Positive Atheism's Big List of
Carl Sagan
Quotations

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Carl Edward Sagan (1934-1996)
American astronomer

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... star stuff contemplating star stuff ...
-- Carl Sagan, on humankind

Carl Sagan, Science and Skepticism RealAudio ClipThe 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.
-- Carl Sagan, sound clip from CSICOP

For years I've been stressing with regard to UFOs that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
-- Carl Sagan, quoted from Billions and Billions, chapter 5 ("Four Cosmic Questions"), page 49

The cure for a fallacious argument is a better argument, not the suppression of ideas.
-- Carl Sagan, The Demon Haunted World, page 429

If you want to save your child from polio, you can pray or you can inoculate.
-- Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World, page 30

Not explaining science seems to me perverse. When you're in love, you want to tell the world.
-- Carl Sagan (probably from) The Demon-Haunted World (?) quoted by Richard Dawkins in his DVD, Break the Science Barrier

If we crave some cosmic purpose, then let us find ourselves a worthy goal.
-- Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot

If we long to believe that the stars rise and set for us, that we are the reason there is a Universe, does science do us a disservice in deflating our conceits?
-- Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World

Modern science has been a voyage into the unknown, with a lesson in humility waiting at every stop. Many passengers would rather have stayed home.
-- Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot

We live on a hunk of rock and metal that circles a humdrum star that is one of 400 billion other stars that make up the Milky Way Galaxy which is one of billions of other galaxies which make up a universe which may be one of a very large number, perhaps an infinite number, of other universes. That is a perspective on human life and our culture that is well worth pondering.
-- Carl Sagan, quoted in Dan Lewandowski and John Stear, "A Tribute To Carl Sagan"

The suppression of uncomfortable ideas may be common in religion or in politics, but it is not the path to knowledge, and there's no place for it in the endeavor of science. We do not know beforehand where fundamental insights will arise from about our mysterious and lovely solar system. The history of our study of our solar system shows us clearly that accepted and conventional ideas are often wrong, and that fundamental insights can arise from the most unexpected sources.
-- Carl Sagan, Cosmos television series, quoted from The Carl Sagan Electronic Monument

In science it often happens that scientists say, "You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken," and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion.
-- Carl Sagan, 1987 CSICOP keynote address

If some good evidence for life after death were announced, I'd be eager to examine it; but it would have to be real scientific data, not mere anecdote.... Better the hard truth, I say, than the comforting fantasy.
-- Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World, page 204

If we can't think for ourselves, if we're unwilling to question authority, then we're just putty in the hands of those in power. But if the citizens are educated and form their own opinions, then those in power work for us. In every country, we should be teaching our children the scientific method and the reasons for a Bill of Rights. With it comes a certain decency, humility and community spirit. In the demon-haunted world that we inhabit by virtue of being human, this may be all that stands between us and the enveloping darkness.
-- Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World

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.
-- Carl Sagan, The Demon Haunted World

You can't convince a believer of anything; for their belief is not based on evidence, it's based on a deep seated need to believe.
-- Carl Sagan (attributed: source unknown)

Eratosthenes's only tools were sticks, eyes, feet, and brains; plus a zest for experiment. With those tools he correctly deduced the circumference of the Earth, to high precision, with an error of only a few percent. That's pretty good figuring for 2200 years ago.
-- Carl Sagan, Cosmos television series, quoted from The Carl Sagan Electronic Monument

Carl SaganThink of how many religions attempt to validate themselves with prophecy. Think of how many people rely on these prophecies, however vague, however unfulfilled, to support or prop up their beliefs. Yet has there ever been a religion with the prophetic accuracy and reliability of science? ... No other human institution comes close.
-- Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World, page 30

In Italy, the Inquisition was condemning people to death until the end of the eighteenth century, and inquisitional torture was not abolished in the Catholic Church until 1816. The last bastion of support for the reality of witchcraft and the necessity of punishment has been the Christian churches.
-- Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World, page 413

A religion that stressed the magnificence of the universe as revealed by modern science, might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by traditional faiths. Sooner or later, such a religion will emerge.
-- Carl Sagan, quoted from the United Universists front page

There are many hypotheses in science which are wrong. That's perfectly all right; they're the aperture to finding out what's right. Science is a self-correcting process. To be accepted, new ideas must survive the most rigorous standards of evidence and scrutiny.
-- Carl Sagan, Cosmos television series, quoted from The Carl Sagan Electronic Monument

It is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.
-- Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World

We wish to find the truth, no matter where it lies. But to find the truth we need imagination and skepticism both. We will not be afraid to speculate, but we will be careful to distinguish speculation from fact.
-- Carl Sagan, Cosmos television series, quoted from The Carl Sagan Electronic Monument

But amid much elegance and precision, the details of life and the Universe also exhibit haphazard, jury-rigged arrangements and much poor planning. What shall we make of this: an edifice abandoned early in construction by the architect?
-- Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot

The evidence, so far at least and laws of Nature aside, does not require a Designer. Maybe there is one hiding, maddeningly unwilling to be revealed.
-- Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot

Carl Sagan, as portrayed in the Bloom County comic stripThe 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.
-- Carl Sagan, Billions and Billions, page 215

When you make the finding yourself -- even if you're the last person on Earth to see the light -- you never forget it.
-- Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World, page 413

Our loyalties are to the species and the planet. We speak for Earth. Our obligation to survive is owed not just to ourselves but also to that Cosmos, ancient and vast, from which we spring.
-- Carl Sagan, quoted from John Stear, No Answers in Genesis

Short Graphic Rule

Ann Druyan: He Wanted to Know

Interviewer: "Didn't [Sagan] want to believe?"
Druyan: "He didn't want to believe. He wanted to know."
-- Ann Druyan (attributed: source unknown)

"Contrary to the fantasies of the fundamentalists, there was no deathbed conversion, no last minute refuge taken in a comforting vision of a heaven or an afterlife. For Carl, what mattered most was what was true, not merely what would make us feel better. Even at this moment when anyone would be forgiven for turning away from the reality of our situation, Carl was unflinching. As we looked deeply into each other's eyes, it was with a shared conviction that our wondrous life together was ending forever."
-- Ann Druyan, Epilogue to Billions and Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium

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