Inspiration and wisdom from divine felines

401 Inspiring Quotes by Carl Sagan

Welcome to our collection of quotes by Carl Sagan.

Wikipedia Summary for Carl Sagan

Carl Edward Sagan (November 9, 1934 – December 20, 1996) was an American astronomer, planetary scientist, cosmologist, astrophysicist, astrobiologist, author, and science communicator. His best known scientific contribution is research on extraterrestrial life, including experimental demonstration of the production of amino acids from basic chemicals by radiation. Sagan assembled the first physical messages sent into space: the Pioneer plaque and the Voyager Golden Record, universal messages that could potentially be understood by any extraterrestrial intelligence that might find them. Sagan argued the now-accepted hypothesis that the high surface temperatures of Venus can be attributed to and calculated using the greenhouse effect.

Initially an associate professor at Harvard and later at Cornell, from 1976 to his death, he was the David Duncan Professor of Astronomy and Space Sciences at the latter. Sagan published more than 600 scientific papers and articles and was author, co-author or editor of more than 20 books. He wrote many popular science books, such as The Dragons of Eden, Cosmos, Broca's Brain and Pale Blue Dot, and narrated and co-wrote the award-winning 1980 television series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. The most widely watched series in the history of American public television, Cosmos has been seen by at least 500 million people across 60 different countries. The book Cosmos was published to accompany the series. He also wrote the science fiction novel Contact, the basis for a 1997 film of the same name. His papers, containing 595,000 items, are archived at The Library of Congress.

Sagan advocated scientific skeptical inquiry and the scientific method, pioneered exobiology and promoted the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI). He spent most of his career as a professor of astronomy at Cornell University, where he directed the Laboratory for Planetary Studies. Sagan and his works received numerous awards and honors, including the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal, the National Academy of Sciences Public Welfare Medal, the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction for his book The Dragons of Eden, and, regarding Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, two Emmy Awards, the Peabody Award, and the Hugo Award. He married three times and had five children. After suffering from myelodysplasia, Sagan died of pneumonia at the age of 62, on December 20, 1996.



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The fossil record implies trial and error, the inability to anticipate the future, features inconsistent with a Great Designer (though not a Designer of a more remote and indirect temperament.).

--Carl Sagan


black fawn pug playing with plush toy

Ask courageous questions. Do not be satisfied with superficial answers.

--Carl Sagan

Longer Version:

Ask courageous questions. Do not be satisfied with superficial answers. Be open to wonder and at the same time subject all claims to knowledge, without exception, to intense skeptical scrutiny. Be aware of human fallibility. Cherish your species and your planet.


beach shore during day time

The dumbing down of America is evident in the slow decay of substantive content, a kind of celebration of ignorance.

--Carl Sagan

Longer Version:

The dumbing down of American is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30 second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance.



white swan on blue sea during daytime

There may be such intelligences and such starships, but pulsars are not their signature. Instead, they are the doleful reminders that nothing lasts forever; that stars also die.

--Carl Sagan

white wall paint with white wall paint

The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.

--Carl Sagan


forest and body of water

The Universe is a pretty big place. If it's just us, seems like an awful waste of space.

--Carl Sagan





person in blue denim jeans and brown leather boots

There are no forbidden questions in science, no matters too sensitive or delicate to be probed, no sacred truths.

--Carl Sagan



blue and white abstract painting

Who are we, if not measured by our impact on others? That's who we are! We're not who we say we are, we're not who we want to be -- we are the sum of the influence and impact that we have, in our lives, on others.

--Carl Sagan


old cowboy boots

The universe is not required to be in perfect harmony with human ambition.

--Carl Sagan



white flowers

The cannabis experience has greatly improved my appreciation for art, a subject which I had never much appreciated before.

--Carl Sagan

brown wooden surface

Modern Darwinism makes it abundantly clear that many less ruthless traits, some not always admired by robber barons and Fuhrers -- altruism, general intelligence, compassion -- may be the key to survival.

--Carl Sagan


focus photography of chick on gray ground

Civilization is a product of the cerebral cortex.

--Carl Sagan


man sitting on wooden bench near black metal railings

Those afraid of the universe as it really is, those who pretend to nonexistent knowledge and envision a Cosmos centered on human beings will prefer the fleeting comforts of superstition.

--Carl Sagan

Longer Version:

Those afraid of the universe as it really is, those who pretend to nonexistent knowledge and envision a Cosmos centered on human beings will prefer the fleeting comforts of superstition. They avoid rather than confront the world. But those with the courage to explore the weave and structure of the Cosmos, even where it differs profoundly from their wishes and prejudices, will penetrate its deepest mysteries.


body of water near mountains

Who will speak for Planet Earth?

--Carl Sagan

white shore under sunny sky

It is clear that the nations of the world now can only rise and fall together. It is not a question of one nation winning at the expense of another. We must all help one another or all perish together.

--Carl Sagan

yellow flower field near bare trees during daytime

I think the discomfort that some people feel in going to the monkey cages at the zoo is a warning sign.

