Carl Sagan

Quotations

Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere.

Cosmos (1980)

If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.

Cosmos (1980)

The fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.

Broca's Brain (1979)

Kepler was a brilliant thinker and a lucid writer, but he was a disaster as a classroom teacher. He mumbled. He digressed. He was at times utterly incomprehensible. He drew only a handful of students his first year at Graz; the next year there were none. He was distracted by an incessant interior clamour of associations and speculations vying for his attention. And one pleasant summer afternoon, deep in the interstices of one of his interminable lectures, he was visited by a revelation that was to alter radically the future of astronomy. Perhaps he stopped in mid-sentence. His inattentive students, longing for the end of the day, took little notice, I suspect, of the historic moment.

Cosmos (1980)

The idea that God is an oversized white male with a flowing beard who sits in the sky and tallies the fall of every sparrow is ludicrous. But if by God one means the set of physical laws that govern the universe, then clearly there is such a God. This God is emotionally unsatisfying… it does not make much sense to pray to the law of gravity.

As quoted in "Scientists & Their Gods" in U.S. News & World Report (1991)

She came to admire him so much that his love for her affected her own self-esteem: She liked herself better because of him.

Part I, 'The Message', Chapter 9, 'The Numinous'

Every government that prepares for war paints its adversaries as monsters, she said. “They don’t want you thinking of the other side as human. If the enemy can think and feel, you might hesitate to kill them. And killing is very important. Better to see them as monsters.”

…there was something unmistakably attractive about them. They were excellent at what they did and, especially in the discovery process, were utterly absorbed in their work.

Part I, 'The Message', Chapter 4, 'Prime Numbers'

If we like them, they’re freedom fighters, she thought. If we don’t like them, they’re terrorists. In the unlikely case we can’t make up our minds, they’re temporarily only guerrillas.

We are like butterflies who flutter for a day and think it is forever.

Cosmos (1980)

There are many hypotheses in science which are wrong. That’s perfectly all right; they’re the aperture to finding out what’s right.

You know, someone in my position—new inventions, new industries—is always on the thin edge of breaking some law or other. Usually it’s because the old laws haven’t caught up with the new technology. You can spend a lot of your time in litigation. It cuts down your effectiveness.

Anything you don’t understand, Mr. Rankin, you attribute to God. God for you is where you sweep away all the mysteries of the world, all the challenges to our intelligence. You simply turn your mind off and say God did it.