Top 10 Carl Sagan Quotes
#10 - EXQUISITE BALANCE
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"It seems to me what is called for is an exquisite balance between two conflicting needs: the most skeptical scrutiny of all hypotheses that are served up to us and at the same time a great openness to new ideas . . . If you are only skeptical, then no new ideas make it through to you . . . On the other hand, if you are open to the point of gullibility and have not an ounce of skeptical sense in you, then you cannot distinguish the useful ideas from the worthless ones."
—"The Burden of Skepticism," The Skeptical Inquirer, 1987

#09 - DOGMA
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"A central lesson of science is that to understand complex issues (or even simple ones), we must try to free our minds of dogma and to guarantee the freedom to publish, to contradict, and to experiment. Arguments from authority are unacceptable."
Billions and Billions: Thoughts of Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium, 1997

#08 - GREATEST OF MYSTERIES
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"The Cosmos is all that there is or ever was or ever will be. Our feeblest contemplations of the Cosmos stir us—there is a tingling in the spine, a catch in the voice, a faint sensation, as if a distant memory, of falling from a height. We know we are approaching the greatest of mysteries."
Cosmos, 1980

#07 - A CERTAIN DECENCY
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"Education on the value of free speech and the other freedoms reserved by the Bill of Rights, about what happens when you don't have them, and about how to exercise and protect them, should be an essential prerequisite for being an American citizen—or indeed a citizen of any nation, the more so to the degree that such rights remain unprotected. 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."
The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, 1996

#06 - IMAGINATION
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"Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere."
Cosmos, 1980

#05 - DARKNESS GATHERS
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"I worry that, especially as the Millennium edges nearer, pseudo-science and superstition will seem year by year more tempting, the siren song of unreason more sonorous and attractive. Where have we heard it before? Whenever our ethnic and national prejudices are aroused, in times of scarcity, during challenges to national self-esteem or nerve, when we agonize about our diminished cosmic place and purpose, or when fanaticism is bubbling up around us—then, habits of thought familiar from ages past reach for the controls. The candle flame gutters. Its little pool of light trembles. Darkness gathers. The demons begin to stir."
The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, 1996

#04 - WISHFUL THINKING
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"I would love to believe that when I die I will live again, that some thinking, feeling, remembering part of me will continue. But 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. The 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."
—"In the Valley of the Shadow," Parade, March 10, 1996

#03 - IDEAL UNIVERSE
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"A universe in which everything is known would be static and dull, as boring as the heaven of some weak-minded theologians . . . The ideal universe for us is one very much like the universe we inhabit . . . not really much of a coincidence."
Broca's Brain: Reflections on the Romance of Science, 1979

#02 - DELUSION
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"Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves."
Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space, 1994

#01 - LIKE A MOTE OF DUST
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"The size and age of the Cosmos are beyond ordinary human understanding. Lost somewhere between immensity and eternity is our tiny planetary home. In a cosmic perspective, most human concerns seem insignificant, even petty. And yet our species is young and curious and brave and shows much promise. In the last few millennia we have made the most astonishing and unexpected discoveries about the Cosmos and our place within it, explorations that are exhilarating to consider. They remind us that humans have evolved to wonder, that understanding is a joy, that knowledge is prerequisite to survival. I believe our future depends on how well we know this Cosmos in which we float like a mote of dust in the morning sky."
Cosmos, 1980

User Comments - Add a Comment
KesheR - 2008-07-24 02:48:21
His "Pale Blue Dot" is an audiovisual masterpiece, and I think it is also my favourite piece of philosophical thought.
Blake - 2008-12-10 11:31:01

What a blow hard Sagan was. A bore, plain and simple.

D. Shaffer - 2009-01-12 18:11:13

Just take the time to read something by or about Carl Sagan. He challenges regular people to think far beyond their petty human interactions and the daily news. Without the scientific contributions he made in his lifetime we'd still be thinking instead of doing much of what NASA is executing today and tomorrow.

E. R. Nartz - 2009-02-13 01:00:56

Sagan's pontifications on the certainty of his materialist worldview ("The cosmos is all there is...") is really no different from the religious fundamentalist he so deeply despises. The cosmos and human life is so vastly bigger than Sagan's chutzpah and contains mysteries that breaks the boundaries of his scientific fundamentalist mind. Neil Broom's How Blind is the Watchmaker dismantles such reductionistic approach to reality.

Rohan - 2009-03-23 06:41:56

An inspiration... Has anyone seen the documentary In the Shadow of the moon? If you like the pale blue dot you'd definitely get a kick out of it.

Flonkbob - 2009-03-24 14:07:19

@E. R. Nartz: Did you even read the book you referenced? As I wade through Broom's field of straw men I see nothing new here that would tend to the result you crow so confidently. Perhaps we should institute a little reading group to discuss what is (and isn't) proven by his book.

KG - 2009-03-24 14:46:32

Hey Blake, eat it. The guy was a genius. You're either jealous or too much of a moron to absorb anything he had to say. Do I agree with everything he postulated? No, but his defense of science and reason as the tools by which humankind might live in and beyond this world (the cosmos) is eloquent, gentle, and persuasive. You putz.

Lloyd Miller - 2009-03-30 23:26:41

I really can't think of anyone who has ever lived that has impressed me and moved my thinking like Carl Sagan. I wish I'd have been paying closer attention while he was alive.

Sarah - 2009-07-22 01:03:11

Carl Sagan was incredibly intelligent, thoughtful, and inquisitive. His impact on the world is varied and deep- scientific, literary, societal. Blake, when you are as successful and frankly, amazing, as Carl, then you can put him down.

rawdog - 2010-02-24 08:31:58

Blake - I would suggest that your own words reflect tremendously upon urself.

Mike - 2010-05-03 07:57:43

Great article. You can find more Sagan's quotes here http://quotesfan.com/quotes/by/carl_sagan/1.aspx

Valentina - 2010-09-20 01:28:54

@KG you sound cute marry me :p Forgive Blake for his ignorance - he might have not had the same privileges

K - 2010-11-08 20:22:25

"Blow-hard" is really being too nice to the man. Bigot would be more accurate.

D - 2010-11-28 20:18:18

@K And you probably think the world is flat and gravity is the devil.