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Who’s the next Carl Sagan?

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File:Carl Sagan Planetary Society.JPG
Carl Sagan (1934-1996)

Asks science blogger Chad Orzel:

My read of this is that most of the wistful longing for a “next Carl Sagan” doesn’t actually have much to do with Carl Sagan the person or writer, but “Carl Sagan” the cultural phenomenon. That is, at the time that Cosmos aired, he was everywhere– the cover of Time, the Tonight Show, etc. He wasn’t just a science popularizer, he was a pop-culture phenomenon, nd everybody loved him in a way that really hasn’t happened since.

And the mistake everyone makes about this is thinking that that success was a result of his personal qualities. But it wasn’t. At least, it wasn’t exclusively about his personal qualities– to be sure, he had a good deal of charisma in a late-1970’s sort of way, and Cosmos was, at the time, a rather impressive achievement (it’s kind of slow and rambling to modern tastes, alas).

Asking for a “next Carl Sagan” isn’t, to my mind, specifically about a desire for a white dude in a turtleneck talking about astronomy, it’s nostalgia for a time when a guy talking about science was one of the most recognizable figures in pop culture. I don’t think it really matters what science it is, or what the person looks like, people just want to see a science communicator on the cover of Time again.

But maybe what popular culture thinks of as science has changed too. Stephen Hawking is the buzz now, as the universe gives way to the multiverse.

Anyway, Sagan made the mistake of fronting nuclear winter when the compadres (now even the Darwin-in-the-schools lobby) were all fronting global warming, not global freezing.

So who guessed that so many people were still wondering who the next Carl Sagan would be?

Not sure “disvesting” Hayden Planetarium astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson, as Orzel suggests, would change much. Agree that Tyson should lose the vest. Thing is, the population has aged since 1996. – O’Leary for News

7 Replies to “Who’s the next Carl Sagan?

  1. 1
    JGuy says:

    I’m curious about who the next Jack Horkheimer will be.

  2. 2
    nullasalus says:

    Probably Tyson at this point. He’s personable enough, and he follows in Sagan’s tradition of at the very least not being particularly enamored with activist atheism.

    Then again, we don’t need another Sagan anyway.

  3. 3
    News says:

    Well, nullasalus, Tyson’s good enough and agree re losing the “new atheism” (as well as the vest). Thing is, you’re probably right: What Sagan was belongs to an earlier gen. It probably won’t come back. But we’ll see.

  4. 4
    bornagain77 says:

    Of related note (sort of):

    In Man of Steel, Superman Is Pursued by Darwinian Bad Guys
    David Klinghoffer June 14, 2013 – video trailer

  5. 5
    Robert Byers says:

    ‘whate dude”. Sagan was Jewish. Jews are not white men but a middle east tan people. white is from pigmentation issues unrelated to Asia.

    What we need in popular culture are people who actually accomplish things in science worthy to be noted by the public.
    Sagan is case in point of people who get attention for being accomplished scientis but didn’t anything. Likewise Stephan hawkings. He is a brave fighter against his problem and contributes despite it BUT he has done nothing worthy to be noted in scientific accomplishment.
    If we had real winners in science I think we would not have the errors of evolution, global warming, etc being presented in such dogmatic ways and attacks against critics.
    Scientists step forward and science entertainers step back please!
    We need the real McCoy to better weigh the issues and move forward.
    Yes a Nobel prize winner if its actually for something important.

  6. 6
    Jon Garvey says:

    In the UK it’s got to be Prof Brian Cox, singlehandedly responsible for increasing the number of kids doing physics here.

    Helps to have worked at CERN and played in a rock band in his youth. On the upside, he’s less militantly secularist than Sagan. On the downside he gives the impression of being knowledgeable and inquisitive – whereas Sagan gave the impression of being omnipotent in his spaceship!

  7. 7
    wallstreeter43 says:

    Neil Degrassi Tyson would be a disaster. Have you guys seen his lousy design argument. My nephew is a more intelligent philosopher then he is.

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