Carl Sagan’s Influence: Favorite Quotes from Readers

Today would have been Carl Sagan’s 77th birthday, and the past few years November 9th has been designated as “Carl Sagan Day” by people who appreciate Sagan’s influence — not only on science, but also the public’s understanding of it. We asked our readers to share their favorite Saganese: their most cherished quotes from the man who has inspired many. Here are our readers’ favorite quotes, images and videos:

F Alejandro Espinosa, @Tadeo_Meneo, @Otto J. Mäkelä, Brad Goodspeed – “Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” Thilina Heenatigala said of this quote, “As a kid I loved this quote, it gives the feeling of wanting to know more, to discover our Universe.”

Anthony Collini – “I’m not very good at singing songs, but here’s a try…whoop, bow…”

Christine Reece – This quote seems to apply to us more and more: “Our species needs, and deserves, a citizenry with minds wide awake and a basic understanding of how the world works.” I’m frustrated by all the attempts to remove science from classrooms in the U.S. Our children deserve and need better from us.

Dan Dalessio – “Who are we? We find that we live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people.”

Robert Goodwin – “All civilizations become either spacefaring or extinct.”

Silex Anthropos – “It is of interest to note that while some dolphins are reported to have learned English – up to fifty words used in correct context – no human being has been reported to have learned dolphinese.”

The 13.7 billion year lifetime of the universe mapped onto a single year. This image helps to put cosmology, evolution, and written history in context. In addition to dates of important events, dates for availability for different types of evidence are shown. From the series, 'Cosmos.'

Beth Perry Steger – It is not a quote but a calendar he displayed in the Cosmos series. It shows the Big Bang on Jan 1. Throughout the year he demonstrates when planets formed, when Earth became habitable, and in December it shows people came to be. It gives a sense of the vast history of our solar system and how “new” homo sapiens came into the picture.

Esther Porter, Damian Lima – “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. We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.”

Adnan Yousuf – “But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright Brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.”

Don Davis – “I don’t want to believe, I want to know”

Amy Fredericks, Yuri Aviani – “If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the Universe.”

Linda Lee – “The sky calls to us. If we do not destroy ourselves, we will one day, venture to the stars.” These quotes are important to me because he was able to speak passionate words into my little world, help me think bigger than just my immediate surroundings, look up, and embrace the Universe.

Nathan Shickle, Nathan Mickelson, – “It is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.” Heather Archuletta said this quote was special to her: Because he cared more for truth and wisdom than anyone I had ever seen on TV, and I am so grateful he lived in an age where he couldn’t be burned at the stake for embracing reality.

@Osiriscombe Sam – “Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere.”

Tracey Robinson – “…we will one day venture to the stars.

@TabletopExplainer – “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

Raúl Alva – “Science is much more a way of thinking than it is a body of knowledge.”

Joe Rhea – “It’s perilous and foolhardy for the average citizen to remain ignorant about global warming, say, or ozone depletion, air pollution, toxic and radioactive wastes, acid rain, topsoil erosion, tropical deforestation, exponential population growth. Jobs and wages depend on science and technology.”

@NextStepinSpace suggested a video that we posted last week about “The Gift of Apollo”

And you can read a post from Fraser on the influence Carl Sagan had on his life, including the inspiration to start Universe Today.

I count myself among those who say they might not be where they are today were it not for Carl Sagan. Reading his books such as “Cosmos” and “Demon Haunted World” broadened my horizons when I needed it most. One of my favorite books of all time is “Pale Blue Dot” which really puts everything in perspective.

15 Replies to “Carl Sagan’s Influence: Favorite Quotes from Readers”

  1. ?”We make our world significant by the courage of our questions and by the depths of our answers” – Carl Sagan.

  2. There exists a youtube video of Carl Sagan, Arthur C. Clarke, and Stephen Hawking in a scientific debate worthy of viewing for those who may not be aware of it:

    In one of Carl Sagan’s works (or possibly the Cosmos TV series) he mentions referring to the dangers of nationalism and how national boundaries are not visible from space, we now know the India/Pakistan border is lit and visible at night from spacecraft UT ran an article on same awhile back.
    Many thanks Nancy for a well timed article to the late Dr. Carl Sagan (R.I.P.).

  3. “Our remote descendants, safely arrayed on many worlds through the solar system and beyond, will be unified by their common heritage, by their regard for their home planet, and by the knowledge that whatever other life may be, the only humans in all the universe come from Earth. They will gaze up, and strain to find the blue dot in their skies. They will marvel at how vulnerable the repository of all our potential once was. How perilous our infancy. How humble our beginnings.”

    The Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space; Chapter 22: Tiptoeing Through the Milky Way.

  4. Anyone know if there’s a print available of that picture of him holding the pioneer plaque? That’s an awesome photo…

  5. Widespread intellectual and moral docility may be convenient for leaders in the short term, but it is suicidal for nations in the long term. One of the criteria for national leadership should therefore be a talent for understanding, encouraging, and making constructive use of vigorous criticism. — Carl Sagan

  6. I can neither forgive Sagan for the damage his pant-load of “nuclear winter” did, nor for his public treatment of Velikovsky Sagan was a small, petty man who knew how to work a crowd for effect.

    1. I don’t see how you could treat the religious mythologist Velikovsky other than harshly, since he made damaging claims on science matters.

      I don’t know much about this except that Sagan’s public treatment was outstanding compared to some of his colleagues, “reprimanding scientists who had attempted to suppress Velikovsky’s ideas.” [Wikipedia]

      Apparently both Sagan and science has been under attempts of discredit by Velikovsky believers, apparently the same happened to Sagan’s et al work on nuclear winter by survivalist believers* (which opposition I didn’t even know about), which contexts obligates us to ask for your evidence in anything relating to these claims.

      * “Nuclear winter” climate effects are predicted from the K-Ph extinction impact, and seem to have been validated by, still controversial I think, findings of massive amounts of fungal growths post impact.

      I also note that Sagan was but one of many scientists developing the theory, which didn’t originate or finish with him. The theory is useful, survivalist behavior isn’t.

  7. I thought these two, among a few others, were outstanding:

    “The sky calls to us. If we do not destroy ourselves, we will one day, venture to the stars.” (Linda Lee) There is a profound affect (perhaps beyond just a sense of awe and wonder), we can feel, in moments of quiet, meditative solitude, when gazing out into the heavens. An intangible longing — transcending orbital time, and reaching out into limitless space — that seems to tug at the heart of frail, Earth-bound man. An inner desire which can fire his dreams, and gives illumination to his visions of the “Cosmos”.

    “Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere.”
    (@Osiriscombe Sam)

    This Poem came to mind (in thought of influential books, and stirred imaginations), however relevant:

    Part One: Life

    THERE is no frigate like a book
    To take us lands away,
    Nor any coursers like a page
    Of prancing poetry.

    This traverse may the poorest take
    Without oppress of toll;
    How frugal is the chariot
    That bears a human soul!

    — Emily Dickinson (1830–86).

  8. I didn’t pitch in on this because (gasp!) I haven’t been inspired by Sagan, mostly because I haven’t let myself be. I felt his series et cetera were too old at the time.

    However, I tie him to “the pale blue dot”. Incidentally, I though the Earthrise photo was inspired by that image, but apparently not.

    @TabletopExplainer suggestion is my favorite and useful quote: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

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