He sought a way to preserve the past. John Hershel was one of the founders of a new form of time travel.... a means to capture light and memories. He actually coined a word for it... photography. When you think about it, photography is a form of time travel. This man is staring at us from across the centuries, a ghost preserved by light.
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.).
The beach reminds us of space. Fine sand grains, all more or less uniform in size, have been produced from the larger rocks through ages of jostling and rubbing, abrasion and erosion, again driven through waves and weather by distinct moon and Sun. The beach also reminds us of time. The world is much older than human species.
Ask courageous questions. Do not be satisfied with superficial answers.
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.
The dumbing down of America is evident in the slow decay of substantive content, a kind of celebration of ignorance.
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.
The Milky Way Galaxy is one of billions, perhaps hundreds of billions of galaxies notable neither in mass nor in brightness nor in how its stars are configured and arrayed. Some modern deep sky photographs show more galaxies beyond the Milky Way than stars within the Milky Way. Every one of them is an island universe containing perhaps a hundred billion suns. Such an image is a profound sermon on humility.
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.
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.
Why are there no nonhuman primates with an existing complex gestural language? One possible answer, it seems to me, is that humans have systematically exterminated those other primates who displayed signs of intelligence.
The Universe is a pretty big place. If it's just us, seems like an awful waste of space.
I believe that part of what propels science is the thirst for wonder. It's a very powerful emotion. All children feel it. In a first grade classroom everybody feels it; in a twelfth grade classroom almost nobody feels it, or at least acknowledges it. Something happens between first and twelfth grade, and it's not just puberty. Not only do the schools and the media not teach much skepticism, there is also little encouragement of this stirring sense of wonder. Science and pseudoscience both arouse that feeling. Poor popularizations of science establish an ecological niche for pseudoscience.
If some good evidence for life after death were announced, I'd be eager to examine it; but it would have to be real scientific data, not mere anecdote. As with the face on Mars and alien abductions, better the hard truth, I say, than the comforting fantasy.
Christianity may be good and Satanism evil. Under the Constitution, however, both are neutral. This is an important, but difficult, concept for many law enforcement officers to accept. They are paid to uphold the penal code, not the Ten Commandments … The fact is that far more crime and child abuse has been committed by zealots in the name of God, Jesus and Mohammed than has ever been committed in the name of Satan. Many people don't like that statement, but few can argue with it.
There are no forbidden questions in science, no matters too sensitive or delicate to be probed, no sacred truths.
Finding the occasional straw of truth awash in a great ocean of confusion and bamboozle requires intelligence, vigilance, dedication, and courage. But if we don't practice these tough habits of thought, we cannot hope to solve the truly serious problems that face us -- - and we risk becoming a nation of suckers, up for grabs by the next charlatan who comes along.
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.
The universe is not required to be in perfect harmony with human ambition.
As agonizing a disease as cancer is, I do not think it can be said that our civilization is threatened by it. ... But a very plausible case can be made that our civilization is fundamentally threatened by the lack of adequate fertility control. Exponential increases of population will dominate any arithmetic increases, even those brought about by heroic technological initiatives, in the availability of food and resources, as Malthus long ago realized.
Our politics, economics, advertising, and religions (New Age and Old) are awash in credulity. Those who have something to sell, those who wish to influence public opinion, those in power, a skeptic might suggest, have a vested interest in discouraging skepticism,.
The cannabis experience has greatly improved my appreciation for art, a subject which I had never much appreciated before.
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.
The significance of our lives and our fragile planet is then determined only by our own wisdom and courage. We are the custodians of life's meaning. We long for a Parent to care for us, to forgive us our errors, to save us from our childish mistakes. But knowledge is preferable to ignorance. Better by far to embrace the hard truth than a reassuring fable. If we crave some cosmic purpose, then let us find ourselves a worthy goal.
Civilization is a product of the cerebral cortex.
There is a reward structure in science that is very interesting: Our highest honors go to those who disprove the findings of the most revered among us. So Einstein is revered not just because he made so many fundamental contributions to science, but because he found an imperfection in the fundamental contribution of Isaac Newton.
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.
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.
Who will speak for Planet Earth?
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.
I think the discomfort that some people feel in going to the monkey cages at the zoo is a warning sign.
One of the greatest gifts adults can give -- to their offspring and to their society -- is to read to children.
There are wonders enough out there without our inventing any.
First rule in government spending: why build one when you can have two at twice the price?
The cosmos is full beyond measure of elegant truths; of exquisite interrelationships; of the awesome machinery of nature.
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.
I would expect a significant development and elaboration of language in only a few generations if all the chimps unable to communicate were to die or fail to reproduce. Basic English corresponds to about 1,000 words. Chimpanzees are already accomplished in vocabularies exceeding 10 percent of that number.
If you had walked through the pleasant Tuscan countryside in the 1890's, you might have come upon a somewhat long-haired teenage high school dropout on the road to Pavia. His teachers in Germany had told him that he would never amount to anything, that his questions destroyed classroom discipline, that he would be better off out of school. So he left and wandered, delighting in the freedom of Northern Italy, where he could ruminate on matters remote from the subjects he had been force-fed in his highly disciplined Prussian schoolroom. His name was Albert Einstein, and his ruminations changed the world.
Organic as a dandelion seed, the ship of our imagination will carry us to worlds of dreams and worlds of facts.
Billions of years from now our sun, then a distended red giant star, will have reduced Earth to a charred cinder. But the Voyager record will still be largely intact, in some other remote region of the Milky Way galaxy, preserving a murmur of an ancient civilization that once flourished -- perhaps before moving on to greater deeds and other worlds -- on the distant planet Earth.
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.
More recently, books, especially paperbacks, have been printed in massive and inexpensive editions. For the price of a modest meal you can ponder the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, the origin of species, the interpretation of dreams, the nature of things. Books are like seeds. They can lie dormant for centuries and then flower in the most unpromising soil.
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.
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.
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.
The claim is also sometimes made that science is as arbitrary or irrational as all other claims to knowledge, or that reason itself is an illusion. As Ethan Allen said Those who invalidate reason ought seriously to consider whether they argue against reason with or without reason; if with reason, then they establish the principle that they are labouring to dethrone. If they argue without reason, which they must do, in order to be consistent with themselves, they are out of reach of rational conviction, nor do they deserve a rational argument.
