Carl Sagan

How very precious, vulnerable and fragile is this precious place we call home.

Today’s consciousness perambulation is the fault of Mr. P., as I like to call him. I refer to Pendantry as he is on his blog, Wibble.

You see on Sunday he added a comment to my post Just a small, white dot! that included the beautiful and awe-inspiring film made by the late Carl Sagan called Pale Blue Dot.


Like millions of others, I came to admire Carl Sagan through watching the fabulous, the truly fabulous, television series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. (NB. All the episodes are on YouTube, Episode One is at the end of this Post, Ed.)  Here’s how WikiPedia opens their reference to Carl.

Carl Edward Sagan (November 9, 1934 – December 20, 1996) was an American astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist, author, science popularizer and science communicator in astronomy and natural sciences. He spent most of his career as a professor of astronomy at Cornell University where he directed the Laboratory for Planetary Studies.

He published more than 600 scientific papers and articles and was author, co-author or editor of more than 20 books. He advocated scientifically skeptical inquiry and the scientific method, pioneered exobiology and promoted the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI).

Sagan is known for his popular science books and for the award-winning 1980 television series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, which he narrated and co-wrote.  The book Cosmos was published to accompany the series. Sagan wrote the novel Contact, the basis for a 1997 film of the same name.

He died far too young and was a tragic loss to humanity.  The Carl Sagan web portal is here.

That 3:30 minute video Pale Blue Dot has, likewise, been seen by millions.  If you or someone you know hasn’t seen it, then you must pause now …

It’s practically impossible to watch that video and not embrace the central message from Mr. Sagan.  Here’s the transcript:

Our home from 6 billion kilometres. A very tiny dot against the vastness of space.

From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it’s different.

Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us.

On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives.

The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena.

Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.

Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity – in all this vastness – there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known, so far, to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment, the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.

Tomorrow, I will stay with the theme of our beautiful planet. Hope you can join me.

Now spoil yourself and watch Episode One of Cosmos.

11 thoughts on “Carl Sagan

  1. You appear to have embedded the (also excellent) ‘Overview’ video (rather than ‘Pale Blue Dot’ as you appear to have intended). However, Carl Sagan is yet another example of a rational/reductionist/atheist who would quite clearly – as evidenced by that quotation in your photo of him at the top – not be impressed by woolly assertions that “truth is relative”… As such, I feel sure that he would be in agreement with both Guy McPherson and all those other eminent scientists I have mentioned in my recent comments elsewhere on LFD.


      1. Hi Patrice. You and I seem to have discovered here a very rich seam (i.e. “riche filon”) of agreement (apologies for the coal-mining analogy). If we are are to copy the wisdom of globalised capitalism we should now exploit it until it is completely exhausted….?


  2. That the cosmos reigns, absolute, was Carl Sagan’s central lesson. Just as the central lesson of science is that there is such a thing as absolute truth, and it provides the best ride for humanity.

    In other news, the worst cruelty is to life itself. Even the worst human monsters of the past, frantic with the worst passions, as they engineered their crimes, never worked to extinguish all of life itself. Our present leaders, though, are doing so.

    This was the gist of:


  3. Martin: Reason is indeed the Mother Lode, the “riche filon”. Never more riches than there, who owns it owns what is the most valuable in the universe. So we are the ultimate capitalists, owners of most worth. Cooperation and collaboration much appreciated, BTW…


  4. Thanks Paul- Cosmos left a very positive impression on me and I’m glad to have been directed to the youtube episodes. And Small Blue Dot is something I post up on my facebook page at least every year and I’ve read the book half a dozen times. I was reminded again of the series when Brian Cox did his epic BBC series which was a big fat fail in my opinion: I have nothing against Cox or his accent but he lacks gravity and presence.

    Off to watch Cosmos now.


    1. So glad to have your feedback and comment. Sort of agree with you re Prof. Cox but it is still a magnificent series. Hope you enjoy tomorrow’s post in this place.


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