Carl Sagan’s Warning

In 1995, Carl Sagan opined about the state of science in the 21st century. Time to resurrect his wisdom.

“I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time — when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness… The dumbing down of America is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30 second sound bites, lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance.”

“We’ve arranged a global civilization in which most crucial elements profoundly depend on science and technology. We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces.”

“…Whenever our ethnic or national prejudices are aroused, in times of scarcity, during challenges to national self-esteem or nerve, when we agonize about our diminished cosmic place and purpose, or when fanaticism is bubbling up around us – then, habits of thought familiar from ages past reach for the controls. The candle flame gutters. Its little pool of light trembles. Darkness gathers. The demons begin to stir.”

Carl Sagan 1995

Sagan foresaw the challenges that science would face in today’whatwouldcarlsagandos world. As Obama, at long last, calls for action on Climate Change and as Creationism is increasingly trying to be added to science curriculum by State legislatures, we need to remember Sagan’s warnings and continue to promote, teach and demand real science for every child and adult in the United States.

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