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.
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.
The universe seems neither benign nor hostile, merely indifferent to the concerns of such puny creatures as we are.
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.
Writing a novel is like trying to solve a very long mathematical equation. Changing anything can change everything else.
The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena.
The trapdoor beneath our feet swings open. We find ourselves in bottomless free fall. We are lost in a great darkness, and there's no one to send out a search party. Given so harsh a reality, of course we're tempted to shut our eyes and pretend that we're safe and snug at home, that the fall is only a bad dream.
How lucky we are to live in this time the first moment in human history when we are in fact visiting other worlds.
If you are only skeptical, then no new ideas make it through to you.
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.
Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there -- on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
The left hemisphere seems to feel quite defensive-in a strange way insecure-about the right hemisphere; and, if this is so, verbal criticism of intuitive thinking becomes suspect on the ground of motive. Unfortunately, there is every reason to think that the right hemisphere has comparable misgivings -expressed nonverbally, of course- about the left.
We've arranged a civilization in which most crucial elements profoundly depend on science and technology.
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.
Except for fools and madmen, everyone knows that nuclear war would he an unprecedented human catastrophe.
Do you believe in UFOs?' I'm always struck by how the question is phrased, the suggestion that this is a matter of belief and not of evidence. I'm almost never asked, ‘How good is the evidence that UFOs are alien spaceships?
After the earth dies, some 5 billion years from now, after it's burned to a crisp, or even swallowed by the Sun, there will be other worlds and stars and galaxies coming into being -- and they will know nothing of a place once called Earth.
So those who wished for some central cosmic purpose for us, or at least our world, or at least our solar system, or at least our galaxy, have been disappointed, progressively disappointed. The universe is not responsive to our ambitious expectations.
We knew the Moon from our earliest days. It was there when our ancestors descended from the trees into the savannahs, when we learned to walk upright, when we first devised stone tools, when we domesticated fire, when we invented agriculture and built cities and set out to subdue the Earth.
Seances occur only in darkened rooms, where the ghostly visitors can be seen dimly at best. If we turn up the lights a little, so we have a chance to see what's going on, the spirits vanish. They're shy, we're told, and some of us believe it. In twentieth-century parapsychology laboratories, there is the ‘observer effect': those described as gifted psychics find that their powers diminish markedly whenever sceptics arrive, and disappear altogether in the presence of a conjuror as skilled as James Randi. What they need is darkness and gullibility.
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.
I don't know where i am going but I'm on my way.
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.
Every cell is a triumph of natural selection, and we're made of trillions of cells. Within us, is a little universe.
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.
The visions we offer our children shape the future.
The visions we offer our children shape the future. It _matters_ what those visions are. Often they become self-fulfilling prophecies. Dreams are maps.
Your god is too small for my universe.
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.
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.
Sailors on a becalmed sea, we sense the stirring of a breeze.
The method of science, as stodgy and grumpy as it may seem, is far more important than the findings of science.
Coal, oil and gas are called fossil fuels, because they are mostly made of the fossil remains of beings from long ago. The chemical energy within them is a kind of stored sunlight originally accumulated by ancient plants. Our civilization runs by burning the remains of humble creatures who inhabited the Earth hundreds of millions of years before the first humans came on the scene. Like some ghastly cannibal cult, we subsist on the dead bodies of our ancestors and distant relatives.
The entire evolutionary record on our planet, particularly the record contained in fossil endocasts, illustrates a progressive tendency toward intelligence. There is nothing mysterious about this:
smart organisms by and large survive better and leave more offspring than stupid ones.
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.
And after the Earth dies, some 5 billion years from now, after it is burned t a crisp or even swallowed by the Sun, there will be other worlds and stars and galaxies coming into being- and they will know nothing of a place once called Earth.
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.
The near side of a galaxy is tens of thousands of light-years closer to us than the far side; thus we see the front as it was tens of thousands of years before the back. But typical events in galactic dynamics occupy tens of millions of years, so the error in thinking of an image of a galaxy as frozen in one moment of time is small.
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?
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?
All inquiries carry with them some element of risk.
All inquires carry with them some element of risk. There is no guarantee that the universe will conform to our predispositions.
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.
We're in very bad trouble if we don't understand the planet we're trying to save.
Science is more than a body of knowledge. It's a way of thinking: a way of skeptically interrogating the universe.
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.
The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand. It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience..... To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.
There were many women in the Soviet scientific community, proportionately more so than in the United States. But they tended to occupy menial middle-level positions, and male Soviet scientists, like their American counterparts, were puzzled about a pretty woman with evident scientific competence who forcefully expressed her views.
There is a place with four suns in the sky-red, white, blue, and yellow; two of them are so close together that they touch, and star-stuff flows between them. I know of a world with a million moons. I know of a sun the size of the Earth-and made of diamond....The universe is vast and awesome, and for the first time we are becoming part of it.
Where we have strong emotions, we're liable to fool ourselves.
We make our world significant by the courage of our questions and the depth of our answers.
Whatever the reason you're on Mars, I'm glad you're there, and I wish I was with you.
But we humans now represent a new and perhaps decisive factor. Our intelligence and our technology have given us the power to affect the climate. How will we use this power? Are we willing to tolerate ignorance and complacency in matters that affect the entire human family? Do we value short-term advantages above the welfare of the Earth? Or will we think on longer time scales, with concern for our children and our grandchildren, to understand and protect the complex life-support systems of our planet? The Earth is a tiny and fragile world. It needs to be cherished.
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.
An extraterrestrial being, newly arrived on Earth -- scrutinizing what we mainly present to our children in television, radio, movies, newspapers, magazines, the comics, and many books -- might easily conclude that we are intent on teaching them murder, rape, cruelty, superstition, credulity, and consumerism. We keep at it, and through constant repetition many of them finally get it.
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.
Once intelligent beings achieve technology and the capacity for self-destruction of their species, the selective advantage of intelligence becomes more uncertain.
For all our failings, despite our limitations and fallibilities, we humans are capable of greatness.
Not all bits have equal value.
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.
