In “Happy Carl Sagan Day” (The Best Schools, November 12, 2011) James Barham offers to help us celebrate the late, great Carl Sagan (1934-1996), along with thousands of atheists and “skeptics”:
Wait a minute. The great who?
If you are under the age of 40, it is unlikely you’ve ever heard of Carl Sagan (1934–1996). He was an astronomer at Cornell University, who enjoyed a brief hour of celebrity in the early 1980s with some pretty good popular science books and an interesting TV series called Cosmos. Maybe you can still catch the reruns on the Discovery Channel or someplace.
Today, though, he is mostly remembered for being lampooned as the guy who repeated the phrase ”billions and billions of stars” at every opportunity with a special smarmy emphasis. I think it was supposed to be about putting all those late-20th-century folks who still thought the earth was at the center of the universe in their place.
They still cite the “billions and billions”TM schtick today, for the same purpose, usually without acknowledgement. Some persist in seeing the fact that Sagan was never elected to the National Academy of Sciences as due to envy. In his case, it’s more likely that they realized that there just wasn’t much science, as such, in what he was saying.
Sagan’s greatest legacy is this: He cemented in popular media and culture the following assumptions about the relationship between “science” and “religion”:
“Science” is about the presumed accidental nature of our universe. “Religion” is about the evidence for fine-tuning.
“Science” argues that if Earth is fine-tuned for life, there “must be” billions and billions of Earths out there, plus aliens galore. “Religion” points out that we have no single bit of evidence for any of them.
“Science” says most DNA is junk. “Religion” says, wait and see. We did, and guess what?
“Science” claims that apes will one day write autobiographies. “Religion” claims that there is no evidence of any such thing, and points to the low quality of the evidence that apes are just like people.
Sagan was hardly the pioneer in this area, but he played a key role in establishing that the “science” of popular media is mostly bunk directed at supporting atheism and that any evidence-based assessment of life in our cosmos is the province of “religion” – where people tend to classify us.
Nice goin’, dude. The UD News desk salutes ya!
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