Awesome Carl Sagan Quotes

Carl Sagan

I bought a small eBook recently chock-a-block full of Sagan’s best quotes. I wanted to highlight some of my favourites. I haven’t read all of Sagan’s books (some 30-odd) but I haven’t yet met a Sagan book that I didn’t like… a lot! If anyone was ever going to be my hero, Carl Sagan would be one of them:

On argumentation:

(1) – “The cure for a fallacious argument is a better argument, not the suppression of ideas.” 

On history:

(2) “You have to know the past to understand the present.”

On evolution:

(3) “Extinction is the rule. Survival is the exception.”

On drugs:

(4) – “The illegality of cannabis is outrageous, an impediment to full utilization of a drug which helps produce the serenity and insight, sensitivity and fellowship so desperately needed in this increasingly mad and dangerous world.”

Misc:

(5) You are worth about 3 dollars in chemicals.

(6) We make our world significant by the courage of our questions and the depth of our answers.

(7) 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.

(8) 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 libraries.

I man-love Carl Sagan…

Favourites? Mine are (1) and (6). Has anyone read more than one Sagan book? If so, which one of those are your favourites? I can’t decide between Broca’s Brain and Pale Blue Dot. Both marvelous insights in science, skepticism, and astronomy with the added delight of them being beautifully written english.

Heaven

This is sub-chapter #7, of Chapter 2, Philosophy, of my ongoing rewrite and open editing process Random Rationality: A Rational Guide to an Irrational World.

Would greatly appreciate any feedback, corrections, criticisms, and comments. If you want the MOBI, ePub, or PDF, then please let me know in the comments—if you provide constructive criticisms in return, and live in the US, UK, or EU, then I’ll ship you a paperback copy of the book free of charge when it’s published.


HEAVEN

For a moment, let’s say the Abrahamic god exists, and that depending upon your earthly actions you will be met with a heavenly eternity. You lead a good life; you help the poor, you follow the 613 commandments, you love thy neighbor, and upon your fortunate death, you are received at the pearly gates.

How will you spend your first year in heaven? Re-connecting with loved ones, perhaps? How about your first decade? Long walks on Cloud Nine, picking the brains of Jesus, Abraham, Mohammed, Elvis, perhaps even the big G himself, exploring the vast sanctum of his infinite knowledge using the heavenly version of our own Big G: Google (God = Gòógle?)

How about the first century? Trying all the experiences you were too scared to do while you were a lowly mortal, only to find the thrill is gone now that Death no longer lingers close by.

What about the next thousand years, and the million thereafter? And then the billion after, and the next trillion? Then what? I guarantee you one day, you’re going to want to not be there. What could possibly make eternity fun?

If you have ever eaten more than five chocolate bars in a row—like I foolishly have—then you probably know what heaven will be like. The first one tastes amazing. By the second, your taste buds are a bit desensitized, but it still tastes good. Ditto with the third and  ditto a little more with the fourth. Finally you try a fifth one on for size, and it tastes like nothing. Just a bland paste as your mouth goes through the motions—add a sixth and you’ll want to vomit.

We all had this feeling as kids, and perhaps as teens for the sweeter-toothed among us, and even now for myself. But take that feeling, multiply it by a really, really large number, and you’ll get a taste as to how boring heaven would become. One day, it will be no different from death. Does the eternal darkness seem so scary now?

Many hold up the Near-Death-Experiences (NDE) as proof of an afterlife, but they are anything but. All they are proof of is the funny things that happen when a person’s brain receives faulty sensory information, or, embarks on the road to anoxia (oxygen death), as carbon dioxide creeps upwards, triggering dopamine-induced euphoric hallucinations.

There have also been several recent studies that have shown the rejection of evolution, and likewise, acceptance of Intelligent Design (ID) is closely correlated with existential angst. Namely, the fear of one’s mortality. In four studies, groups of people from all walks of life (including atheists and theists), were reminded of their own mortality and asked questions related to evolutionary theory and ID. After such reminders, all groups (even the most godless heathens) showed a tendency towards ID, and thus an afterlife. It was theorized this occurred due to a desire to find greater meaning and purpose, and evolution at first glance, seemingly provides very little. So belief in an afterlife is not at all correlated with its truth or validity, but rather in the hope it brings. That despair changed once people were told various ways of deriving meaning from what at first glance, appears to be evolutions nihilistic drive. It seems to me that people are only driven to such despair as they move from an edifice of externally derived purpose and hope, toward a self-derived edifice of meaning. Most people naturally pause in the chasm between these two separate cliff-faces, often looking back toward the safety and familiarity of ID instead of advancing into the indifference of evolution, little knowing that meaning would be theres to make as they will.

In another study, by the University of England, it was shown that belief in ID was highly correlated with one’s need of cognitive closure. That is, the need for definitive information no longer amiable to revision, as is ID, where the buck stops at God.

