Billions and Billions
In late 20th Century environs, Sagan interjected a voice of reason, protesting Homo sapiens propensity to inhumanity, to self-serving interest, and to industrial effluence. Sagan enjoyed an envious vista, and his intellectual presence captured the attention of influential world leaders; in this intellectual capacity, he shared insight into those futurist areas most troublesome to astrophysics and metaphysics hypothesis and was thus able to gain audience with politicians, scientists, and sociologists responsible for short-term and long-term extensions to present civilized concepts.
Sagan Observation: An outspoken iconoclast to political expediency, both leftist and rightist extremes, Sagan advocated urgent attention to our present headlong plunge toward an uninhabitable earth. And, of course, he was right; for differing political systems were obviously at work to advantage their own industrial might over others. In National endeavors to bolster the economy and gain political power over the masses, Sagan warned of chemical and mineral residues proliferating to the detriment of all; in this formula for environmental disaster, the masses are posited as willing participants, and who seek self-preservation rather than means to herd benefaction. Regarding man’s origins and potential, he would limit Homo sapiens modest genesis to a singular, cellular prepotency—giving rise to present human appearance—that all humanoids are related by common patrimony—and originated in East Africa.
Ben Winter Commentary: In critique, author Ben Winter would call attention to Sagan’s rise to the top in his profession; thus becoming the greater consumer rather than the greater environmentalist advocate. At the ladder top, it is easy to urge lower rung enthusiasts to sacrifice energy expenditure as they attempt ladder ascendance, to desist effort, and forsake the climb from mediocrity to lofty comprehension; yet, despite inherent limitations, even those at the bottom would, like Sagan, spend the necessary energy to enjoy a view from the top. And, Sagan recommends global effort to bring living standards to optimum levels. Yet, to elevate plebeian from the bottom rung to top, must, in itself, require a greater expenditure of natural resources, increased industrialization, and agrarian exponential; therewith, such ambition defeats the very conservatism advocated to inspire environmentalism and, simultaneously, to alleviate the starving masses syndrome. Basically, inhering a socialist mindset, Sagan politicizes mankind’s primitive inherence so faithfully reproduced in genes, his propensity to hunt and gather as he chooses; and to circumvent this inherency, Sagan would make all consumers subject to the state (though he did not directly state the means): thus would man be made to observe environmental dictates, to reside in industrial conformity, to indistinction in miscegenation, to bottom rung submission. Despite Sagan’s observations concerning global warming and evidential pollution, self-preservation industriousness, continues world-wide, paying lip service to environmentalism. For, in our constant energy quest, we ask only of ourselves, if any at all: which is worse, atomic waste, fossil fuel residue, or Chlorofluorocarbon emissions? Either have the potential to create incalculable risk in global warming or habitat disaster. Sagan cautions: “A temperature change of a few degrees is serious business.”
Yet, in no sense of proportional evolvement can this critique protagonist agree to mankind’s evolvement in “one small locale in East Africa a few million years ago—wandered, separated, diversified, and became strangers to one another” as postulated by the renown astrophysicist. Such racist finiteness belongs in a fictional work, not scientific exposition. Like most white ethnic liberals, Sagan capitulates to popular desideratum and proposes mankind to have evolved from black beginnings—neglecting the paucity of evidence--and ignoring natures neglect to deposit contradictory fossils in easy to find locations throughout the world. No! Mankind had to evolve from a wider potential in the chemistry environment necessary to produce early and diverse specimens. By Sagan’s heuristic creation medium, all fish, all birds, all reptiles, all bacteria would differentiate from individual protista specimen and isolate into species. I would expect more from Carl Sagan. In his own words, “Only in the visible (light spectrum, bw), where many molecules are transparent, is the anomaly of white skin even possible. Over most of the spectrum, all humans are black.” Would Sagan’s ‘light spectrum’ explain the marked difference in physiognomy amongst ethnic diversity? And would not the following Sagan observation, concerning ‘important discoveries,’ treat the above mankind origins theory as mere speculation?
Sagan Observation: In explaining science efficacy, Sagan remarked, “In science the most important discoveries are often the most unexpected—not a mere extrapolation from what we currently know, but something completely different. The reason is that Nature is far more inventive, subtle, and elegant than humans are.” In context, he suggests “modern astrophysics is on the verge of determining fundamental insights on the origin, nature, and fate of the entire Universe . . . . but the prediction I can make with the highest confidence is that the most amazing discoveries will be ones we are not today wise enough to foresee.” Thus we must temper scientific hypothesis with suspicion, even from one so popular and knowledgeable as Carl Sagan—and which is not to denigrate his vast store of knowledge.
