Happy Saganday!

“Science is more than a body of knowledge – it’s a way of thinking, of skeptically interrogating the universe with a fine understanding of human fallibility.”

Today is the first annual Carl Sagan Day event, which is being held to celebrate his life and contributions in conjunction with the 75th anniversary of his birth coming up on Monday. A full roster of the day’s events at Broward College in Davie, FL, can be found here, and many of the goings-on will be streaming live here.

Carl’s perspective as a humble scientist and a captivating storyteller is an inspiration to many, myself included. Even narrowly looking at my own field, many challenges that I face in my work with infectious diseases – public perceptions of the nature of the influenza virus, or unfounded vaccine fears, for two of many examples – are a directly tied to many of the issues Sagan was passionate about, including a global lack of critical thinking education, and an almost willful misunderstanding of science and medicine by some segments of the public. Continuing his work is critical not only for the betterment of public health, but also for the well-being of our global society as we continue to move into a more scientifically nuanced and technologically advanced era.

Below, in three sections, is Carl’s last televised interview. It touches on many topics, including pseudo-science in a scientifically-driven world, critical thinking v. belief, and his own illness. As with any video he was involved with, it is entertaining and thought-provoking. The quote above, and those below, are taken from this interview. Enjoy, and happy Saganday!

“We’ve arraigned a society based on science and technology, in which nobody understands anything about science and technology, and this combustible mix of ignorance and power is soon going to blow up in our faces… who is running the science and technology in a democracy if the people don’t know anything about it?”

“People read stock market quotations and financial pages, look at how complex that is… people are able to look at sports statistics… understanding science is not more difficult.”

“Science is after the way the universe really is, and not what makes us feel good… a lot of the “competing” doctrines are after what feels good, and not what is true.”

“If the universe does not comply with our predispositions, we have the wrenching obligation to accommodate to the way the universe really is.”

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