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Carl Edward Sagan
1934 - 1996

Professor of Astronomy and Space Sciences and Director of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies at Cornell University. Sagan was part of the team that sent the Mariner, Viking, and Voyager spacecraft expeditions to the planets, for which he received the NASA Medals for Exceptional Scientific Achievement and (twice) for Distinguished Public Service. As a scientist trained in both astronomy and biology, he made important contributions to the study of Earth and the planets. However he is probably best remembered as the author of Broca's Brain (1979) and as creator and host of the hugely popular television show Cosmos and its related book Cosmos (1980).


Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

1997 - from Billions and Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium
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 is simply too painful to acknowledge -- even to ourselves -- that we've been so credulous.

from "The Fine Art of Baloney Detection"
An extraterrestrial being, newly arrived on Earth -- scrutinizing what we mainly present to our children in television, radio, movies, newspapers, magazines, the comics, and many books -- might easily conclude that we are intent on teaching them murder, rape, cruelty, superstition, credulity, and consumerism. We keep at it, and through constant repitition many of them finally get it. What kind of society could we create if, instead, we drummed into them science and a sense of hope?

1996 - from The Demon-Haunted World: Science As a Candle in the Dark
We've arranged a civilization in which most crucial elements profoundly depend on science and technology. We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces.

The well-meaning contention that all ideas have equal merit seems to me little different from the disastrous contention that no ideas have any merit.

1978 - from Broca's Brain
For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.

1996 - from The Demon-Haunted World: Science As a Candle in the Dark
Where skeptical observation and discussion are suppressed, the truth is hidden.

1978 - from Broca's Brain
Finding the occasional straw of truth awash in a great ocean of confusion and bamboozle requires intelligence, vigilance, dedication and courage. But if we don't practice these tough habits of thought, we cannot hope to solve the truly serious problems that face us - and we risk becoming a nation of suckers, up for grabs by the next charlatan who comes along.

from "The Fine Art of Baloney Detection"
At the extremes it is difficult to distinguish pseudoscience from rigid, doctrinaire religion.

1996 - from The Demon-Haunted World: Science As a Candle in the Dark
I worry that, especially as the Millennium edges nearer, pseudoscience and superstition will seem year by year more tempting, the siren song of unreason more sonorous and attractive. ... The candle flame gutters. Its little pool of light trembles. Darkness gathers. The demons begin to stir.

1996 - from The Demon-Haunted World: Science As a Candle in the Dark