Another glorious feature of many modern science museums is a movie theater showing IMAX or OMNIMAX films. In some cases the screen is ten stories tall and wraps around you. The Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museu, the popular museum on Earth, has premiered in its Langley Theater some of the best of these films. 'To Fly' brings a catch to my throat even after five or six viewings. I've seen religious leaders of many denominations witness 'Blue Planet' and be converted on the spot to the need to protect the Earth's environment.
Our difficulties in understanding or effectuating
communication with other animals may arise from our reluctance to grasp unfamiliar ways of dealing with the world.
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.
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.
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?
A healthy young man can produce in a week or two enough spermatozoa to double the human population of the Earth. So is masturbation mass murder? How about nocturnal emissions or just plain sex? When the unfertilized egg is expelled each month, has someone died? Should we mourn all those spontaneous miscarriages?
Whatever the reason we first mustered the _Apollo_ program, however mired it was in Cold War nationalism and the instruments of death, the inescapable recognition of the unity and fragility of the Earth is its clear and luminous dividend, the unexpected final gift of _Apollo_. What began in deadly competition has helped us to see that global cooperation is the essential precondition for our survival.
Travel is broadening. It's time to hit the road again.
Human history can be viewed as a slowly dawning awareness that we are members of a larger group.
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.
I've written a number of books that have to do with the evolution of humans, human intelligence, human emotions.
I would be very ashamed of my civilization if we did not try to find out if there is life in outer space.
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.
We invest far off places with a certain romance... Long summers, mild winters, rich harvests, plentiful game; none of them lasts for ever. Your own life, or your bands, or even your species -- might be owed to a restless few, drawn by a craving they can hardly articulate or understand, to undiscovered lands, and new worlds.
We've tended in our cosmologies to make things familiar. Despite all our best efforts, we've not been very inventive. In the West, Heaven is placid and fluffy, and Hell is like the inside of a volcano. In many stories, both realms are governed by dominance hierarchies headed by gods or devils. Monotheists talked about the king of kings. In every culture we imagined something like our own political system running the Universe. Few found the similarity suspicious.
Many hypotheses proposed by scientists as well as by non scientists turn out to be wrong. But science is a self correcting enterprise. To be accepted, all new ideas must survive rigorous standards of evidence. The worst aspect of the Velikovsky affair is not that his hypotheses were wrong or in contradiction to firmly established facts, but that some who called themselves scientists attempted to suppress Velikovsky's work. Science is generated by and devoted to free inquiry: the idea that any hypothesis, no matter how strange, deserves to be considered on its merits. The suppression of uncomfortable ideas may be common in religion and politics, but it is not the path to knowledge; it has no place in the endeavor of science. We do not know in advance who will discover fundamental new insights.
Ann Druyan suggests an experiment: Look back again at the pale blue dot of the preceding chapter. Take a good long look at it. Stare at the dot for any length of time and then try to convince yourself that God created the whole Universe for one of the 10 million or so species of life that inhabit that speck of dust. Now take it a step further: Imagine that everything was made just for a single shade of that species, or gender, or ethnic or religious subdivision. If this doesn't strike you as unlikely, pick another dot. Imagine it to be inhabited by a different form of intelligent life. They, too, cherish the notion of a God who has created everything for their benefit. How seriously do you take their claim?
Like other mammals, they are capable of strong emotions. They have certainly committed no crimes. I do not claim to have the answer, but I think it is
certainly worthwhile to raise the question: Why, exactly, all over the civilized world, in virtually every major city, are apes in prison?
There is some evidence that dreaming is necessary. When people or other mammals are deprived of REM sleep (by awakening them as soon as the characteristic REM and EEG dream patterns emerge), the number of initiations of the dream state per night goes up, and, in severe cases, daytime hallucinations-that is, waking dreams-occur.
At the extremes it is difficult to distinguish pseudoscience from rigid, doctrinaire religion.
These are all cases of proved or presumptive baloney. A deception arises, sometimes innocently but collaboratively, sometimes with cynical premeditation. Usually the victim is caught up in a powerful emotion -- wonder, fear, greed, grief. Credulous acceptance of baloney can cost you money; that's what P. T. Barnum meant when he said, 'There's a sucker born every minute.' But it can be much more dangerous than that, and when governments and societies lose the capacity for critical thinking, the results can be catastrophic -- however sympathetic we may be to those who have bought the baloney.
Has there ever been a religion with the prophetic accuracy and reliability of science? ... No other human institution comes close.
That kind of skeptical, questioning, "don't accept what authority tells you" attitude of science -- is also nearly identical to the attitude of mind necessary for a functioning democracy. Science and democracy have very consonant values and approaches, and I don't think you can have one without the other.
The first law of bureaucracy is to guarantee its own continuance.
It's a lazy Saturday afternoon, there's a couple lying naked in bed reading Encyclopediea Brittannica to each other, and arguing about whether the Andromeda Galaxy is more 'numinous' than the Ressurection. Do they know how to have a good time, or don't they?
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.
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.
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.
Pliny suggested that the ostrich, then newly discovered, was the result of a cross between a giraffe and a gnat. (It would, I suppose, have to be a female giraffe and a male gnat.) In practice there must be many such crosses which have not been
attempted because of a certain understandable lack of motivation.
Atoms are mainly empty space. Matter is composed chiefly of nothing.
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.
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.
What do you do when you are faced with several different gods each claiming the same territory? The Babylonian Marduk and the Greek Zeus was each considered master of the sky and king of gods. You might also decide, since they had quite different attributes, that one of them was merely invented by the priests. But if one, why not both? And so it was that the great idea arose, the realization that there might be a way to know the world without the god hypothesis; that there might be principles, forces, laws of nature, through which the world could be understood without attributing the fall of every sparrow to the direct intervention of Zeus.
The total number of stars in the Universe is larger than all the grains of sand on all the beaches of the planet Earth.
In addition, human beings have, in the most recent few tenths of a percent of our existence, invented not only extra-genetic but also extrasomatic knowledge: information stored outside our bodies, of which writing is the most notable example.
For all its material advantages, the sedentary life has left us edgy, unfulfilled, even after 400 generations in villages and cities, we haven't forgotten: The open road still softly calls like a nearly forgotten song of childhood.
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.
