Carl Sagan Quotes

2019-11-09 0 By Tim

Two quotes by Carl Sagan – one to illustrate his greatness, one to illustrate the opposite.

The really good, thoughtful, quote:

We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology. That’s a clear prescription for disaster.

Carl Sagan

Insightful for its time, and it seems to be a more urgent warning as time moves on.

The really bad, terrible, quote:

Imagine, a room, awash in gasoline. And there are two implacable enemies in that room. One of them has 9,000 matches. The other has 7,000 matches. Each of them is concerned about who’s ahead, who’s stronger. Well, that’s the kind of situation we are actually in. The amount of weapons that are available to the United States and the Soviet Union are so bloated, so grossly in excess of what’s needed to dissuade the other that if it weren’t so tragic, it would be laughable.

Carl Sagan

A compelling analogy at first. Yet, we don’t live in a world that will explode completely when one nuclear weapon detonates. Edward Teller thought that might be the case … in 1945. Scientists know better now. Multiple experiments have confirmed this is not the case. Yet Sagan just could not resist making this terrible analogy, to further his case for nuclear disarmament. But, it is precisely because the world is not awash in gasoline, because an individual nuclear explosion remains relatively contained, that multiple weapons are required. If one side has too few, or concentrates them too much – the temptation will be to use nuclear weapons to completely disarm that side.

Two quotes, almost a decade apart. Does it matter which came first? Either he said a dumb thing and then got better, or, he said a smart thing and then got worse. In the end – just make sure you apply critical thinking, no matter what the speaker’s reputation . (For the record: Science quote – 1994. Gasoline quote – 1983.)