If Ideas Had Shapes

A quoteblog ranging from philosophers in bathrobes to galaxy-rises

Tag: carl sagan

Carl Sagan – The Demon-Haunted World (1995)

Books, purchasable at low cost, permit us to interrogate the past with high accuracy; to tap the wisdom of our species; to understand the point of view of others, and not just those in power; to contemplate – with the best teachers – the insights, painfully extracted from Nature, of the greatest minds that ever were, drawn from the entire planet and from all of our history. They allow people long dead to talk inside our heads. Books can accompany us everywhere. Books are patient where we are slow to understand, allow us to go over the hard parts as many times as we wish, and are never critical of our lapses. Books are key to understanding the world and participating in a democratic society.

Carl Sagan – Cosmos (1980)

The beauty of a living thing is not the atoms that go into it, but the way those atoms are put together.

Carl Sagan – The Demon-Haunted World (1995)

Despite plentiful opportunities for misuse, science can be the golden road out of poverty and backwardness for emerging nations. … The corollary, one that the United States sometimes fails to grasp, is that abandoning science is the road back into poverty and backwardness.

Carl Sagan – The Demon-Haunted World (1995)

You can often see error bars in public opinion polls (“an uncertainty of plus or minus 3 percent,” say). Imagine a society in which every speech in the Congressional Record, every television commercial, every sermon had an accompanying error bar or its equivalent.

Carl Sagan – The Demon-Haunted World (1995)

We’ve arranged a global civilization in which most crucial elements – transportation, communications, and all other industries; agriculture, medicine, education, entertaining, protecting the environment; and even the key democratic institution of voting – 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.

Carl Sagan – The Demon-Haunted World (1995)

Science is more than a body of knowledge; it is a way of thinking. 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 key 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.

Carl Sagan – The Demon-Haunted World (1995)

We’re good in some things, but not in everything. Wisdom lies in understanding our limitations.

Carl Sagan – The Demon-Haunted World (1995)

Emerging from a particularly credulous Southern California culture, Nancy and Ronald Reagan relied on an astrologer in private and public matters – unknown to the voting public. Some portion of the decision-making that influences the future of our civilization is plainly in the hands of charlatans.

Carl Sagan – The Demon-Haunted World (1995)

Surveys suggest that some 95 percent of Americans are “scientifically illiterate.” That’s just the same fraction as those African Americans, almost all of them slaves, who were illiterate just before the Civil War – when severe penalties were in force for anyone who taught a slave to read.

Carl Sagan – The Demon-Haunted World (1995)

Valid criticism does you a favor.