Happy Birthday, Carl

Carl Sagan would have been 77 years old today.

You could do a lot worse than to spend 3 minutes and 53 seconds of your time today listening to him.

“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… We can recognize here a shortcoming—in some circumstances serious—in our ability to understand the world. Characteristically, we seem compelled to project our own nature onto Nature… “Man in his arrogance thinks himself a great work worthy [of] the interposition of a deity,” Darwin wrote telegraphically in his notebook. “More humble and I think truer to consider him created from animals.”… We’re Johnny-come-latelies. We live in the cosmic boondocks. We emerged from microbes and muck. Apes are our cousins. Our thoughts and feelings are not fully under our own control. There may be much smarter and very different beings elsewhere. And on top of all this, we’re making a mess of our planet and becoming a danger to ourselves… The trapdoor beneath our feet swings open. We find ourselves in bottomless free fall… If it takes a little myth and ritual to get us through a night that seems endless, who among us cannot sympathize and understand?… We long to be here for a purpose, even though, despite much self deception, none is evident. 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… Modern science has been a voyage into the unknown, with a lesson in humility waiting at every stop… Our commonsense intuitions can be mistaken. Our preferences don’t count. We do not live in a privileged reference frame… If we crave some cosmic purpose, then let us find ourselves a worthy goal…”

Happy Birthday, Carl.

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