In the way that scepticism is sometimes applied to issues of public concern, there is a tendency to belittle, to condescend, to ignore the fact that, deluded or not, supporters of superstition and pseudoscience are human beings with real feelings, who, like the sceptics, are trying to figure out how the world works and what our role in it might be. Their motives are in many cases consonant with science. If their culture has not given them all the tools they need to pursue this great quest, let us temper our criticism with kindness. None of us comes fully equipped.
What an astonishing thing a book is. It's a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you're inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. ... Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.
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.
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.
This zest to explore and exploit, however thoughtless its agents may have been, has clear survival value. It is not restricted to any one nation or ethnic group. It is an endowment that all members of the human species hold in common.
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.
The very act of understanding is a celebration of joining, merging, even if on a very modest scale, with the magnificence of the Cosmos.
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.
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.
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.
Extinction is the rule. Survival is the exception.
If all the suns but ours collapsed tonight, how many lifetimes would it take us to realize that we were alone?
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.
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.
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.
Many statements about God are confidently made by theologians on grounds that today at least sound specious. Thomas Aquinas claimed to prove that God cannot make another God, or commit suicide, or make a man without a soul, or even make a triangle whose interior angles do not equal 180 degrees. But Bolyai and Lobachevsky were able to accomplish this last feat (on a curved surface) in the nineteenth century, and they were not even approximately gods.
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.
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.
Be grateful everyday for the brief but magnificent opportunity that life provides.
If you want to save your child from polio, you can pray or you can inoculate. ... Choose science.
I maintain there is much more wonder in science than in pseudoscience. And in addition, to whatever measure this term has any meaning, science has the additional virtue, and it is not an inconsiderable one, of being true.
A religion old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the universe as revealed by modern science, might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths. Sooner or later such a religion will emerge.
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.
A tiny blue dot set in a sunbeam. Here it is. That's where we live. That's home. We humans are one species and this is our world. It is our responsibility to cherish it. Of all the worlds in our solar system, the only one so far as we know, graced by life.
For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.
Any faith that admires truth, that strives to know God, must be brave enough to accommodate the universe.
Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence.
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.
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.
We on Earth have just awakened to the great oceans of space and time from which we have emerged.
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.
We are all star stuff.
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.
Our perceptions are fallible. We sometimes see what isn't there. We are prey to optical illusions. Occasionally we hallucinate. We are error-prone.
Somewhere in the steaming jungles of the Carboniferous Period there emerged an organism that for the first time in the history of the world had more information in its brains than in its genes. It was an early reptile which, were we to come upon it in these sophisticated times, we would probably not describe as exceptionally intelligent… Much of the history of life since the Carboniferous Period can be described as the gradual (and certainly incomplete) dominance of brains over genes.
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.
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.
There is perhaps no better a demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world.
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.
If you grow up in a household where there are books, where you are read to, where parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins read for their own pleasure, naturally you learn to read. If no one close to you takes joy in reading, where is the evidence that it's worth the effort?
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.
I know of no significant advance in science that did not require major inputs from both cerebral hemispheres. This is not true for art, where apparently there are no experiments by which capable, dedicated and unbiased observers can determine to their mutual satisfaction which works are great.
After I give lectures-on almost any subject-I am often asked, "Do you believe in UFOs?" I'm always struck by how the question is phrased, the suggestion that this is a matter of belief and not evidence. I'm almost never asked, "How good is the evidence that UFOs are alien spaceships?
You are made of a hundred trillion cells. We are, each of us, a multitude.
Because men, compared to male chimps, have such relatively small testicles (large testicles indicate a species where many males mate, one after the other, with the same female), we might guess that promiscuous societies were uncommon in the immediate human past.
For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.
It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.
All civilizations become either spacefaring or extinct.
If we could travel into the past, it's mind-boggling what would be possible. For one thing, history would become an experimental science, which it certainly isn't today. The possible insights into our own past and nature and origins would be dazzling. For another, we would be facing the deep paradoxes of interfering with the scheme of causality that has led to our own time and ourselves. I have no idea whether it's possible, but it's certainly worth exploring.
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.
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.
The wind whips through the canyons of the American Southwest, and there is no one to hear it but us -- a reminder of the 40,000 generations of thinking men and women who preceded us, about whom we know almost nothing, upon whom our civilization is based.
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.
A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.
Across the sea of space, the stars are other suns.
The Platonists and their Christian successors held the peculiar notion that the Earth was tainted and somehow nasty, while the heavens were perfect and divine. The fundamental idea that the Earth is a planet, that we are citizens of the Universe, was rejected and forgotten.
Advances in medicine and agriculture have saved vastly more lives than have been lost in all the wars in history.
The words "question" and "quest" are cognates. Only through inquiry can we discover truth.
In many cultures it is customary to answer that God created the universe out of nothing. But this is mere temporizing. If we wish courageously to pursue the question, we must, of course ask next where God comes from? And if we decide this to be unanswerable, why not save a step and conclude that the universe has always existed?
Whenever our ethnic or 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.
In a lot of scientists, the ratio of wonder to skepticism declines in time. That may be connected with the fact that in some fields-mathematics, physics, some others-the great discoveries are almost entirely made by youngsters.
I am often amazed at how much more capability and enthusiasm for science there is among elementary school youngsters than among college students.
The Cosmos extends, for all practical purposes, forever. After a brief sedentary hiatus, we are resuming our ancient nomadic way of life. Our remote descendants, safely arrayed on many worlds throughout 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 love it no less for its obscurity and fragility. They will marvel at how vulnerable the repository of all our potential once was, how perilous our infancy, how humble our beginnings, how many rivers we had to cross before we found our way.
When you make the finding yourself -- even if you're the last person on Earth to see the light -- you'll never forget it.
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?
Washburn has reported that infant baboons and other young primates appear to be born with only three inborn fears -of falling, snakes, and the dark-corresponding respectively to the dangers posed by
Newtonian gravitation to tree-dwellers, by our ancient enemies the reptiles, and by mammalian nocturnal predators, which must have been particularly terrifying for the visually oriented primates.
We are one species. We are starstuff.
In a way, science might be described as paranoid thinking applied to Nature: we are looking for natural conspiracies, for connections among apparently disparate data. Our objective is to abstract patterns from Nature (right-hemisphere thinking), but many proposed patterns do not in fact correspond to the
data. Thus all proposed patterns must be subjected to the sieve of critical analysis (left-hemisphere thinking).