--Carl Sagan

time lapse photography of lightning during storm

One of the greatest gifts adults can give -- to their offspring and to their society -- is to read to children.

--Carl Sagan

man in black jacket and pants jumping on white rock

There are wonders enough out there without our inventing any.

--Carl Sagan

rainbow desert

First rule in government spending: why build one when you can have two at twice the price?

--Carl Sagan

time lapse photography body of water

The cosmos is full beyond measure of elegant truths; of exquisite interrelationships; of the awesome machinery of nature.

--Carl Sagan

Longer Version:

The cosmos is full beyond measure of elegant truths; of exquisite interrelationships; of the awesome machinery of nature. The surface of the Earth is the shore of the cosmic ocean. On this shore we've learned most of what we know. Recently we've waded a little way out, maybe ankle deep, and the water seems inviting. 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.




beach shore during day time

Organic as a dandelion seed, the ship of our imagination will carry us to worlds of dreams and worlds of facts.

--Carl Sagan


tilt shift lens photo of sunflower

The total amount of energy from outside the solar system ever received by all the radio telescopes on the planet Earth is less than the energy of a single snowflake striking the ground.

--Carl Sagan


white wall paint with black line

History is full of people who out of fear, or ignorance, or lust for power has destroyed knowledge of immeasurable value which truly belongs to us all. We must not let it happen again.

--Carl Sagan

green artificial palm tree on seashore

Modern science has been a voyage into the unknown, with a lesson in humility waiting at every stop. Many passengers would rather have stayed home.

--Carl Sagan

high-angle photography of beach side

The theologian Meric Casaubon argued--in his 1668 book, Of Credulity and Incredulity--that witches must exist because, after all, everyone believes in them. Anything that a large number of people believe must be true.

--Carl Sagan


sunset

I think if we ever reach the point where we think we thoroughly understand who we are and where we came from, we will have failed.

--Carl Sagan

orange leaves tree

There is nothing inhuman about an intelligent machine; it is indeed an expression of those superb intellectual capabilities that only human beings, of all the creatures on our planet, now possess.

--Carl Sagan

beach shore during day time

The universe seems neither benign nor hostile, merely indifferent to the concerns of such puny creatures as we are.

--Carl Sagan

orange and white stone fragment

Evolution is adventitious and not foresighted. Only through the deaths of an immense number of slightly maladapted organisms are we, brains and all, here today.

--Carl Sagan

brown and gray floral textile

Writing a novel is like trying to solve a very long mathematical equation. Changing anything can change everything else.

--Carl Sagan

purple flower field during daytime

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena.

--Carl Sagan


white pendant lamp

How lucky we are to live in this time the first moment in human history when we are in fact visiting other worlds.

--Carl Sagan

man running on seashore

If you are only skeptical, then no new ideas make it through to you.

--Carl Sagan

Longer Version:

If you are only skeptical, then no new ideas make it through to you. You become a crotchety old person convinced that nonsense is ruling the world. (There is, of course, much data to support you.) But every now and then, a new idea turns out to be on the mark, valid and wonderful. If you are too much in the habit of being skeptical about everything, you are going to miss or resent it, and either way you will be standing in the way of understanding and progress.




aerial photography of forest

We've arranged a civilization in which most crucial elements profoundly depend on science and technology.

--Carl Sagan

gray concrete floor

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.

--Carl Sagan

blue, yellow, and brown wall decor

Except for fools and madmen, everyone knows that nuclear war would he an unprecedented human catastrophe.

--Carl Sagan







gray cactus plant on white pot

A still more glorious dawn awaits
Not a sunrise, but a galaxy rise
A morning filled with 400 billion suns
The rising of the milky way.

--Carl Sagan

green fruit in macro lens photography

I don't know where i am going but I'm on my way.

--Carl Sagan



silhouette of trees during nighttime

Every cell is a triumph of natural selection, and we're made of trillions of cells. Within us, is a little universe.

--Carl Sagan

Dark purple to red to orange gradient

If we long for our planet to be important, there is something we can do about it. We make our world significant by the courage of our questions and by the depth of our answers.

--Carl Sagan

yellow labrador retriever puppy sitting on floor

The visions we offer our children shape the future.

--Carl Sagan

Longer Version:

The visions we offer our children shape the future. It _matters_ what those visions are. Often they become self-fulfilling prophecies. Dreams are maps.


red and black logo

Your god is too small for my universe.

--Carl Sagan

purple flowered hedge plants

Once we lose our fear of being tiny, we find ourselves on the threshold of a vast and awesome Universe which dwarfs -- in time, in space, and in potential -- the tidy anthropocentric proscenium of our ancestors.

--Carl Sagan

white boat on sea under white sky during daytime

These days there seems to be nowhere left to explore, at least on the land area of the Earth. Victims of their very success, the explorers now pretty much stay home.

--Carl Sagan

white and pink plastic bottles

Sailors on a becalmed sea, we sense the stirring of a breeze.

--Carl Sagan


purple and white clouds during night time

The method of science, as stodgy and grumpy as it may seem, is far more important than the findings of science.

