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 “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

“It seemed so heady and promising, such an interesting future. But as I learned a little bit more about the properly skeptical attitudes of science and how often we deceive ourselves, I began to look at this with much more skepticism.”

“And people were in their heart of hearts worried that the human species would not pull through. What more comforting belief that aliens would come down and intervene?”

“Why would we commit belief when the evidence is so meager?”

Commit belief. That struck me as profound then and it still does—the idea that belief is an action you have to commit, an action so powerful that it requires an infrastructure of truth before you turn the key.

The point, though—the big point—is that humans had the ability to do this. We could figure things out. Nothing was unknowable. “Who is in a position to set limits on what we will know? ‘Unknowable’ is a deep failure of the imagination,” he said. “‘Unknown?’ Who would doubt that there are an enormous number of things that are unknown?”

Nothing stands unknowable

“But it can’t be that what feels good is what we should believe, because all sorts of deception lies down that road. It has to be what’s true is what we believe, and the only way humans have figured out to find out what’s true is science.”

I talked to Sagan one more time that year, when it seemed that scientists had found evidence of ancient life on Mars. He was, as you’d expect, skeptical. “It’s important to be cautious, because we could be fooled,”


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