Accommodation to change, the thoughtful pursuit of alternative futures are keys to the survival of civilization and perhaps of the human species.
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?
Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere.
It is sometimes said that scientists are unromantic, that their passion to figure out robs the world of beauty and mystery. But is it not stirring to understand how the world actually works -- that white light is made of colors, that color is the way we perceive the wavelengths of light, that transparent air reflects light, that in so doing it discriminates among the waves, and that the sky is blue for the same reason that the sunset is red? It does no harm to the romance of the sunset to know a little bit about it.
Exponential increases in population will dominate any arithmetic increases, even those brought about by heroic technological initiatives, in the availability of food and resources, as Malthus long ago realized. While some industrial nations have approached zero population growth, this is not the case for the world as a whole.
We are star stuff harvesting sunlight.
If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.
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.
It seems madness to say, 'We're worried that they're going to become addicted to marijuana' -- there's no evidence whatever that it's an addictive drug, but even if it were, these people are dying, what are we saving them from?
Our intelligence is imperfect, surely, and newly arisen; the ease with which it can be sweet-talked, overwhelmed, or subverted by other hardwired propensities -- sometimes themselves disguised as the cool light of reason -- is worrisome.
All of us cherish our beliefs. They are, to a degree, self-defining. When someone comes along who challenges our belief system as insufficiently well-based -- or who, like Socrates, merely asks embarrassing questions that we haven't thought of, or demonstrates that we've swept key underlying assumptions under the rug -- it becomes much more than a search for knowledge. It feels like a personal assault.
We will die and we fear death. This fear is worldwide and transcultural. It probably has significant survival value. Those who wish to postpone or avoid death can improve the world, reduce its perils, make children who will live after us, and create great works by which they will be remembered.
In the long run, the aggressive civilizations destroy themselves, almost always. It's their nature. They can't help it.
Even if the aliens are short, dour, and sexually obsessed--if they're here, I want to know about them.
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?
Everyday life depends on the structure of the atom. Turn off the electrical charges and everything crumbles to an invisible fine dust, without electrical forces, there would no longer be things in the universe -- merely diffuse clouds of electrons, protons, and neutrons, and gravitating spheres of elementary particles, the featureless remnants of worlds.
We are...capable of using our compassion and our intelligence, our technology and our wealth, to make an abundant and meaningful life for every inhabitant of this planet. To enhance enormously our understanding of the Universe, and to carry us to the stars.
Eratosthenes's only tools were sticks, eyes, feet, and brains; plus a zest for experiment. With those tools he correctly deduced the circumference of the Earth, to high precision, with an error of only a few percent. That's pretty good figuring for 2200 years ago.
The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.
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.
Cosmos is a Greek word for the order of the universe. It is, in a way, the opposite of Chaos. It implies the deep interconnectedness of all things. It conveys awe for the intricate and subtle way in which the universe is put together.
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.
One's inability to invalidate your hypothesis is not at all the same thing as proving it true.
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.
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?
We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.
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.
Individual killings and wars on the largest scale are, he said, two ends of a continuum, an unbroken curve. It follows, not only in a trivial sense but also I believe in a very deep psychological sense, that war is murder writ large. When our well-being is threatened, when our illusions about ourselves are challenged, we tend -- some of us at least -- to fly into murderous rages. And when the same provocations are applied to nation states, they, too, sometimes fly into murderous rages, egged on often enough by those seeking personal power or profit.
This oak tree and me, we're made of the same stuff.
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.
The old exhortations to nationalist fervor and jingoist pride have begun to lose their appeal. Perhaps because of rising standards of living, children are being treated better worldwide. In only a few decades, sweeping global changes have begun to move in precisely the directions needed for human survival. A new consciousness is developing which recognizes that we are one species.
Paid product endorsements, especially by real or purported experts, constitute a steady rainfall of deception. They betray contempt for the intelligence of their customers. They introduce an insidious corruption of popular attitudes about scientific objectivity.
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.
The beauty of a living thing is not the atoms that go into it, but the way those atoms are put together.
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.
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.
Present global culture is a kind of arrogant newcomer. It arrives on the planetary stage following four and a half billion years of other acts, and after looking about for a few thousand years declares itself in possession of eternal truths. But in a world that is changing as fast as ours, this is a prescription for disaster. No nation, no religion, no economic system, no body of knowledge, is likely to have all the answers for our survival. There must be many social systems that would work far better than any now in existence. In the scientific tradition, our task is to find them.
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.
It is the tension between creativity and skepticism that has produced the stunning and unexpected findings of science.
We are not without empathetic terror when we open Pascal's 'Pensees' and read, 'I am the great silent spaces between worlds.'
We need to reduce military budgets; raise living standards; engender respect for learning; support science, scholarship, invention, and industry; promote free inquiry; reduce domestic coercion; involve the workers more in managerial decisions; and promote genuine respect and understanding derived from an acknowledgement of our common humanity and our common jeopardy.
You could just as well say that an agnostic is a deeply religious person with at least a rudimentary knowledge of human fallibility.
Books permit us to voyage through time, to tap the wisdom of our ancestors.
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.
Imagine a room awash in gasoline, and there are two implacable enemies in that room. One of them has nine thousand matches. The other has seven thousand matches. Each of them is concerned about who's ahead, who's stronger. Well that's the kind of situation we are actually in. The amount of weapons that are available to the United States and the Soviet Union are so bloated, so grossly in excess of what's needed to dissuade the other, that if it weren't so tragic, it would be laughable. What is necessary is to reduce the matches and to clean up the gasoline.
But nature is always more subtle, more intricate, more elegant than what we are able to imagine.
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.
You're capable of such beautiful dreams and such horrible nightmares.
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.
Cleverly designed experiments are the key.
The notion that science and spirituality are somehow mutually exclusive does a disservice to both.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
Human beings have a demonstrated talent for self-deception when their emotions are stirred.
When a religious couple wrote to Sagan about fulfilled prophecies, he wrote back in May 1996:
If ‘fulfilled prophecy' is your criterion, why do you not believe in materialistic science, which has an unparalleled record of fulfilled prophecy? Consider, for example, eclipses.