--Carl Sagan




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We can judge our progress by the courage of our questions and the depth of our answers, our willingness to embrace what is true rather than what feels good.

--Carl Sagan


black and yellow wall sconce

We humans appear on the cosmic calendar so recently that our recorded history occupies only the last few seconds of the last minute of December 31st.

--Carl Sagan


green grass field with smoke

If we are merely matter intricately assembled, is this really demeaning? If there's nothing here but atoms, does that make us less or does that make matter more?

--Carl Sagan



full moon in the sky

Perhaps the locale of the subjunctive mood will
one day be found. Will Latins turn out to be extravagantly endowed and English-speaking peoples significantly short-changed in this minor piece of brain anatomy?

--Carl Sagan

red blue yellow and red paint

All inquiries carry with them some element of risk.

--Carl Sagan

Longer Version:

All inquires carry with them some element of risk. There is no guarantee that the universe will conform to our predispositions.



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All science asks is to employ the same levels of skepticism we use in buying a used car or in judging the quality of analgesics or beer from their television commercials.

--Carl Sagan

silhouette of man standing on rock while looking in sky

We're in very bad trouble if we don't understand the planet we're trying to save.

--Carl Sagan

black and gray floral textile

Science is more than a body of knowledge. It's a way of thinking: a way of skeptically interrogating the universe.

--Carl Sagan

Longer Version:

Science is much more than a body of knowledge. It is a way of thinking. This is central to its success. Science invites us to let the facts in, even when they don't conform to our preconceptions. It counsels us to carry alternative hypotheses in our heads and see which ones best match the facts. It urges on us a fine balance between no-holds-barred openness to new ideas, however heretical, and the most rigorous skeptical scrutiny of everything - new ideas and established wisdom.





assorted books on wooden table

Where we have strong emotions, we're liable to fool ourselves.

--Carl Sagan

pink and yellow flower painting

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

--Carl Sagan

white Starbuck plastic cup on brown fabric armchair

Whatever the reason you're on Mars, I'm glad you're there, and I wish I was with you.

--Carl Sagan


silhouette of people riding bicycle

The way to find out about our place in the universe is by examining the universe and by examining ourselves -- without preconceptions, with as unbiased a mind as we can muster.

--Carl Sagan


woman wearing gray long-sleeved shirt facing the sea

Both the Freudian and the Platonic metaphors emphasize the considerable independence of and tension among the constituent parts of the psyche, a point that characterizes the human condition.

--Carl Sagan

woman wearing black top standing near yellow wall

Once intelligent beings achieve technology and the capacity for self-destruction of their species, the selective advantage of intelligence becomes more uncertain.

--Carl Sagan

gray concrete surface

For all our failings, despite our limitations and fallibilities, we humans are capable of greatness.

--Carl Sagan

bonfire on focus photography

Not all bits have equal value.

--Carl Sagan

brown textile

If we like them, they're freedom fighters, she thought. If we don't like them, they're terrorists. In the unlikely case we can't make up our minds, they're temporarily only guerrillas.

--Carl Sagan


low angle photography of purple sky

Our difficulties in understanding or effectuating
communication with other animals may arise from our reluctance to grasp unfamiliar ways of dealing with the world.

--Carl Sagan

photography of white sky at golden hour

She had spent her career attempting to make contact with the most remote and alien of strangers, while in her own life she had made contact with hardly anyone at all.

--Carl Sagan

landscape photography of mountain hit by sun rays

Each of us is a tiny being, permitted to ride on the outermost skin of one of the smaller planets for a few dozen trips around the local star.

--Carl Sagan

blue sky and white clouds

If we're capable of conjuring up terrifying monsters in childhood, why shouldn't some of us, at least on occasion, be able to fantasize something similar, something truly horrifying, a shared delusion, as adults?

--Carl Sagan



couple sitting near trees during golden hour

Human history can be viewed as a slowly dawning awareness that we are members of a larger group.

--Carl Sagan

Longer Version:

Human history can be viewed as a slowly dawning awareness that we are members of a larger group Groups of people from divergent ethnic and cultural backgrounds working in some sense together is surely a humanizing and character building experience. If we are to survive, our loyalties must be broadened further, to include the whole human community, the entire planet Earth.


black dragonfly perched on green grass in close up photography during daytime

I've written a number of books that have to do with the evolution of humans, human intelligence, human emotions.

--Carl Sagan

palm tree under orange sky

I would be very ashamed of my civilization if we did not try to find out if there is life in outer space.

--Carl Sagan


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Knowing a great deal is not the same as being smart; intelligence is not information alone but also judgement, the manner in which information is coordinated and used.

--Carl Sagan









Arizona landscape

At the extremes it is difficult to distinguish pseudoscience from rigid, doctrinaire religion.

--Carl Sagan


person holding white book

Has there ever been a religion with the prophetic accuracy and reliability of science? ... No other human institution comes close.

--Carl Sagan


snow covered brown mountain

The first law of bureaucracy is to guarantee its own continuance.

--Carl Sagan


purple flowered hedge plants

For all I know we may be visited by a different extraterrestrial civilization every second Tuesday, but there's no support for this appealing idea. The extraordinary claims are not supported by extraordinary evidence.