A quotation from Montaigne’s Essays, It takes courage to be afraid, precedes the analogous story about Croesus and Cassandra. Croesus, king of Lydia, was he who asked a question of Pythia, Oracle of Delphi, concerning kingly success in a contemplated battle. She replied, “He will destroy a mighty empire.” Croesus neglected to ask who’s empire; immediately, he launched his forces, and was defeated!
Cassandra became a goddess, able to outdo even the Delphic Oracle; but alas, no one would believe her prophecies. “The stories of Croesus and Cassandra represent the two extremes of policy response to predictions of deadly peril--Croesus himself representing one pole of credulous, uncritical acceptance (usually of the assurance that all is well), propelled by greed or other character flaws . . . . and Trojan response to Cassandra representing the pole of stolid, immobile rejection of the possibility of danger.” Thus do politicians and mankind in general respond to sign and countersign. Carl Sagan would encourage alternative energy development in the area of nuclear fission, fusion, and solar energy gathering devices. In the same breath, he castigates the United States expenditure of some 30 trillion dollars in an arms race with the Soviet Union. Proposing instead, we raise living standards for world populations and help the poorest nations to economic independence.
Ben Winter Commentary: Neither Croesus nor Cassandra was afraid, neither was successful: indeed, it takes courage to be afraid—to be cautious—to be aware of consequence. Thus Sagan dared Science and the masses to be afraid of global warming, to ozone depletion, to resourse waste, to environmental contamination. Science and environmentalists caution the masses to conserve energy and reduce environmental demands; straightway, in environmental unawareness, in haste to advise others, exempt advisors drive an auto to the airport, board a fuel guzzling volitant and order a cocktail—while, back on the ground, family members further contaminate the environment by burning more fossil fuels in the second car, in the guise of necessity and pursuit of happiness. Where, then, does the effort begin? Does it begin with the fellow on the bottom rung, just beginning his climb to the top? Evidentially, mankind does not have the courage to be afraid! Or else, inherently, the one on the bottom rung has equal ambition to stand on the top rung and enjoy life’s bounty—leaving environmentalism to the next climber standing on the bottom rung.
Sagan Observation: Concerning the beginning of life and as it might relate to pro-life and pro-choice, Sagan makes an interesting observation. “There is no right to life in any society on Earth today, nor has there been at any former time . . . . despite many claims to the contrary, life does not begin at conception: It is an unbroken chain that stretches back nearly to Earth origins, 4.6 billion years ago.”
Ben Winter Commentary: Biologically, everything is alive, even in reductionism detail. Where, then, can we separate deity perceived sanctions from immutably liveliness in evidence? Can political activism decide viability through metaphysically encouraged sanctions, or can viability be depreciated by life form reductionism? Is procreation a mandate in the legal-historical processes or an ancient instruction evolved in genetic timeliness. In THE GREAT DECEPTION: Symbols And Numbers Clarified, in a Chapter devoted to the creation phenomenon and life origins, Ben Winter posits a reasonable sequence to bring the biological, geological, astrological, evolutionary, and biblical accounts into complete agreement.
Sagan Observation: At the end Sagan admitted: “I would love to believe that when I die I will live again, that some thinking, feeling, remembering part of me will continue. But as much as I want to believe that, and despite the ancient and worldwide cultural traditions that assert an afterlife, I know of nothing to suggest that it is more than wishful thinking.”
Ben Winter Commentary: Regarding Carl Sagan’s practicality regarding metaphysical afterlife, his observation is confirmed in Ben Winter’s THE GREAT DECEPTION: Symbols And Numbers Clarified. Limits to the only known monotheism theocracy are delineated in Covenant finiteness, dictated by Ten Ages subservience, and lived by prediluvian patriarchs, Abraham, and Jacob progeny.
Carl Sagan lived as he died, setting forth logic as a guiding principle, at peace with himself, and trusting in scientific intellection. Was he correct in all his deductions? Only time will tell! Yet, his was a strong voice calling for awareness to our selfish quest for industrial superiority, to our energy foolhardiness, and to our anaclitic consternation. In this, he was right on target!