Pale Blue Dot
Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future In Space is a popular science book written by Carl Sagan and first published on 1994-11-08. In the book, Sagan combats human history and its desire to put ourselves on a pedestal by showing how the facts of reality and scientific discovery show us just how vast the universe is. He also goes into detail about what would be necessary for the human race to explore outside of our planet into the solar system and neighboring stars, and what steps we have taken so far.
Loving everything I've read from Sagan prior to this book, I knew I was going to like it, and Sagan didn't disappoint.
I do not own this book, but I finished an audio book recording on 2019-09-20.
- Sagan, as usual, is very poetic, inspiring, and deep in his descriptions of the universe. This book frequently produced in me a sense of wonder and awe.
- Like all good science communicators, Sagan frequently points out that much of science is theoretical and is only strengthened with further research.
- Despite pointing out the arrogance and failures of humans before us, Sagan is very forgiving of the errors explaining how they were doing the best they could with the information available to them.
- For all the claims that scientists and the non-religious are arrogant, Sagan, many times throughout the book, shows how science has taken the human race down a peg to learn just how unexceptional we are. Yet, despite thoroughly humbling the human race, he still presents it as extremely valuable.
- The later chapters start getting into rather academic aspects of the planets, moons, and asteroids, and, while a lot of the information is interesting, it's a bit dry.
- Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every 'superstar,' every 'supreme leader,' every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
- Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.
- How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, 'This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant?' Instead they say, 'No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way.'
- The significance of our lives and our fragile planet is then determined only by our own wisdom and courage. We are the custodians of life's meaning. We long for a Parent to care for us, to forgive us our errors, to save us from our childish mistakes. But knowledge is preferable to ignorance. Better by far to embrace the hard truth than a reassuring fable. If we crave some cosmic purpose, then let us find ourselves a worthy goal.
- Ann Druyan suggests an experiment: Look back again at the pale blue dot of the preceding chapter. Take a good long look at it. Stare at the dot for any length of time and then try to convince yourself that God created the whole Universe for one of the 10 million or so species of life that inhabit that speck of dust. Now take it a step further: Imagine that everything was made just for a single shade of that species, or gender, or ethnic or religious subdivision. If this doesn't strike you as unlikely, pick another dot. Imagine it to be inhabited by a different form of intelligent life. They, too, cherish the notion of a God who has created everything for their benefit. How seriously do you take their claim?
- If we continue to accumulate only power and not wisdom, we will surely destroy ourselves. Our very existence in that distant time requires that we will have changed our institutions and ourselves.
- The immense distances to the stars and the galaxies mean that we see everything in space in the past, some as they were before the Earth came to be. Telescopes are time machines.
- If we are to send people, it must be for a very good reason - and with a realistic understanding that almost certainly we will lose lives. Astronauts and Cosmonauts have always understood this. Nevertheless, there has been and will be no shortage of volunteers.