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These are two of my favourite quotes of all time:

"We are a way for the universe to know itself. Some part of our being knows this is where we came from. We long to return. And we can, because the Cosmos is also within us. We're made of star stuff."


“It is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.”

Someone sent these to me years ago and they’ve become lodged in my brain in some permanent fashion. I hope I’m quoting him correctly as these words had such an impact on me.

Ângelo Fernandes

we should try to find our way and "save" ourselves without expecting external help, maybe it from space, from god or other kind of entity.
I guess.
I don't much certains.

Ângelo, portugal

P.s. I need to read morte Sartre.

Nick Sagan

Andrew: Those are two of my favorites as well. I think you've quoted them both perfectly.

Ângelo: If we can't save ourselves from ourselves, I don't expect anyone else can. And about Sartre, I rather like this excerpt from http://sartre.com/:

"Sartre described the human condition in summary form: freedom entails total responsibility, in the face of which we experience anguish, forlornness, and despair; genuine human dignity can be achieved only in our active acceptance of these emotions."

Bit grim, that, but there's something to it.

Ângelo Fernandes

Grim, a bit yes, yet true. :)


From the article:
Here's Sagan explaining why he wouldn't ban all medical research using animals: "I'm sure if I were a lizard, I would be arguing about sacrificing the humans so we can get better medicine for the lizards. I'm sorry. I can't help it. I'm a human."
--end quote---

Even if *all* lizards thought like this convenient hypothetical, and even if it were legitimate as an "it's us or them" argument, wouldn't this be a bit like saying "Well they do it, so why can't I?". It seems rather close to a might makes right argument, which is unsettling coming from Carl Sagan. Humans do a lot of bad things and putting their own interests first is one of them. I wonder if saying "I can't help it, I'm human" makes things OK. I wonder how comfortable extraterrestrials might be encountering a species that said they couldn't help how they are. Would that excuse muggings and wars?

I've been thinking so much about Carl lately. I was unware of the blogswarm and was unaware that my thinking about Carl happened to coincide with the decade mark of his passing. I remember watching Cosmos when it first came out in 1980. I was in 8th grade in a Catholic school in central NYS. He legitimized the "heretical" views that I, and friends like Mark and Ed couldn't openly express. We thought we would end up great scientists, but that didn't happen for any of us. Fast forward to the mid-90's and I was reading about Carl and Dr. Jane Goodall and the issue of vivisection on primates. The article mentioned a young student protege who Carl credited with "holding my feet to the moral fires on primate research" (paraphrasing here). As it turned out, that young man was on an animal rights list that I founded. Needless to say I am saddened but not entirely surprised with Carl's comments on the lizards. I wonder when that was made. It seems so at odds with every ethic he had given voice to. There was talk about the human's vice of self-importance and yet speciesism hadn't been something he spent much time on. Maybe if he had lived longer, he would have had more time to think about it. Ironic how we are so eager to find life out there when we have such little regard for non-human life here. If we were to discover life, say on Mars or Io, how long would it be before we humans made an excuse to vivisect it?


Update! It turns out that Carl's lizard comments above are rather dated. More research shows that Carl's views on animal research and animal models evolved.

A much more recent perspective of his is found in all versions of "Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors". Here's a quote from a 1993 edition:

"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."

Also, Carl was the Cornell University faculty advisor for the animal rights group Cornell Coalition for Animal Defense (CCAD) up until his untimely death. IIRC, Peter Wilson was helpful in that. Last summer, in a move that old timers (anybody over 28 :-) consider a bad idea of youth, the group's name was changed to Animal Advocates for Agricultural Reform (AAAR).

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Idlewild Trilogy

  • i d l e w i l d

    "Sagan has a ferocious imagination."
    -- Stephen Baxter

  • e d e n b o r n

    "One of the best post-apocalyptic novels you will ever read."
    -- SFX Magazine

  • e v e r f r e e

    "Sagan's mind-blowing post-apocalyptic trilogy comes to a satisfying, terrifying conclusion."
    -- Kirkus Reviews


  • Aristeia Rising

    "An intense and intelligent story partnered with art that makes your eyes drool."
    -- Ain't It Cool News

  • Hubris

    "Lord, this is epic. If you thought the first volume of the Shrapnel series was intense, brutal, and dark, just wait until you get your hands on its follow up."
    -- Comics Bulletin


  • Future Proof

    "A delightful 'expedition in search of the future,' providing clear explanations of today's cutting-edge technologies to find where science fiction has become reality."
    -- Publishers Weekly

Star Trek

  • Voyager: Season 5

    "Year five of Star Trek: Voyager is the greatest achievement in its seven year run. This is Voyager in its prime, and in its absolute top form."
    -- DVD Answers

  • TNG: Season 7

    "One of Next Generation's best seasons ever... The series was at the top of its game, consistently turning out episodic sci-fi hours that felt fresh and captured the imagination."
    -- SciFi.com

Computer Games

  • Zork Nemesis

    "The story is dark and gripping. Numerous subplots and twists are heightened by a surprise climactic revelation. Character developments are complex. The portrayals of the dark side of mankind in these characters are chilling."
    -- The Adventure Collective




Carl Sagan

  • Visit the Carl Sagan Portal

  • Visit the Celebrating Sagan site

  • Visit the Planetary Society