The Skeptics Society & Skeptic magazine


Carl Sagan

11-11-09

Few celebrities in science have done more for the promotion of science, reason, rationality, and critical thinking than Carl Sagan, whom we remember today upon the occasion of his birthday: November 9, 1934. Carl would have been 77 years old today. Happy Birthday Carl!

11-09-14

For nearly 50 years, the SETI (Search for Alien Intelligence) project has searched for evidence of alien civilizations and has occasionally sent messages into space with the intention of communicating with intelligent sentient extraterrestrial beings. How likely are we to come into contact with an extraterrestrial civilization? If they do exist, their aspirations could differ markedly from our own. Could visitors from extraterrestrial civilizations pose a threat to Earth? What would motivate aliens to visit the Earth? In this week’s eSkeptic, George Michael discusses these fascinating questions.

11-06-22

What is the right approach to dealing with people who believe in the paranormal or some particular idea we could call pseudoscience? Naturally no one considers their beliefs to be pseudoscience or faith-based nonsense, so saying something along those lines to a believer’s face is likely to close off conversation. In this remarkable article, our own Daniel Loxton tackles the matter head on. Daniel shows that a controversy that erupted at last year’s The Amazing Meeting conference was just the latest in a very long history of skeptical debates about the “tone” of our criticism and educational outreach. (Please note: this is a long article, running over 4500 words.)

09-12-16

In this week’s eSkeptic, we return to a controversy that raged throughout the 1990s in the anthropology world over whether or not Margaret Mead was hoaxed by her Samoan hosts during her research there while earning her Ph.D. under Franz Boaz. The following is an excerpt from The Trashing of Margaret Mead: Anatomy of an Anthropological Controversy by Paul Shankman. Used by permission of the University of Wisconsin Press.

09-11-04

There are few celebrities in science who have done more for the promotion of science, reason, rationality, and critical thinking than Carl Sagan, whom we remember this week upon the impending occasion of his birthday on November 9, 1934.

Reading Room
A Tribute to Carl Sagan:
Our Place in the Universe

Carl Sagan was a scholar and a visionary. He changed the world. His work still does. As Bill Nye thinks back on the time he got to spend in Sagan’s classes, he realizes what made Sagan the best science communicator of his day.

Reading Room
Sagan & Skepticism

David Morrison reviews two books: Carl Sagan: A Life by Keay Davidson (1999, John Wiley and Sons) and Carl Sagan: A Life in the Cosmos by William Poundstone (1999, Henry Holt)

Reading Room
The Measure of a Life

Michael Shermer ponders the question of what the measure of a life is once it has gone. And if that life was an epochal-shaping life, how is a contemporary biographer to put that life in perspective before the epoch is over?

Reading Room
A Tribute to Carl Sagan:
Leaving a Demon-Haunted World

Solen discovered The Demon-Haunted World on the library shelf one day. He had heard of Sagan, of course, but knew little of him. At a time when Solen’s friends had left him, where he could not confide in his own family, the book’s dedication invited him toward the candle…

Reading Room
A Tribute to Carl Sagan:
Popular & Pilloried

Gregory Benford recounts how Carl Sagan, the best known astronomer in the world, was turned down by the National Academy of Sciences and laments that no other widely recognized scientist has replaced him in popular discourse.

Reading Room
A Tribute to Carl Sagan:
The Sagan File

Joel Achenbach moved offices, and began to purge files, stuff he didn’t need and hadn’t looked at in years. Digging deep, he came across a fat file marked “Sagan.” The astronomer died in December 1996. Save? Throw away? From the documents, a voice emerged…

Reading Room
A Tribute to Carl Sagan:
Carl Sagan & the Search for E.T.

When Tom McDonough was a grad student at Cornell in the late 1960s, he ploughed through dry scientific journals. Occasionally, he found papers bordering on science fiction, hidden within them like naughty pictures. These gems were often by an obscure Harvard scientist named Carl Sagan. They spoke about the possibility of life on other worlds, a subject almost taboo in science at that time…

Reading Room
A Tribute to Carl Sagan:
Carl Sagan & Edward Teller

Carl Sagan and Edward Teller were bitter opponents in national security debates about issues such as “Star Wars” and nuclear test bans, but ironically they agreed on defending the Earth against asteroids — an agreement that neither, however, was ready to admit in public.

Reading Room
A Tribute to Carl Sagan:
Carl Sagan’s Vision

Carl Sagan saw a vision of human space-explorers venturing out into the universe, following the great tradition of the sailors who ventured out onto the oceans and began to explore the continents of this planet 500 years earlier. But Carl was not only a romantic visionary; he was also a professional scientist.

Reading Room
In Memory of Carl Sagan 1934–1996:
In Sagan’s Own Words

Culled from the expansive work of Carl Sagan, we present some of his own words on the cosmos, ETs, childhood, genes, brains, pseudoscience, science literacy, nonsense, uncertainty, biology, history and God.

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