Heaven, at least as we have come to understand it in the West, seems as boring and unimaginative a concept as it is possible to conjure up, and seems to correlate highly with mortality, existential angst, and cognitive closure. I value the eternal darkness that is coming, for it reminds me to do all that I wish to do in this life here and now. (I also may never ever see that eternal darkness, but more on that in Future of Tech.)

“Yet if the transcendental world is vaguely assumed to be ‘timeless’ then we have to ask if we understand the difference between timeless existence and extinction, and I think the answer has to be that there is none.” ~ Simon Blackburn (Philosopher)


Did God Have a Choice?

A somewhat amusing philosophical problem has popped into my brain, and I wish to explore it in this post. Amusing to me at least, whether it has occurred to others, I’m not sure because I haven’t finished reading the internet (one day, I might), but I’ll jump right into it. The physics of today points (not proves!) to a multi-verse. That is, if ever it is experimentally verified, our universe will not be the only universe that exists, but rather just one amongst an infinite number of universes. In essence, the copernican principle at its grandest scale. This theory, which goes by a few names; string theory and M-theory to name a few, is accounted for in some of our mathematical descriptions of the universe, and we maybe on the verge of paradigm-busting physical evidence to prove it. Now when I say accounted for, what I mean is that it is a logical extrapolation of theories that accurately describe the universe we are in. (The BBC’s “What Happened Before the Big Bang” is an easily digestible primer on this, or this TED talk by physicist Brian C. Greene). Again though, the multiverse is a logical extrapolation of these theories, so when you hear people saying scientists invented the multiverse theory to do away with God, they are mistaken. The multiverse is a prediction of a theory that set out to answer questions about our own universe.

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God, Belief, and the Universe, in Context

Over the years, I have often debated on the nature of God and against religion. Over time, my arguments have become more refined (in a roundabout way), but today, a new thought popped into my head. In all my back-and-forth’s (which I’ve finally realized is futile, because people believe what they want, not what is true), I’ve always made my argument in a lack of context. The result being the sabotage of my argument, first by its lack of context, but further still, in its complexity.

Right off the bat, any argument instigated in such a way is crippled. So from now on, if I ever get into such a personal debate again (which I’m thinking not too), it will go something like this:

Since nothing can ever be thought of as certain, even in science, specifically quantum mechanics, which at its foundation, precludes absolute certainty (the highest is 99.9999…%), therefore, we are forced to deal with varying probabilities of certainty, and should tackle the question of God in such a way. So with that being said, and in light of my earlier contextual ambiguities and unnecessary complexity, I have boiled it down to these two questions:

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The Link Between Cultural Maturity and Religious Blasphemy

In light of the recently proposed anti-blasphemy laws in the UN (which I think is bullshit), and the (misrepresented) furor of the Middle East in regards to that stupid film, Innocence of Muslims,  I recently watched a debate on Freedoms of Speech with the late Christopher Hitchens and Shashi Tharoor. Their respective points summarized go something like this:

Shashi Tharoor – Against an anti-blasphemy law, thinks that statements should be said in retrospect to the opposing party, being unable to effectively envision their reaction, not that that condones the sporadic violent outbursts. As such, a censor of public opinion is unavoidable.

Christopher Hitchens – Speak your mind, first and foremost, always. Censorship is all or nothing. Exceptions here or there only serve to convolute and are divisive in nature, nor could any person, one or many, objectively do such a job of fair censorship even if it was to be required. Censorship of public opinion should always be ignored

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On Debating Non-Debatable Subjects: God, Creation, and Religion

creation

Last week, among a gathering of friends, we ended up debating for many hours, the subject of creation, religion, and god. It was a lively discussion to say the least, and one I was ill-equipped for, after drinking 10 glasses of wine, and on many occasions, found it difficult to articulate my proper thoughts, much as I imagine, did many of my friends. One rather large mistake we made, was not stipulating a suitable foundation to base our friendly discussion upon, which led to us going around in circles for far too long, as well as relying, far too much on our inter-cranial intuitions, thinking that because we can think certain things, that they must then be granted validity of truth, even in the face of objectivity and even when experimentation says that is not the case. But I want to express what foundation is required for this kind of discussion in order for it to be relevant, to others, as well as any future discussions I get into on the subject, and, somewhat selfishly, articulate my proper thoughts from last night.

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Religion, Milk, and Education

The title of this post may surprise you as rather odd. After all, what could religion and milk possibly have in common?? Well, surprisingly, one key factor, but I’ll get to that later. Most of us have been raised to drink milk to make us big, healthy and strong by way of the calcium, vitamin D and other nutrients present in cow-milk.

Late last year, I read online that an Ice Cream shop in London had begun using human breast milk in a select few of their ice creams. I was intrigued by the concept, and now and then, I would ask friends if they would ever try it. The usual response is a scrunched up face, following by something like, “How disgusting!”. I couldn’t see what all the fuss was about.

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