--Carl Sagan

A white stripe pattern made up of concrete facade ribs

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.

--Carl Sagan

Longer Version:

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.



green leaf tree on shore

Atoms are mainly empty space. Matter is composed chiefly of nothing.

--Carl Sagan

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The prediction of nuclear winter is drawn not, of course, from any direct experience with the consequences of global nuclear war, but rather from an investigation of the governing physics.

--Carl Sagan

man in black tank top standing near tree under starry night

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.

--Carl Sagan



yellow sunflower under blue sky during daytime

The total number of stars in the Universe is larger than all the grains of sand on all the beaches of the planet Earth.

--Carl Sagan



woman wearing black top standing near yellow wall

Thus the recent rapid evolution of human intelligence is not only the cause of but also the only conceivable solution to the many serious problems that beset us.

--Carl Sagan



brown mountain under starry sky

I consider it an extremely dangerous doctrine, because the more likely we are to assume that the solution comes from the outside, the less likely we are to solve our problems ourselves.

--Carl Sagan

high-angle photography of beach side

Every time you look up at the sky, every one of those points of light is a reminder that fusion power is extractable from hydrogen and other light elements, and it is an everyday reality throughout the Milky Way Galaxy.

--Carl Sagan



bird on pier

The very act of understanding is a celebration of joining, merging, even if on a very modest scale, with the magnificence of the Cosmos.

--Carl Sagan


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By looking far out into space we are also looking far back into time, back toward the horizon of the universe, back toward the epoch of the Big Bang.

--Carl Sagan

red and white led lighted heart decor

A new consciousness is developing which sees the earth as a single organism and recognizes that an organism at war with itself is doomed. We are one planet.

--Carl Sagan

Longer Version:

A new consciousness is developing which sees the earth as a single organism and recognizes that an organism at war with itself is doomed. We are one planet. One of the great revelations of the age of space exploration is the image of the earth finite and lonely, somehow vulnerable, bearing the entire human species through the oceans of space and time.


woman in brown long sleeve shirt and blue denim jeans

Extinction is the rule. Survival is the exception.

--Carl Sagan

blue, yellow, and brown wall decor

If all the suns but ours collapsed tonight, how many lifetimes would it take us to realize that we were alone?

--Carl Sagan

galaxy

I believe our future depends powerfully on how well we understand this cosmos in which we float, like a mote of dust in the morning sky.

--Carl Sagan

blue sky and white clouds

Much of human history can, I think, be described as a gradual and sometimes painful liberation from provincialism, the emerging awareness that there is more to the world than was generally believed by our ancestors.

--Carl Sagan

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The secrets of evolution are death and time-the deaths of enormous numbers of lifeforms that were imperfectly adapted to the environment; and time for a long succession of small mutations.

--Carl Sagan


man and woman kissing under blue sky during daytime

As in all such technological nightmares, the principal task is to foresee what is possible; to educate use and misuse; and to prevent its organizational, bureaucratic and governmental abuse.

--Carl Sagan

None

She had studied the universe all her life, but had overlooked its clearest message: For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.

--Carl Sagan

woman looking up to the sky while standing on white sand

Be grateful everyday for the brief but magnificent opportunity that life provides.

--Carl Sagan

sunset

If you want to save your child from polio, you can pray or you can inoculate. ... Choose science.

--Carl Sagan



sea of white clouds

The understanding of the intent of the artist which I can achieve when high sometimes carries over to when I'm down. This is one of many human frontiers which cannabis has helped me traverse.

--Carl Sagan


black mountain under blue sky during night time

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

--Carl Sagan

close up shot of white flower

Any faith that admires truth, that strives to know God, must be brave enough to accommodate the universe.

--Carl Sagan

worm's eye view of trees during night time

Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence.

--Carl Sagan

photography of burning camp fire

We achieve some measure of adulthood when we recognize our parents as they really were, without sentimentalizing or mythologyzing, but also without blaming them unfairly for our imperfections.

--Carl Sagan

body of water

All of the books in the world contain no more information than is broadcast as video in a single large American city in a single year. Not all bits have equal value.

--Carl Sagan

sunset

We on Earth have just awakened to the great oceans of space and time from which we have emerged.

--Carl Sagan

Longer Version:

We on Earth have just awakened to the great oceans of space and time from which we have emerged. We are the legacy of 15 billion years of cosmic evolution. We have a choice: We can enhance life and come to know the universe that made us, or we can squander our 15 billion-year heritage in meaningless self-destruction. What happens in the first second of the next cosmic year depends on what we do, here and now, with our intelligence and our knowledge of the cosmos.


flower garden

We are all star stuff.

--Carl Sagan

blue sky with stars during night time

No other planet in the solar system is a suitable home for human beings; it's this world or nothing. That's a very powerful perception.

--Carl Sagan

rocky mountain

Our perceptions are fallible. We sometimes see what isn't there. We are prey to optical illusions. Occasionally we hallucinate. We are error-prone.