We have held the peculiar notion that a person or society that is a little different from us, whoever we are, is somehow strange or bizarre, to be distrusted or loathed. Think of the negative connotations of words like alien or outlandish. And yet the monuments and cultures of each of our civilizations merely represent different ways of being human. An extraterrestrial visitor, looking at the differences among human beings and their societies, would find those differences trivial compared to the similarities. The Cosmos may be densely populated with intelligent beings. But the Darwinian lesson is clear: There will be no humans elsewhere. Only here. Only on this small planet. We are a rare as well as an endangered species. 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.
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.
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.
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.
It is said that men may not be the dreams of the god, but rather that the gods are the dreams of men.
We seem, these days, much more willing to recognize the perils before us than we were even a decade ago. The newly recognized dangers threaten all of us, equally. No one can say how it will turn out down here. But this is also, we may note, the first time that a species has become able to journey to the planets and the stars. Sailors on a becalmed sea, we sense a stirring of the breeze.
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.
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.
My favorite color: "A pale blue dot suspended in a sunbeam.
If we offer too much silent assent about mysticism and superstition -- even when it seems to be doing a little good -- we abet a general climate in which scepticism is considered impolite, science tiresome, and rigorous thinking somehow stuffy and inappropriate.
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 in trouble. Really, it's okay to reserve judgment until the evidence is in.
You mean am I for it or against it? You think this is a key question I'm going to be asked on Vega, and you want to make sure I give the right answer? Okay. Overpopulation is why I'm in favor of homosexuality and a celibate clergy. A celibate clergy is an especially good idea, because it tends to suppress any hereditary propensity toward fanaticism.
I went to the librarian and asked for a book about stars.... And the answer was stunning. It was that the Sun was a star but really close. The stars were suns, but so far away they were just little points of light.... The scale of the universe suddenly opened up to me. It was a kind of religious experience. There was a magnificence to it, a grandeur, a scale which has never left me. Never ever left me.
If stones could philosophize, I imagine Lithic Principles would be at the intellectual frontiers.
The size and age of the Cosmos are beyond ordinary human understanding. Lost somewhere between immensity and eternity is our tiny planetary home.
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.
The cure for a fallacious argument is a better argument, not the suppression of ideas.
Scientists can routinely predict a solar eclipse, to the minute, a millennium in advance. You can go to the witch doctor to lift the spell that causes your pernicious anaemia, or you can take Vitamin B12. If you want to save your child from polio, you can pray or you can inoculate. If you're interested in the sex of your unborn child, you can consult plumb-bob danglers all you want ... but they'll be right, on average, only one time in two. If you want real accuracy ... try amniocentesis and sonograms. Try science.
Stars are phoenixes, rising from their own ashes.
The passion to explore is at the heart of being human.
But, Jefferson worried that the people -- and the argument goes back to Thucydides and Aristotle -- are easily misled. He also stressed, passionately and repeatedly, that it was essential for the people to understand the risks and benefits of government, to educate themselves, and to involve themselves in the political process.
Without that, he said, the wolves will take over.
In addition to Ameslan, chimpanzees and other nonhuman primates are being taught a variety of other gestural languages. And it is just this transition from tongue to hand that has permitted humans to regain the ability-lost, according to Josephus, since Eden-to communicate with the animals.
On the other hand, mere critical thinking, without creative and intuitive insights, without the search for new patterns, is sterile and doomed. To solve complex problems in changing circumstances requires the activity of both cerebral hemispheres: the path to the future lies through the corpus callosum.
It is interesting that it is not the getting of any sort of knowledge that God has forbidden, but, specifically, the knowledge of the difference between good and evil-that is, abstract and moral judgments, which, if they reside anywhere, reside in the neocortex.
Except in pure mathematics, nothing is known for certain (although much is certainly false).
Imagine we could accelerate continuously at 1 g-what we're comfortable with on good old terra firma-to the midpoint of our voyage, and decelerate continuously at 1 g until we arrive at our destination. It would take a day to get to Mars, a week and a half to Pluto, a year to the Oort Cloud, and a few years to the nearest stars.
The cosmic calendar compresses the local history of the universe into a single year. If the universe began on January 1st it was not until May that the Milky Way formed. Other planetary systems may have appeared in June, July and August, but our Sun and Earth not until mid-September. Life arose soon after. 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.
The cosmos is within us. We are made of star stuff.
The cosmos is within us. We are made of star-stuff. We are a way for the universe to know itself.
There is another connection between infancy and dreams: both are followed by amnesia. When we emerge from either state, we have great difficulty remembering what we have experienced. In both cases, I would suggest, the left hemisphere of the neocortex, which is responsible for analytic
recollection, has been functioning ineffectively.
Ten thousand years ago, when we were divided into many small groups, the propensities may have served our species well. We can understand why they should be easy to evoke, why they are stock in trade of every demagogue and hack politician. But we cannot wait for natural selection to further mitigate these ancient primate algorithms. That would take too long. We must work with what tools we have -- to understand who we are, how we got to be that way, and how to transcend our deficiencies. Then we can begin to create a society less apt to bring out the worst in us.
If we can accomplish the integration of the search without obliterating cultural differences or destroying ourselves, we will have accomplished a great thing.
The universe is a pretty big place. If it's just us, seems like an awful waste of space.
Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality.
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.
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?
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.
You probably don't need more weapons than what's required to destroy every city on earth. There's only 2,300 cities. So, the United States, by that criteria, only needs 2,300 nuclear weapons -- well, we've got more than 25,000!
Eratosthenes was the director of the great library of Alexandria, the Centre of science and learning in the ancient world. Aristotle had argued that humanity was divided into Greeks and everybody else, whom he called barbarians and that the Greeks should keep themselves racially pure. He thought it was fitting for the Greeks to enslave other peoples. But Erathosthenes criticized Aristotle for his blind chauvinism, he believed there was good and bad in every nation.
We, the nuclear hostages -- all the peoples of the Earth -- must educate ourselves about conventional and nuclear warfare. Then we must educate our governments. We must learn the science and technology that provide the only conceivable tools for our survival. We must be willing to challenge courageously the conventional social, political, economic and religious wisdom. We must make every effort to understand that our fellow humans, all over the world, are human. Of course, such steps are difficult. Bus as Einstein many times replied when his suggestions were rejected as impractical or as inconsistent with ‘human nature': What is the alternative?
