My wife and I have been watching astronomy documentaries on Netflix recently. I find it really enjoyable, because it takes scientific topics and makes them very real. Will time ever end? How did the planets form? Is there life out there? Could there be life next door (maybe even on Io?) The universe, and the science we use to try to model and comprehend it, is awe inspiring.

This, then, reminds me of some of my favorite quotes by Carl Sagan:

Who is more humble? The scientist who looks at the universe with an open mind and accepts whatever the universe has to teach us, or somebody who says everything in this book must be considered the literal truth and never mind the fallibility of all the human beings involved? – Carl Sagan, 1996

In some respects, science has far surpassed religion in delivering awe. How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, “This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant. God must be even greater than we dreamed”? Instead they say, “No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way. – Carl Sagan, “Pale Blue Dot”, 1994

In science it often happens that scientists say, ‘You know that’s a really good argument; my position is mistaken,’ and then they actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn’t happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. – Carl Sagan, 1987

January 27, 2011
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