowledge of the human species. I think the health of our civilization, the depth of our awareness about the underpinnings of our culture and our concern for the future can all be tested by how well we support our libraries

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    The fossil record implies trial and error, the inability to anticipate the future, features inconsistent with a Great Designer (though not a Designer of a more remote and indirect temperament.)

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    A new concept of god: “something not very different from the sum total of the physical laws of the universe; that is, gravitation plus quantum mechanics plus grand unified field theories plus a few other things equaled god. And by that all they meant was that here were a set of exquisitely powerful physical principles that seemed to explain a great deal that was otherwise inexplicable about the universe. Laws of nature…that apply not just locally, not just in Glasgow, but far beyond: Edinburgh, Moscow…Mars…the center of the Milky Way, and out by the most distant quarters known. That the same laws of physics apply everywhere is quite remarkable. Certainly that represents a power greater than any of us

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    But if the Bible is not everywhere literally true, which parts are divinely inspired and which are merely fallible and human? As soon as we admit that there are scriptural mistakes (or concessions to the ignorance of the times), then how can the Bible be an inerrant guide to ethics and morals? Might sects and individuals now accept as authentic the parts of the Bible they like, and reject those that are inconvenient or burdensome?

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    The Apollo pictures of the whole Earth conveyed to multitudes something well known to astronomers: On the scale of the worlds - to say nothing of stars or galaxies - humans are inconsequential, a thin film of life on an obscure and solitary lump of rock and metal

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    We are the only species on the planet, so far as we know, to have invented a communal memory stored neither in our genes nor in our brains. The warehouse of this memory is called the library

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    The Cosmos extends, for all practical purposes, forever. After a brief sedentary hiatus, we are resuming our ancient nomadic way of life. Our remote descendants, safely arrayed on many worlds throughout the Solar System and beyond, will be unified by their common heritage, by their regard for their home planet, and by the knowledge that, whatever other life may be, the only humans in all the Universe come from Earth. They will gaze up and strain to find the blue dot in their skies. They will love it no less for its obscurity and fragility. They will marvel at how vulnerable the repository of all our potential once was, how perilous our infancy, how humble our beginnings, how many rivers we had to cross before we found our way

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    One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back

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    I have a foreboding of an America in my children's or grandchildren's time -- when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what's true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness...The dumbing down of American is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30 second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance

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    And reading itself is an amazing activity: You glance at a thin, flat object made from a tree...and the voice of the author begins to speak inside your head. (Hello!)

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    But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown

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    Every one of us is, in the cosmic perspective, precious. If a human disagrees with you, let him live. In a hundred billion galaxies, you will not find another

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    When I wake up I go through an abbreviated process of mourning all over again. Plainly, there’s something within me that’s ready to believe in life after death. And it’s not the least bit interested in whether there’s any sober evidence for it

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    When my husband died, because he was so famous and known for not being a believer, many people would come up to me-it still sometimes happens-and ask me if Carl changed at the end and converted to a belief in an afterlife. They also frequently ask me if I think I will see him again. Carl faced his death with unflagging courage and never sought refuge in illusions. The tragedy was that we knew we would never see each other again. I don't ever expect to be reunited with Carl. But, the great thing is that when we were together, for nearly twenty years, we lived with a vivid appreciation of how brief and precious life is. We never trivialized the meaning of death by pretending it was anything other than a final parting. Every single moment that we were alive and we were together was miraculous-not miraculous in the sense of inexplicable or supernatural. We knew we were beneficiaries of chance. . . . That pure chance could be so generous and so kind. . . . That we could find each other, as Carl wrote so beautifully in Cosmos, you know, in the vastness of space and the immensity of time. . . . That we could be together for twenty years. That is something which sustains me and it’s much more meaningful. . . . The way he treated me and the way I treated him, the way we took care of each other and our family, while he lived. That is so much more important than the idea I will see him someday. I don't think I'll ever see Carl again. But I saw him. We saw each other. We found each other in the cosmos, and that was wonderful

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    The nuclear arms race is like two sworn enemies standing waist deep in gasoline, one with three matches, the other with five

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    There is a wide yawning black infinity. In every direction the extension is endless, the sensation of depth is overwhelming. And the darkness is immortal. Where light exists, it is pure, blazing, fierce; but light exists almost nowhere, and the blackness itself is also pure and blazing and fierce. But most of all, there is very nearly nothing in the dark; except for little bits here and there, often associated with the light, this infinite receptacle is empty.This picture is strangely frightening. It should be familiar. It is our universe.Even these stars, which seem so numerous, are, as sand, as dust, or less than dust, in the enormity of the space in which there is nothing. Nothing! We are not without empathetic terror when we open Pascal’s Pensées and read, 'I am the great silent spaces between worlds.'[From an undated, handwritten piece of text from the early 1950s which Sagan wrote when he was an undergraduate at the University of Chicago]

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    How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, “This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant?