Science is only a Latin word for knowledge.
MacLean has shown that the R-complex plays an important role in aggressive behavior, territoriality, ritual and the establishment of social hierarchies. Despite occasional welcome exceptions, this seems to me to characterize a great deal of modern human bureaucratic and political behavior.
Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
For thousands of years humans were oppressed-- as some of us still are-- by the notion that the universe is a marionette whose strings are pulled by a god or gods, unseen and inscrutable. Then, 2,500 years ago, there was a glorious awakening in Ionia: on Samos and the other nearby Greek colonies that grew up among the islands and inlets of the busy eastern Aegean Sea. Suddenly there were people who believed that everything was made of atoms; that human beings and other animals had sprung from simpler forms; that diseases were not caused by demons or the gods; that the Earth was only a planet going around the Sun. And that the stars were very far away.
I would suggest that science is, at least in my part, informed worship.
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.
This looks very much as if the integration of the day's experience into our memory, the forging of new neural links, is either an easier or a more urgent task. As the night wears on and this function is completed, the more affecting dreams, the more bizarre
material, the fears and lusts and other powerful emotions of the dream material emerge.
Avoidable human misery is more often caused not so much by stupidity as by ignorance, particularly our ignorance about ourselves.
Not all birds can fly. What separates the flyers from the walkers is the ability to take off.
UFOs: The reliable cases are uninteresting and in the interesting cases are unreliable.
In college, in the early 1950s, I began to learn a little about how science works, the secrets of its great success, how rigorous the standards of evidence must be if we are really to know something is true, how many false starts and dead ends have plagued human thinking, how our biases can colour our interpretation of evidence, and how often belief systems widely held and supported by the political, religious and academic hierarchies turn out to be not just slightly in error, but grotesquely wrong.
Too much openness and you accept every notion, idea, and hypothesis-which is tantamount to knowing nothing. Too much skepticism-especially rejection of new ideas before they are adequately tested-and you're not only unpleasantly grumpy, but also closed to the advance of science. A judicious mix is what we need.
Widespread intellectual and moral docility may be convenient for leaders in the short term, but it is suicidal for nations in the long term.
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.
Science is an attempt, largely successful, to understand the world, to get a grip on things, to get hold of ourselves, to steer a safe course. Microbiology and meteorology now explain what only a few centuries ago was considered sufficient cause to burn women to death.
Humans may crave absolute certainty; they may aspire to it; they may pretend, as partisans of certain religions do, to have attained it. But the history of science -- by far the most successful claim to knowledge accessible to humans -- teaches that the most we can hope for is successive improvement in our understanding, learning from our mistakes, an asymptotic approach to the Universe, but with the proviso that absolute certainty will always elude us.
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.
We will know which stars to visit. Our descendants will then skim the light years, the children of Thales and Aristarchus, Leonardo and Einstein.
But if the Bible is not everywhere literally true, which parts are divinely inspired and which are merely fallible and human? As soon as we admit that there are scriptural mistakes (or concessions to the ignorance of the times), then how can the Bible be an inerrant guide to ethics and morals?
You have to know the past to understand the present.
Even through your hardest days, remember we are all made of stardust.
When we look up at night and view the stars, everything we see is shinning because of distant nuclear fusion.
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.
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.
We are like butterflies who flutter for a day and think it is forever.
We are the custodians of life's meaning.
The chemistry of coal is still not fully understood, despite a long standing economic incentive.
Centuries hence, when current social and political problems may seem as remote as the problems of the Thirty Years' War are to us, our age may be remembered chiefly for one fact: It was the time when the inhabitants of the earth first made contact with the vast cosmos in which their small planet is embedded.
The time scale for evolutionary or genetic change is very long. A characteristic period for the emergence of one advanced species from another is perhaps a hundred thousand years; and very often the difference in behavior between closely related
species-say, lions and tigers-do not seem very great... But today we do not have ten million years to wait for the next advance. We live in a time when our world is changing at an unprecedented rate. While the changes are largely of our own making, they cannot be ignored. We must adjust and adapt and control, or we perish.
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.
The candle flame gutters. Its little pool of light trembles. Darkness gathers. The demons begin to stir.
I don't think science is hard to teach because humans aren't ready for it, or because it arose only through a fluke, or because, by and large, we don't have the brainpower to grapple with it. Instead, the enormous zest for science that I see in first-graders and the lesson from the remnant hunter-gatherers both speak eloquently: A proclivity for science is embedded deeply within us, in all times, places, and cultures. It has been the means for our survival. It is our birthright. When, through indifference, inattention, incompetence, or fear of skepticism, we discourage children from science, we are disenfranchising them, taking from them the tools needed to manage their future.
Societies will, of course, wish to exercise prudence in deciding which technologies that is, which applications of science are to be pursued and which not. But without funding basic research, without supporting the acquisition of knowledge for its own sake, our options become dangerously limited.
It would be wryly interesting if in human history the cultivation of marijuana led generally to the invention of agriculture, and thereby to civilization.
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.
Our loyalties are to the species and the planet. We speak for Earth.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If it can be destroyed by the truth, it deserves to be destroyed by the truth.
At the heart of science is an essential balance between two seemingly contradictory attitudes -- an openness to new ideas, no matter how bizarre or counterintuitive they may be, and the most ruthless skeptical scrutiny of all ideas, old and new. This is how deep truths are winnowed from deep nonsense.
The lifetime of a human being is measured by decades, the lifetime of the Sun is a hundred million times longer. Compared to a star, we are like mayflies, fleeting ephemeral creatures who live out their lives in the course of a single day.
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.
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.
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 useful ideas from the worthless ones.
Preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.
Our children long for realistic maps of the future that they can be proud of. Where are the cartographers of human purpose?
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.
If you want to make a rhubarb pie from scratch, first you have to create the universe.
What a splendid perspective contact with a profoundly different civilization might provide! In a cosmic setting vast and old beyond ordinary human understanding we are a little lonely, and we ponder the ultimate significance, if any, of our tiny but exquisite blue planet, the Earth.... In the deepest sense the search for extraterrestrial intelligence is a search for ourselves.
