Sunday, February 26, 2012

Carl Sagan - High priest of New Atheism

Carl Sagan (1934 – 1996) 

"Carl Edward Sagan was an American astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist, author, science popularizer and science communicator in astronomy and natural sciences. 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."

The official Carl Sagan Portal is here.

Sagan as a blessing to humanity
One of the great blessings Carl Sagan has brought to humanity is related to the research on the destruction of Mesozoic life by the massive impact of a space object hitting Yucattan. According to the current theory the asteroid caused a huge explosion that raised to Earth's atmosphere such a thick clouds of dust and smoke that it the ensuing cold climate caused the extinction of many life forms and brought to the end the majestic world of the dinosaurs.

Could this happen again?

Carl Sagan and his fellow scientists calculated that it indeed could happen again by the Earth being hit by another celestial object, so let us keep an eye on it. And we do! Humanity has taken the idea so seriously that there is an ongoing study of possible candidates for close encounters. The idea has been popularized also by two major Hollywood movies giving us all a feel what such Harmageddon or Deep Impact might be like.

But there is not much we can do about rocks from the space, Kuiper belt or elsewhere. Carl Sagan noticed, however, that also humans can induce such a global catastrophe bringing life on Earth to a sudden and tragic end.

The two chilling words "Nuclear Winter" have penetrated not only to common consciousness of modern men but especially to the cool power hungry minds of modern politicians. China, Soviet Union,  and the United States understood that they had the real capability of causing extinction of life on Earth many times over with the nuclear weapons they possess. And took practical steps to prevent such war of breaking out by accident.

Carl Sagan also wondered during the Gulf War could the burning of oil fields in Kuwait have such a global impact. His question was taken very seriously.

High priest of New Atheism
Carl Sagan aimed his brilliant mind to the deep secrets of the Universe but he was also very comprehensive in his approach to the role of humanity on this planet. Life, extraterrestial life, origins of life, the genious and fragility of human race.

Sagan took a sceptical, doubting, attitude to everything including human religions. His ideas and insight on the nature of religions, their role in human history and the conflicts of knowledge and faith were as important to him as the surface temperature of Venus. Or even more so.

As a great looking, brilliant English speaking scientist, interpretor of humanity and theological thinker Carl Sagan has achieved among modern Western world that status of what I think could well be expressed with the title "High priest of new Atheism"

Also in the realm of Scepticism and Atheism, branches of religious philosophy and anti-Theology, He has many disciples!

The End
After a long and difficult fight with myelodysplasia, which included three bone marrow transplants, Sagan died of pneumonia at the age of 62 at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington, on December 20, 1996. He was buried at Lakeview Cemetery in Ithaca, New York.

According to his last wife, Ann Druyan, he was not a believer:
"When my husband died, because he was so famous and known for not being a believer, many people would come up to me—it still sometimes happens—and ask me if Carl changed at the end and converted to a belief in an afterlife. They also frequently ask me if I think I will see him again. Carl faced his death with unflagging courage and never sought refuge in illusions. The tragedy was that we knew we would never see each other again. I don't ever expect to be reunited with Carl."

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