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    When you look more generally at life on Earth, you find that it is all the same kind of life. There are not many different kinds; there's only one kind. It uses about fifty fundamental biological building blocks, organic molecules

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    From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of particular interest. But for us, it's different. Consider again that dot. That's here, that's home, that's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand. It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known

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    A blade of grass is a commonplace on Earth; it would be a miracle on Mars. Our descendants on Mars will know the value of a patch of green. And if a blade of grass is priceless, what is the value of a human being?

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    The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot

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    But the male lexicographers had somehow neglected to coin a word for the dislike of men. They were almost entirely men themselves, she thought, and had been unable to imagine a market for such a word

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    I would love to believe that when I die I will live again, that some thinking, feeling, remembering part of me will continue. But as 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

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    National boundaries are not evident when we view the Earth from space. Fanatical ethnic or religious or national chauvinisms are a little difficult to maintain when we see our planet as a fragile blue crescent fading to become an inconspicuous point of light against the bastion and citadel of the stars

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    If God is omnipotent and omniscient, why didn't he start the universe out in the first place so it would come out the way he wants? Why's he constantly repairing and complaining? No, there's one thing the Bible makes clear: The biblical God is a sloppy manufacturer. He's not good at design, he's not good at execution. He'd be out of business, if there was any competition

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    The idea that God is an oversized white male with a flowing beard, who sits in the sky and tallies the fall of every sparrow is ludicrous. But if by 'God,' one means the set of physical laws that govern the universe, then clearly there is such a God. This God is emotionally unsatisfying... it does not make much sense to pray to the law of gravity

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    While ritual, emotion and reasoning are all significant aspects of human nature, the most nearly unique human characteristic is the ability to associate abstractly and to reason. Curiosity and the urge to solve problems are the emotional hallmarks of our species; and the most characteristically human activities are mathematics, science, technology, music and the arts--a somewhat broader range of subjects than is usually included under the "humanities." Indeed, in its common usage this very word seems to reflect a peculiar narrowness of vision about what is human. Mathematics is as much a "humanity" as poetry

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    Since, in the long run, every planetary civilization will be endangered by impacts from space, every surviving civilization is obliged to become spacefaring--not because of exploratory or romantic zeal, but for the most practical reason imaginable: staying alive... If our long-term survival is at stake, we have a basic responsibility to our species to venture to other worlds

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    In the vastness of space and the immensity of time, it is my joy to share a planet and an epoch with Annie.[Dedication to Sagan's wife, Ann Druyan, in Cosmos]

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    Advances in medicine and agriculture have saved vastly more lives than have been lost in all the wars in history

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    These days there seems to be nowhere left to explore, at least on the land area of the Earth. Victims of their very success, the explorers now pretty much stay home

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    Could we possible manage the next phase of human history without first dealing with this penchant for dehumanizing the adversary?

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    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

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    The visions we offer our children shape the future. It _matters_ what those visions are. Often they become self-fulfilling prophecies. Dreams are maps

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    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

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    Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there--on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam

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    There is every reason to think that in the coming years Mars and its mysteries will become increasingly familiar to the inhabitants of the Planet Earth

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    If we are merely matter intricately assembled, is this really demeaning? If there's nothing here but atoms, does that make us less or does that make matter more?

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    In that case, on behalf of Earthlife, I urge that, with full knowledge of our limitations, we vastly increase our knowledge of the Solar System and then begin to settle other worlds

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    It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known

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    The laws of nature cannot be randomly reshuffled at the cusps [of an oscillating universe]. If the universe has already gone through many oscillations, many possible laws of gravity would have been so weak that, for any given initial expansion, the universe would not have held together. Once the universe stumbles upon such a gravitational law, it flies apart and has no further opportunity to experience another oscillation and another cusp and another set of laws of nature. Thus we can deduce from the fact that the universe exists either a finite age, or a severe restriction on the kinds of laws of nature permitted in each oscillation. If the laws of physics are not randomly reshuffled at the cusps, there must be a regularity, a set of rules, that determines which laws are permissible and which are not. Such a set of rules would comprise a new physics standing over the existing physics. Our language is impoverished; there seems to be no suitable name for such a new physics. Both 'paraphysics' and 'metaphysics' have been preempted by other rather different and, quite possibly, wholly irrelevant activities. Perhaps 'transphysics' would do

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    Or consider a story in the Jewish Talmud left out of the Book of Genesis. (It is in doubtful accord with the account of the apple, the Tree of Knowledge, the Fall, and the expulsion from Eden.) In The Garden, God tells Eve and Adam that He has intentionally left the Universe unfinished. It is the responsibility of humans, over countless generations, to participate with God in a "glorious" experiment - the "completing of the Creation." The burden of such a responsibility is heavy, especially on so weak and imperfect a species as ours, one with so unhappy a history. Nothing remotely like "completion" can be attempted without vastly more knowledge than we have today. But, perhaps, if our very existence is at stake, we will find ourselves able to rise to this supreme challenge

