Monday, November 10, 2014

Carl Sagan

Yesterday, November 9 was the birthday of one of the world's greatest scientists, Carl Edward Sagan. He was in the year 1934 and passed away on December 20, 1996 at the age of 62.  He would have been 80 today had he not died of pneumonia due to many years of suffering with myelodysplasia.

Sagan was an astronomer, cosmologist, astrophysicists and astrobiologist.  He wrote over 600 scientific papers and many books. Sagan loved science and felt he had a mission to promote scientific knowledge. He contributed greatly to the studies of planets and search for extraterrestrial life. This search effort consisted of sending physical messages into space; namely the Pioneer plaque and the Voyager Golden Record. In the 1980's, he produced and narrated "Cosmos: A Personal Voyage." This show at the time was the most watch series in the history of public television.

He taught at Cornell University and also directed the Laboratory for Planetary Studies.  As a scientist, he believed strongly in the Copernican mediocrity principle which posits that human life is not unique or special in the universe. His "Pale Blue Dot" is testament to his view that the Earth is just a dot among the numerous celestial bodies.  This is a notion some atheists push today in their attempt to disqualify God as being responsible for the cosmos. Sagan was not an atheist despite many false quotes of him on the internet. He was an Agnostic and was open to the question of God. In an interview, he said:

"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."

Earth as the "Pale Blue Dot" from the view of Voyager
In the beginning of this year, the Cosmos series was restarted with Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson as the host and narrator (see: Ironically, a young Tyson met Sagan and presented an autographed book in the pilot episode as he recalled the zeal and inspiration Carl Sagan exhibited. I personally own books by Sagan and they are wonderfully written and truly knowledgeable in the sciences.

Happy birthday Carl Sagan, rest in peace.  Thanks for reminding the human race that they are made of "star stuff" and are the means from which the "cosmos can know itself."

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