--Carl Sagan



white wall paint with black line

The cognitive abilities of chimpanzees force us, I think, to raise searching questions about the boundaries of the community of beings to which special ethical considerations are due.

--Carl Sagan

sunset

There is perhaps no better a demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world.

--Carl Sagan

Arizona landscape

In Mozambique, the story goes, monkeys do not talk, because they know if they utter even a single word some man will come and put them to work.

--Carl Sagan


body of water under blue sky during daytime

A single message from space will show that it is possible to live through technological adolescence... It is possible that the future of human civilization depends on the receipt of interstellar messages.

--Carl Sagan



green leafed trees

You are made of a hundred trillion cells. We are, each of us, a multitude.

--Carl Sagan


desert grassland

For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.

--Carl Sagan


brown wooden dockside beside sea

All civilizations become either spacefaring or extinct.

--Carl Sagan


white wall paint beside white wall

Every one of us is, in the cosmic perspective, precious. If a human disagrees with you, let him live. In a hundred billion galaxies, you will not find another.

--Carl Sagan

group of camels walking on desert lake at daytime

It will not be we who reach Alpha Centauri, and the other nearby stars. It will be a species very like us -- but with more of our strengths and fewer of our weaknesses.

--Carl Sagan


body of water under blue sky during sunset

But I try not to think with my gut. If I'm serious about understanding the world, thinking with anything besides my brain, as tempting as that might be, is likely to get me into trouble.

--Carl Sagan

eyeglasses in bokeh photography

A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.

--Carl Sagan

person holding yellow petaled flower

Across the sea of space, the stars are other suns.

--Carl Sagan


black and gray floral textile

Advances in medicine and agriculture have saved vastly more lives than have been lost in all the wars in history.

--Carl Sagan

person standing on rock formation during daytime

The words "question" and "quest" are cognates. Only through inquiry can we discover truth.

--Carl Sagan




purple textile with white line

I am often amazed at how much more capability and enthusiasm for science there is among elementary school youngsters than among college students.

--Carl Sagan


white pendant lamp

When you make the finding yourself -- even if you're the last person on Earth to see the light -- you'll never forget it.

--Carl Sagan

green water in close up photography

We have heard the rationales offered by the nuclear superpowers. We know who speaks for the nations. But who speaks for the human species? Who speaks for Earth?

--Carl Sagan



turned on desk lamp beside pile of books

We are one species. We are starstuff.

--Carl Sagan


aerial photography of pine trees with mist

Accommodation to change, the thoughtful pursuit of alternative futures are keys to the survival of civilization and perhaps of the human species.

--Carl Sagan

blue painted wall with white paint

The Big Bang is our modern scientific creation myth. It comes from the same human need to solve the cosmological riddle Where did the universe come from?

--Carl Sagan

full moon during day

Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere.

--Carl Sagan



white paint palette with black paint beside ink bottle and paint brush

We are star stuff harvesting sunlight.

--Carl Sagan

horse

If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.

--Carl Sagan

None

Vast migrations of people -some voluntary, most not- have shaped the human condition. More of us flee from war, oppression and famine today than at any other time in human history.

--Carl Sagan





white and blue ice on water

In the long run, the aggressive civilizations destroy themselves, almost always. It's their nature. They can't help it.

--Carl Sagan

leafless tree

Even if the aliens are short, dour, and sexually obsessed--if they're here, I want to know about them.

--Carl Sagan

None

A blade of grass is a commonplace on Earth; it would be a miracle on Mars. Our descendants on Mars will know the value of a patch of green. And if a blade of grass is priceless, what is the value of a human being?

--Carl Sagan




iceberg near mountain during day

The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.

--Carl Sagan

Longer Version:

The Cosmos is all that is or 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.



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We are alive and we resonate with idea of life elsewhere, but only careful accumulation and assessment of the evidence can tell us whether a given world is inhabited.

--Carl Sagan

white and black satellite dish on brown field during night time

One's inability to invalidate your hypothesis is not at all the same thing as proving it true.

--Carl Sagan

None

The well-meaning contention that all ideas have equal merit seems to me little different from the disastrous contention that no ideas have any merit.

--Carl Sagan

pink rose flower in selective photography

Is mankind alone in the universe? Or are there somewhere other intelligent beings looking up into their night sky from very different worlds and asking the same kind of question?

--Carl Sagan

woman in black and white jacket standing on brown sand during daytime

We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.

--Carl Sagan

silhouette of stones during golden hour

It is all a matter of time scale. An event that would be unthinkable in a hundred years may be inevitable in a hundred million.

--Carl Sagan


white and purple flower in macro shot

This oak tree and me, we're made of the same stuff.

--Carl Sagan




blue, white, and pink petaled flowers on gray surface

Books tap the wisdom of our species -- the greatest minds, the best teachers -- from all over the world and from all our history. And they're patient.

--Carl Sagan

blue sky with white clouds

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

--Carl Sagan

Longer Version:

The beauty of a living thing is not the atoms that go into it, but the way those atoms are put together. Information distilled over 4 billion years of biological evolution. Incidentally, all the organisms on the Earth are made essentially of that stuff. An eyedropper full of that liquid could be used to make a caterpillar or a petunia if only we knew how to put the components together.


high-angle photography of beach side

Human spoken language seems to be
adventitious. The exploitation of organ systems with other functions for communication in humans is also indicative of the comparatively recent evolution of our linguistic abilities.