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    [When a religious couple wrote to Sagan about fulfilled prophecies, he wrote back in May 1996:]If ‘fulfilled prophecy’ is your criterion, why do you not believe in materialistic science, which has an unparalleled record of fulfilled prophecy? Consider, for example, eclipses

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    There is something stunningly narrow about how the Anthropic Principle is phrased. Yes, only certain laws and constants of nature are consistent with our kind of life. But essentially the same laws and constants are required to make a rock. So why not talk about a Universe designed so rocks could one day come to be, and strong and weak Lithic Principles? If stones could philosophize, I imagine Lithic Principles would be at the intellectual frontiers

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    I consider it an extremely dangerous doctrine, because the more likely we are to assume that the solution comes from the outside, the less likely we are to solve our problems ourselves

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    The astonishing fact is that similar mathematics applies so well to planets and to clocks. It needn’t have been this way. We didn’t impose it on the Universe. That’s the way the Universe is. If this is reductionism, so be it

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    It's a lazy Saturday afternoon, there's a couple lying naked in bed reading Encyclopediea Brittannica to each other, and arguing about whether the Andromeda Galaxy is more 'numinous' than the Ressurection. Do they know how to have a good time, or don't they?

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    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?

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    Humans — who enslave, castrate, experiment on, and fillet other animals — have had an understandable penchant for pretending animals do not feel pain. A sharp distinction between humans and 'animals' is essential if we are to bend them to our will, make them work for us, wear them, eat them — without any disquieting tinges of guilt or regret. It is unseemly of us, who often behave so unfeelingly toward other animals, to contend that only humans can suffer. The behavior of other animals renders such pretensions specious. They are just too much like us

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    The method of science is tried and true. It is not perfect, it's just the best we have. And to abandon it, with its skeptical protocols, is the pathway to a dark age

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    So those who wished for some central cosmic purpose for us, or at least our world, or at least our solar system, or at least our galaxy, have been disappointed, progressively disappointed. The universe is not responsive to our ambitious expectations

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    But we have no [Marian] apparitions cautioning the Church against, say, accepting the delusion of an Earth-centered Universe, or warning it of complicity with Nazi Germany — two matters of considerable moral as well as historical import....Not a single saint criticized the practice of torturing and burning “witches

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    The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff

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    We sometimes hear of things that can travel faster than light. Something called 'the speed of thought' is occasionally proffered. This is an exceptionally silly notion especially since the speed of impulses through the neutrons in our brain is about the same as the speed of a donkey cart

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    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

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    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

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    I do not think it irresponsible to portray even the direst futures if we are to avoid them we must understand that they are possible. But where are the alternatives Where are the dreams that motivate and inspire We long for realistic maps of a world we can be proud to give to our children. Where are the cartographers of human purpose Where are the visions of hopeful futures of technology as a tool for human betterment and not a gun on hair trigger pointed at our heads

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    The Cosmos is all that is or was or ever will be. Our feeblest contemplations of the Cosmos stir us -- there is a tingling in the spine, a catch in the voice, a faint sensation, as if a distant memory, of falling from a height. We know we are approaching the greatest of mysteries

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    The hole in the ozone layer is a kind of skywriting. At first it seemed to spell out our continuing complacency before a witch's brew of deadly perils. But perhaps it really tells of a newfound talent to work together to protect the global environment

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    It goes with a courageous intent to greet the universe as it really is, not to foist our emotional predispositions on it but to courageously accept what our explorations tell us

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    The same few dozen organic molecules are used over and over again in biology for the widest variety of functions

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    Arguments from authority carry little weight – authorities have made mistakes in the past. They will do so again in the future. Perhaps a better way to say it is that in science there are no authorities; at most, there are experts

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    As science advances, there seems to be less and less for God to do. It's a big universe, of course, so He, She, or It, could be profitably employed in many places. But what has clearly been happening is that evolving before our eyes has been a God of the Gaps; that is, whatever it is we cannot explain lately is attributed to God. And then after a while, we explain it, and so that's no longer God's realm

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    The others would then fall silent and she would continue about doped gallium arsenide detectors, or the ethanol content of the galactic cloud W-3. The quantity of 200-proof alcohol in this single interstellar cloud was more than enough to maintain the present population of the Earth, if every adult were a dedicated alcoholic, for the age of the solar system. The tamada had appreciated the remark

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    Science cuts two ways, of course; its products can be used for both good and evil. But there's no turning back from science. The early warnings about technological dangers also come from science