Any sufficiently crisp question can be answered by a single binary digit-0 or 1, yes or no.
The impediment to scientific thinking is not, I think, the difficulty of the subject. Complex intellectual feats have been mainstays even of oppressed cultures. Shamans, magicians and theologians are highly skilled in their intricate and arcane arts. No, the impediment is political and hierarchical.
By exploring other worlds we safeguard this one. By itself, I think this fact more than justifies the money our species has spent in sending ships to other worlds. It is our fate to live during one of the most perilous and, at the same time, one of the most hopeful chapters in human history.
The gears of poverty, ignorance, hopelessness and low self-esteem interact to create a kind of perpetual failure machine that grinds down dreams from generation to generation. We all bear the cost of keeping it running. Illiteracy is its linchpin.
Scientists make mistakes. Accordingly, it is the job of the scientist to recognize our weakness, to examine the widest range of opinions, to be ruthlessly self-critical. Science is a collective enterprise with the error-correction machinery often running smoothly.
Better the hard truth, I say, than the comforting fantasy.
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.
All of the rocky and metallic material we stand on, the iron in our blood, the calcium in our teeth, the carbon in our genes were produced billions of years ago in the interior of a red giant star. We are made of star stuff.
At a few hundred kilometers altitude, the Earth fills half your sky, and the band of blue that stretches from Mindanao to Bombay, which your eye encompasses in a single glance, can break your heart with its beauty. Home you think. Home. This is my world. This is where I come from. Everyone I know, everyone I ever heard of, grew up down there, under that relentless and exquisite blue.
Black holes may be apertures to elsewhen. Were we to plunge down a black hole, we would re-emerge, it is conjectured, in a different part of the universe and in another epoch in time ... Black holes may be entrances to Wonderlands. But are there Alices or white rabbits?
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.
Why do we put up with it? Do we like to be criticized? No, no scientist enjoys it. Every scientist feels a proprietary affection for his or her ideas and findings. Even so, you don't reply to critics, Wait a minute; this is a really good idea; I'm very fond of it; it's done you no harm; please leave it alone. Instead, the hard but just rule is that if the ideas don't work, you must throw them away.
We are, each of us, a multitude. Within us is a little universe.
Is it fair to be suspicious of an entire profession because of a few bad apples? There are at least two important differences, it seems to me. First, no one doubts that science actually works, whatever mistaken and fraudulent claim may from time to time be offered. But whether there are any miraculous cures from faith-healing, beyond the body's own ability to cure itself, is very much at issue. Secondly, the expose' of fraud and error in science is made almost exclusively by science. But the exposure of fraud and error in faith-healing is almost never done by other faith-healers.
A celibate clergy is an especially good idea, because it tends to suppress any hereditary propensity toward fanaticism.
The suppression of uncomfortable ideas may be common in religion or in politics, but it is not the path to knowledge, and there's no place for it in the endeavor of science. We do not know beforehand where fundamental insights will arise from about our mysterious and lovely solar system. The history of our study of our solar system shows us clearly that accepted and conventional ideas are often wrong, and that fundamental insights can arise from the most unexpected sources.
We live on a hunk of rock and metal that circles a humdrum star that is one of 400 billion other stars that make up the Milky Way Galaxy which is one of billions of other galaxies which make up a universe which may be one of a very large number, perhaps an infinite number, of other universes. That is a perspective on human life and our culture that is well worth pondering.
There are many other (besides testosterone) behaviour-eliciting hormones fundamental for humen well-being, including estrogen and progesterone in females. The fact that complex behavioural patterns can be triggered by a tiny concentration of moleculas coursing through the bloodstream, and that different animals of the same species generate different amounts of these hormones, is something worth thinking about when it's time to judge such matters as free will, individual responsibility, and law and order.
'In his celebrated book, 'On Liberty', the English philosopher John Stuart Mill argued that silencing an opinion is "a peculiar evil." If the opinion is right, we are robbed of the "opportunity of exchanging error for truth"; and if it's wrong, we are deprived of a deeper understanding of the truth in its "collision with error." If we know only our own side of the argument, we hardly know even that: it becomes stale, soon learned by rote, untested, a pallid and lifeless truth.'
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.
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.
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.
I am not an atheist. An atheist is someone who has compelling evidence that there is no Judeo-Christian-Islamic God. I am not that wise, but neither do I consider there to be anything approaching adequate evidence for such a god. Why are you in such a hurry to make up your mind? Why not simply wait until there is compelling evidence?
It is precisely our plasticity, our long childhood, that prevents a slavish adherence to genetically preprogrammed behavior in human beings more than in any other species… Some substantial adjustment of the relative role of each component of the triune brain is well within our powers.
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.
If the constellations had been named in the twentieth century, I suppose we would see bicycles and refrigerators in the sky.
There is a wide, yawning black infinity. In every direction, the extension is endless; the sensation of depth is overwhelming. And the darkness is immortal. Where light exists, it is pure, blazing, fierce; but light exists almost nowhere, and the blackness itself is also pure and blazing and fierce.
Some information is classified legitimately; as with military hardware, secrecy sometimes really is in the national interest. Further, military, political, and intelligence communities tend to value secrecy for its own sake. It's a way of silencing critics and evading responsibility -- for incompetence or worse. It generates an elite, a band of brothers in whom the national confidence can be reliably vested, unlike the great mass of citizenry on whose behalf the information is presumably made secret in the first place. With a few exceptions, secrecy is deeply incompatible with democracy and with science.
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.
Human beings grew up in forests; we have a natural affinity for them. How lovely a tree is, straining toward the sky.
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.
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.
It's been said that astronomy is a humbling and, I might add, a character-building experience.
When you look more generally at life on Earth, you find that it is all the same kind of life. There are not many different kinds; there's only one kind. It uses about fifty fundamental biological building blocks, organic molecules.
The boundary between space and the earth is purely arbitrary. And I'll probably always be interested in this planet -- it's my favorite.
The surface of the Earth is the shore of the cosmic ocean.
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.
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.
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.
But amid much elegance and precision, the details of life and the Universe also exhibit haphazard, jury-rigged arrangements and much poor planning. What shall we make of this: an edifice abandoned early in construction by the architect?
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'.
Books are key to understanding the world and participating in a democratic society.