Saturday, 7 November 2009

Carl Sagan: ”The Cosmos is all that is”

Carl Sagan was born 75 years ago. Image courtesy of NASA.

Joel Kontinen

Next week, skeptics will celebrate Carl Sagan’s 75th birthday. Sagan, an astronomer and author who died in 1996, did not acknowledge the existence of the supernatural. For him, the cosmos was all that there is.

Sagan often pointed out that there was nothing special about Earth, "a pale blue dot". Made up of recycled stardust, man could not rely on anyone else expect himself in a vast, unfriendly universe. There was no room for the spiritual realm in his worldview.

The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be,” was Sagan’s creed.

Humanists might have a veneer of tolerance but they tend to have a rather rigid conception of what they should believe in. They have published three manifestos that might be thought of as creeds. They deny the existence of the supernatural and will only accept naturalistic explanations.
Fred Edwords characterised the humanists’ worldview as follows:

Human beings are neither entirely unique from other forms of life nor are they the final product of some planned scheme of development… Humans are the current result of a long series of natural evolutionary changes, but not the only result or the final one. Continuous change can be expected to affect ourselves, other life forms, and the cosmos as a whole. There appears no ultimate beginning or end to this process.”

Carl Sagan was one of the more prominent humanists.

Guillermo Gonzales and Jay W. Richards happened to criticise Sagan. In their book The Privileged Planet (2004), they showed that Earth seems to be designed for life.

Gonzales was an associate professor of astronomy at Iowa State University. Infuriated by the book, some of his colleagues, Hector Avalos in particular, complained of the teaching of intelligent design at Iowa State and he was eventually expelled from his post. Ben Stein’s movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed documented his case.

David Warren, a columnist for The Ottawa Citizen, said: ”Atheist materialism is vastly more sensitive to heresy than any previously known religious orthodoxy.”

It seems that the humanistic inquisition sees to it that no one dares to deviate from the official doctrine (i.e. everything is a result of random processes).

Carl Sagan shared this humanistic dogma that a priori ruled out the possibility of design in the Cosmos.


Edwords, Fred. 1984. Humanism in Perspective. American Humanist Association. The Humanist, Jan/Feb 1984.

Nye, Bill. 2006. A Tribute to Carl Sagan: Our Place in the Universe. Skeptic 13:1.

Warren, David. 2007. The Limits of Atheism. The Ottawa Citizen. (12 August).