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    The reappearance of the crescent moon after the new moon; the return of the Sun after a total eclipse, the rising of the Sun in the morning after its troublesome absence at night were noted by people around the world; these phenomena spoke to our ancestors of the possibility of surviving death. Up there in the skies was also a metaphor of immortality

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    One of the great commandments of science is, "Mistrust arguments from authority." (Scientists, being primates, and thus given to dominance hierarchies, of course do not always follow this commandment.) Too many such arguments have proved too painfully wrong. Authorities must prove their contentions like everybody else. This independence of science, its occasional unwillingness to accept conventional wisdom, makes it dangerous to doctrines less self critical, or with pretensions of certitude

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    The significance of our lives and our fragile planet is then determined only by our own wisdom and courage. We are the custodians of life's meaning. We long for a Parent to care for us, to forgive us our errors, to save us from our childish mistakes. But knowledge is preferable to ignorance. Better by far to embrace the hard truth than a reassuring fable. If we crave some cosmic purpose, then let us find ourselves a worthy goal

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    Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known

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    Carl Sagan quote

    I'm frequently asked, "Do you believe there's extraterrestrial intelligence?" I give the standard arguments- there are a lot of places out there, the molecules of life are everywhere, I use the word billions, and so on. Then I say it would be astonishing to me if there weren't extraterrestrial intelligence, but of course there is as yet no compelling evidence for it.Often, I'm asked next, "What do you really think?"I say, "I just told you what I really think.""Yes, but what's your gut feeling?"But I try not to think with my gut. If I'm serious about understanding the world, thinking with anything besides my brain, as tempting as that might be, is likely to get me into trouble. Really, it's okay to reserve judgment until the evidence is in

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    In its encounter with Nature, science invariably elicits a sense of reverence and awe. The very act of understanding is a celebration of joining, merging, even if on a very modest scale, with the magnificence of the Cosmos. And the cumulative worldwide build-up of knowledge over time converts science into something only a little short of a trans-national, trans-generational meta-mind

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    Carl Sagan quote

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

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    The major religions on the Earth contradict each other left and right. You can't all be correct. And what if all of you are wrong? It's a possibility, you know. You must care about the truth, right? Well, the way to winnow through all the differing contentions is to be skeptical. I'm not any more skeptical about your religious beliefs than I am about every new scientific idea I hear about. But in my line of work, they're called hypotheses, not inspiration and not revelation

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    Carl Sagan quote

    But if they called everything divine which they do not understand, why, there would be no end of divine beings

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    Many religions have attempted to make statues of their gods very large, and the idea, I suppose, is to make us feel small. But if that's their purpose, they can keep their paltry icons. We need only look up if we wish to feel small

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    Whatever the reason we first mustered the _Apollo_ program, however mired it was in Cold War nationalism and the instruments of death, the inescapable recognition of the unity and fragility of the Earth is its clear and luminous dividend, the unexpected final gift of _Apollo_. What began in deadly competition has helped us to see that global cooperation is the essential precondition for our survival.Travel is broadening. It's time to hit the road again

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    Carl Sagan quote

    We have held the peculiar notion that a person or society that is a little different from us, whoever we are, is somehow strange or bizarre, to be distrusted or loathed. Think of the negative connotations of words like alien or outlandish. And yet the monuments and cultures of each of our civilizations merely represent different ways of being human. An extraterrestrial visitor, looking at the differences among human beings and their societies, would find those differences trivial compared to the similarities

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    Carl Sagan quote

    A celibate clergy is an especially good idea, because it tends to suppress any hereditary propensity toward fanaticism

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    Carl Sagan quote

    two chimpanzees were observed maltreating a chicken: One would extend some food to the fowl, encouraging it to approach; whereupon the other would thrust at it with a piece of wire it had concealed behind its back. The chicken would retreat but soon allow itself to approach once again--and be beaten once again. Here is a fine combination of behavior sometimes thought to be uniquely human: cooperation, planning a future course of action, deception and cruelty

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    Carl Sagan quote

    Christianity may be good and Satanism evil. Under the Constitution, however, both are neutral. This is an important, but difficult, concept for many law enforcement officers to accept. They are paid to uphold the penal code, not the Ten Commandments … The fact is that far more crime and child abuse has been committed by zealots in the name of God, Jesus and Mohammed than has ever been committed in the name of Satan. Many people don’t like that statement, but few can argue with it

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    Before we invented civilization our ancestors lived mainly in the open out under the sky. Before we devised artificial lights and atmospheric pollution and modern forms of nocturnal entertainment we watched the stars. There were practical calendar reasons of course but there was more to it than that. Even today the most jaded city dweller can be unexpectedly moved upon encountering a clear night sky studded with thousands of twinkling stars. When it happens to me after all these years it still takes my breath away

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    Science cuts two ways, of course; its products can be used for both good and evil. But there's no turning back from science

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