--Carl Sagan


leafless tree under gray sky

There are naive questions, tedious questions, ill-phrased questions, questions put after inadequate self-criticism. But every question is a cry to understand the world. There is no such thing as a dumb question.

--Carl Sagan

black dragonfly perched on green grass in close up photography during daytime

It is the tension between creativity and skepticism that has produced the stunning and unexpected findings of science.

--Carl Sagan

landscape photo of waters, mountains, and black clouds

We are not without empathetic terror when we open Pascal's 'Pensees' and read, 'I am the great silent spaces between worlds.'

--Carl Sagan


beach during daytime

You could just as well say that an agnostic is a deeply religious person with at least a rudimentary knowledge of human fallibility.

--Carl Sagan

silhouette of man standing on rock while looking in sky

Books permit us to voyage through time, to tap the wisdom of our ancestors.

--Carl Sagan

Longer Version:

Books permit us to voyage through time, to tap the wisdom of our ancestors. 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 our libraries.



green trees in between gray concrete road

But nature is always more subtle, more intricate, more elegant than what we are able to imagine.

--Carl Sagan


pink and blue sky with moon

An atheist has to know a lot more than I know. An atheist is someone who knows there is no god. By some definitions atheism is very stupid.

--Carl Sagan

man and woman with bone fire sitting on seashore

You're capable of such beautiful dreams and such horrible nightmares.

--Carl Sagan

clear drinking glass with beer

While our behavior is still significantly controlled by our genetic inheritance, we have, through our brains, a much richer opportunity to blaze new behavioral and cultural pathways on short timescales.

--Carl Sagan

gray concrete road between trees

Cleverly designed experiments are the key.

--Carl Sagan

Arizona landscape

The notion that science and spirituality are somehow mutually exclusive does a disservice to both.

--Carl Sagan

body of water during sunset

And after we returned to the savannahs and abandoned the trees, did we long for those great graceful leaps and ecstatic moments of weightlessness in the shafts of sunlight of the forest roof?

--Carl Sagan

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Science is not perfect. It's often misused; it's only a tool, but it's the best tool we have. Self-correcting , ever changing, applicable to everything: with this tool, we vanquish the impossible.

--Carl Sagan

Longer Version:

Science is not perfect. It can be misused. It is only a tool. But it is by far the best tool we have, self-correcting, ongoing, applicable to everything. It has two rules. First: there are no sacred truths; all assumptions must be critically examined; arguments from authority are worthless. Second: whatever is inconsistent with the facts must be discarded or revised. ... The obvious is sometimes false; the unexpected is sometimes true.


white and blue building under clear sky

One trend that bothers me is the glorification of stupidity, that the media is reassuring people it's alright not to know anything. That to me is far more dangerous than a little pornography on the Internet.

--Carl Sagan

blue, white, and pink petaled flowers on gray surface

In more than one respect, the exploring of the Solar System and homesteading other worlds constitutes the beginning, much more than the end, of history.

--Carl Sagan

landscape photo of mountain during nighttime

Human beings have a demonstrated talent for self-deception when their emotions are stirred.

--Carl Sagan



purple and blue light illustration

Which aspects of our nature will prevail is uncertain, particularly when our visions and prospects are bound to one small part of the small planet Earth. But up there in the Cosmos an inescapable perspective awaits.

--Carl Sagan

man in black jacket and black pants standing on brown rock formation during daytime

We are the only species on the planet, so far as we know, to have invented a communal memory stored neither in our genes nor in our brains. The warehouse of this memory is called the library.

--Carl Sagan

aerial photography of pine trees with mist

On the day that we do discover that we are not alone, our society may begin to evolve and transform in some incredible and wondrous new ways.

--Carl Sagan

sunset

It is said that men may not be the dreams of the god, but rather that the gods are the dreams of men.

--Carl Sagan


full moon in the sky

Let's see if I got this right," she would say to herself. "I've taken an inert gas that's in the air, made it into a liquid, put some impurities in a ruby, attached a magnet, and detected the fires of creation.

--Carl Sagan

Dark purple to red to orange gradient

Those with the courage to explore the weave and structure of the Cosmos, even where it differs profoundly from their wishes and prejudices, will penetrate its deepest mysteries.

--Carl Sagan

low angle photography of gray concrete building

My favorite color: "A pale blue dot suspended in a sunbeam.

--Carl Sagan





man on running field

If stones could philosophize, I imagine Lithic Principles would be at the intellectual frontiers.

--Carl Sagan

swimming pool with stainless steel ladder

The size and age of the Cosmos are beyond ordinary human understanding. Lost somewhere between immensity and eternity is our tiny planetary home.

--Carl Sagan

Longer Version:

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.


houses and trees during nighttime

The cure for a fallacious argument is a better argument, not the suppression of ideas.

