Carl Sagan

Scientist, author and television personality (deceased). Popularly (and incorrectly!) believed to use and over-use the phrase "billions and billions." ChadMiller notes that he saw CarlSagan rebutt the idea at a speech at Florida State University's "Distinguished Lecturer Series" in the late '80s. Sagan claimed that in scanning over his hundreds of writings, he was never able to find even one occurrence of his use of "billions and billions".

Doesn't he know that the popular opinion of a subject is more important than the facts about it?? -- PhlIp

His last (posthumously published!) book is called "Billions & Billions": ISBN 0345379187

To find out just some of why ScientificAmerican thinks CarlSagan is important, take a look at To find out why SkepticMagazine thought he was important, read

To find out how Charles Colson felt about him, read "How Now Shall We Live."

Carl sued Apple over the "Sagan" computer project. More completely, Apple was creating a personal computer with the project name CarlSagan. Not wanting to put his name towards any one company (internally or externally) he sent them a standard letter asking them to use a new project name. The project lead responded by changing the name to "Butt-head Astronomer" (gee, how neat). This is when CarlSagan attempted to sue them for defamation.

What was the outcome of the lawsuit? I'm curious.

Fortunately for Apple, Judge J. Baird dismissed the suit, opining that "One does not seriously attack the expertise of a scientist using the undefined phrase 'butt-head'." (See

Sagan has been criticized for making statements about fields in which he has no special expertise, such as geology.

I think here on wiki we allow anyone to have opinions on any field they wish to comment on.

Sounds to me like when Sagan authored popularizations of subjects, such as geology, some geologists read them and somehow thought he had somehow intended to write a thesis on a new geological subject he had invented. These geologists need to learn to recognize reality ;-)

When I was in college, I took a class called "Extra-terrestrial life". It was taught jointly by the heads of the biology and physics departments. The first day of class, they talked about Sagan. They gave him great credit for helping to increase interest in science. The Biologist said that he used to think that while Sagan's biology was pretty weak, at least he knew a little of it and his physics was good. The physics prof then said that he used to think that Sagan was pretty weak on his physics but his biology was good. When they got together they realized he was not much of a scientist at all. But he still spoke well and made the basics available to non-science types. I could tell they were a bit cranky about someone who was weak technically getting so much recognition, but they also respected what he achieved. -- KenMegill

Sagan is a safe bet in a class on "extra-terrestrial life" because he's both a SETI advocate and UFO debunker. Scientific American explains why -

I used to love watching him, because sometime during one of his shows, he would almost always say "Millions and Millions and Millions of stars". My favorite line to this day :)

All I can imagine is, when he died, CarlSagan's oversoul then had to try to convince him he has a real, immortal soul, and there's a healthy difference between superstitions and things which actually do exist outside the material plane. Sagan prided himself in being so "scientifically correct" that he believed that when he died, his consciousness would snuff out, as if it had never existed. -- PhlIp

I think you are assuming your beliefs are somehow facts that apply to all people. Over-soul? Immortal soul? Sagan did not believe he would simply be snuffed out, but that his life's essence would disperse and become incorporated into new life -- much as anything that decays becomes fertilizer for new life in the universe (essential matter-recycling). In a way, this cycle (or re-cycle) is very beautiful on its own. Due to the fact that he believed his energy would be dispersed (a glass of water poured into an ocean is not kept intact), he did not believe in an immortal soul that kept cohesion after life. That's just his viewpoint, no reason to belittle it. Furthermore, he attempted to keep religious beliefs and the question of God out of his excellent book, TheDemonHauntedWorld.

Unlike his books "Cosmos" and "Billions and Billions." In both, as the evangelical athiest that he was, he made a point to try to convince the reader that we didn't need this silly idea of god -- science would answer all of our questions -- therefore we didn't need god. Additinally, while he left god out of his book "Contact," his wife couldn't resist adding a post note telling of her pride in his going to his death without "crawling to an imaginary god." I enjoyed Sagan's books, but he was an evangelist for atheism. I had to hand it to him for "Contact," though. He put the shoe on the other foot, so to speak. His complaint with the idea of god was that he couldn't see any evidence for one, therefore the religionists were shut out of consideration. In "Contact" he put the shoe on the scientist's foot, and left her (Jody Foster) out in the cold. No one would believe her because she had no evidence to back up her claims. BrucePennington

How does "life's essence" relate to consciousness?
He wrote a wonderful book entitled Contact which is a fictional story involving our reactions to a radio message from outer space. The book was later made into the ContactMovie.

See also CarlSagansBaloneyDetectionKit

CategoryAuthor CategoryScienceFiction

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