--Carl Sagan


four person standing beside wall

Stars are phoenixes, rising from their own ashes.

--Carl Sagan

grassland landscape

The passion to explore is at the heart of being human.

--Carl Sagan





silhouette photography of trees and sky

Except in pure mathematics, nothing is known for certain (although much is certainly false).

--Carl Sagan



pink rose in close up photography

The cosmos is within us. We are made of star stuff.

--Carl Sagan

Longer Version:

The cosmos is within us. We are made of star-stuff. We are a way for the universe to know itself.




sunset with storm clouds

If we can accomplish the integration of the search without obliterating cultural differences or destroying ourselves, we will have accomplished a great thing.

--Carl Sagan

green plants beside brown wooden door

The universe is a pretty big place. If it's just us, seems like an awful waste of space.

--Carl Sagan

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Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality.

--Carl Sagan

Longer Version:

Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality. When we recognize our place in an immensity of light‐years and in the passage of ages, when we grasp the intricacy, beauty, and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual. So are our emotions in the presence of great art or music or literature, or acts of exemplary selfless courage such as those of Mohandas Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr. The notion that science and spirituality are somehow mutually exclusive does a disservice to both.



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If chimpanzees have consciousness, if they are capable of abstractions, do they not have what until now has been described as 'human rights'? How smart does a chimp have to be before killing him constitutes murder?

--Carl Sagan

white desk lamp beside green plant

People are not stupid. They believe things for reasons. The last way for skeptics to get the attention of bright, curious, intelligent people is to belittle or condescend or to show arrogance toward their beliefs.

--Carl Sagan




body of water under cloudy sky at night

Science is only a Latin word for knowledge.

--Carl Sagan


worm's eye view of trees during night time

Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

--Carl Sagan


two men sitting and one man standing near cliff taken during golden hour

I would suggest that science is, at least in my part, informed worship.

--Carl Sagan

silhouette of tall trees

Science ... looks skeptically at all claims to knowledge, old and new. It teaches not blind obedience to those in authority but to vigorous debate, and in many respects that's the secret of its success.

--Carl Sagan


coconut tree near body of water

Avoidable human misery is more often caused not so much by stupidity as by ignorance, particularly our ignorance about ourselves.

--Carl Sagan

bird's eye view photography of trees and body of water

Not all birds can fly. What separates the flyers from the walkers is the ability to take off.

--Carl Sagan

pink and green flower painting

UFOs: The reliable cases are uninteresting and in the interesting cases are unreliable.

--Carl Sagan



white petaled flower

Widespread intellectual and moral docility may be convenient for leaders in the short term, but it is suicidal for nations in the long term.

--Carl Sagan

Longer Version:

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.




mountains under orange kies

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 our libraries.

--Carl Sagan

panoramic photography of mountains

We will know which stars to visit. Our descendants will then skim the light years, the children of Thales and Aristarchus, Leonardo and Einstein.

--Carl Sagan


red yellow and blue paint

You have to know the past to understand the present.

--Carl Sagan

water color palette on white surface

Even through your hardest days, remember we are all made of stardust.

--Carl Sagan

close up shot of white flower

When we look up at night and view the stars, everything we see is shinning because of distant nuclear fusion.

--Carl Sagan

red moon at night

Frederick Douglas taught that literacy is the path from slavery to freedom. There are many kinds of slavery and many kinds of freedom, but reading is still the path.

--Carl Sagan

woman in black shirt walking on sidewalk near brown concrete wall partition

It is very difficult to evolve by altering the deep fabric of life; any change there is likely to be lethal. But fundamental change can be accomplished by the addition of new systems on top of old ones.

--Carl Sagan

green leafed trees

We are like butterflies who flutter for a day and think it is forever.

--Carl Sagan

rocks on sea side at daytime

We are the custodians of life's meaning.

--Carl Sagan

green ceramic mug on wooden desk

The chemistry of coal is still not fully understood, despite a long standing economic incentive.

--Carl Sagan



pink, red, and black digital wallpaper

Like it or not, we humans are bound up with our fellows, and with the other plants and animals all over the world.
Our lives are intertwined.

--Carl Sagan

yellow flower field near bare trees during daytime

The candle flame gutters. Its little pool of light trembles. Darkness gathers. The demons begin to stir.

--Carl Sagan



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It would be wryly interesting if in human history the cultivation of marijuana led generally to the invention of agriculture, and thereby to civilization.

--Carl Sagan

blue textile on brown wooden table

Religions are often state-protected nurseries of pseudoscience, although there's no reason why religions have to play that role. In a way, it's an artefact from times long gone.

--Carl Sagan

green trees beside body of water during daytime

Our loyalties are to the species and the planet. We speak for Earth.

--Carl Sagan

Longer Version:

Our loyalties are to the species and the planet. We speak for Earth. Our obligation to survive is owed not just to ourselves but also to that Cosmos, ancient and vast, from which we spring.


black textile on white textile

Science is a way to call the bluff of those who only pretend to knowledge. It is a bulwark against mysticism, against superstition, against religion misapplied to where it has no business being.

--Carl Sagan

icy mountain scenery

Discussing the possibilities of extraterrestrial life: I would love it even if they were short, sullen, grumpy and sexually obsessed. But there just isn't any good evidence.

--Carl Sagan

white sand

Virtually every major technological advance in the history of the human species -- back to the invention of stone tools and the domestication of fire -- has been ethically ambiguous.

--Carl Sagan


empty brown concrete stairs beside green grass under starry sky long-exposure photography

If it can be destroyed by the truth, it deserves to be destroyed by the truth.

--Carl Sagan




red and blue light digital wallpaper

The fact that so little of the findings of modern science is prefigured in Scripture to my mind casts further doubt on it divine inspiration.

--Carl Sagan

Arizona landscape rain

I believe that in every person is a kind of circuit which resonates to intellectual discovery-and the idea is to make that resonance work.

--Carl Sagan


close-up photograph of black dreadnought acoustic guitar

Preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.

--Carl Sagan

silhouette photo of mountain during night time

Our children long for realistic maps of the future that they can be proud of. Where are the cartographers of human purpose?

--Carl Sagan

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The difference between physics and metaphysics is not that the practitioners of one are smarter than the practitioners of the other. The difference is that the metaphysicist has no laboratory.

--Carl Sagan

brown leaf tree facing the lake

If you want to make a rhubarb pie from scratch, first you have to create the universe.

--Carl Sagan


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Any sufficiently crisp question can be answered by a single binary digit-0 or 1, yes or no.

--Carl Sagan





selective photography of dried leaf

Better the hard truth, I say, than the comforting fantasy.

--Carl Sagan

Longer Version:

Better the hard truth, I say, than the comforting fantasy. And in the final tolling it often turns out that the facts are more comforting than the fantasy.






full moon in the sky

We wish to find the truth, no matter where it lies. But to find the truth we need imagination and skepticism both. We will not be afraid to speculate, but we will be careful to distinguish speculation from fact.

--Carl Sagan


white wooden hut during daytime

We are, each of us, a multitude. Within us is a little universe.

--Carl Sagan


aerial photography of mountain range covered with snow under white and blue sky at daytime

A celibate clergy is an especially good idea, because it tends to suppress any hereditary propensity toward fanaticism.

--Carl Sagan






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An atheist is someone who is certain that God does not exist, someone who has compelling evidence against the existence of God. I know of no such compelling evidence.

--Carl Sagan

Longer Version:

An atheist is someone who is certain that God does not exist, someone who has compelling evidence against the existence of God. I know of no such compelling evidence. Because God can be relegated to remote times and places and to ultimate causes, we would have to know a great deal more about the universe than we do now to be sure that no such God exists. To be certain of the existence of God and to be certain of the nonexistence of God seem to me to be the confident extremes in a subject so riddled with doubt and uncertainty as to inspire very little confidence indeed.




dew drops on glass panel

If our long-term survival is at stake, we have a basic responsibility to our species to venture to other worlds. Sailors on a becalmed sea, we sense the stirring of a breeze.

--Carl Sagan

raging waves through shores

If the constellations had been named in the twentieth century, I suppose we would see bicycles and refrigerators in the sky.

--Carl Sagan




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When Kepler found his long-cherished belief did not agree with the most precise observation, he accepted the uncomfortable fact. He preferred the hard truth to his dearest illusions, that is the heart of science.

--Carl Sagan

white flowers

Human beings grew up in forests; we have a natural affinity for them. How lovely a tree is, straining toward the sky.

--Carl Sagan

blue sky and white clouds

Even today the most jaded city dweller can be unexpectedly moved upon encountering a clear night sky studded with thousands of twinkling stars. When it happens to me after all these years it still takes my breath away.

--Carl Sagan

panoramic photography of mountains

Our ancestors worshipped the Sun, and they were not that foolish. It makes sense to revere the Sun and the stars, for we are their children.

--Carl Sagan

sunset

It's been said that astronomy is a humbling and, I might add, a character-building experience.

--Carl Sagan


person sleeping on gray gang chair

The boundary between space and the earth is purely arbitrary. And I'll probably always be interested in this planet -- it's my favorite.

--Carl Sagan

brown wooden dockside beside sea

The surface of the Earth is the shore of the cosmic ocean.

--Carl Sagan

Longer Version:

The surface of the Earth is the shore of the cosmic ocean. On this shore, we've learned most of what we know. Recently, we've waded a little way out, maybe ankle-deep, and the water seems inviting. 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.


white and blue building under clear sky

We are an intelligent species and the use of our intelligence quite properly gives us pleasure. In this respect the brain is like a muscle. When we think well, we feel good. Understanding is a kind of ecstasy.

--Carl Sagan


silhouette of flower during sunset

The method of science is tried and true. It is not perfect, it's just the best we have. And to abandon it, with its skeptical protocols, is the pathway to a dark age.

--Carl Sagan


red textile in close up photography

The usual rejoinder to someone who says 'They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Galileo' is to say 'But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown'.

--Carl Sagan

horse

Books are key to understanding the world and participating in a democratic society.

--Carl Sagan

We wish you a perfect day!