[ Article crossposted from alt.alien.visitors ]
[ Author was Paul Middler ]
[ Posted on 30 Aug 1994 02:52:03 -0500 ]
Here is a small excerpt from an hour-long interview of Carl Sagan
which took place at 08/26/94 on a Vancouver, Canada AM-radio station
called CKNW. Dr. Sagan talked about radio searches, alien abductions,
his new book and the space program. A fair amount of umming and
ahhing was not transcribed.
[Till] Our guest on the line, live from California, Dr. Carl Sagan
world-reknown astronomer. His latest work is called "Pale Blue Dot"
and we certainly want to talk to him about that. But before we went
into the break, we were talking about life out there. Dr. Sagan, your
position on life in outer space?
[Sagan] I'm in favor of it.
[Till] Of the human kind or other kind?
[Sagan] I'd settle for anything. The simple fact is that we don't
know. The only life we know about is the life from Earth. On the
other hand, we are at the very earliest stages of looking and we'd be
foolish to confuse absence of evidence with evidence of absence. We
are, we have landed spacecraft especially the Viking I and Viking II
spacecraft from the United States on Mars. We have used large radio
telescopes to see if anyone is sending us a message from a planet of
a distant star and we certainly have not obtained anything that is
absolutely compelling in the way of evidence. On the other hand,
there are some tantalizing hints and we've just begun the search, our
technology is improving, and I just think that the right attitude is
to withhold consent until the evidence is absolutely compelling. Keep
an open mind and keep seeking.
[Till] Is there anything you've seen over the years, Dr. Sagan, from
reports of UFOs to people talking about abductions, is there anything
that's left you just about convinced?
[Sagan] No, nothing, nothing there seems to be even in the ballpark
of reasonable evidence. All those cases are anecdotal. They're mere
stories reported by one or two people. We know that such accounts are
riddled with misapprehension of natural objects, with hopes, and with
psychological apparitions. Where the stakes are high, you would not
want to believe unless the evidence was absolutely firm, and there's
nothing approaching absolutely firm. Here, I mean, there are people
who say they woke up in bed to find themselves surrounded by half a
dozen short, grey, large-eyed, sexually-obsessed beings who pick them
up, ooze them through the walls of their bedroom, carry them to a
waiting spacecraft and there, subject them to unconventional medical
and especially sexual examination, and later they wake up in bed.
Well, that's an interesting story. But we have a well-known
phenomenon which all humans have experienced, in which we are in bed
and something funny seems to happen to us - it's called dreaming. And
we would want absolutely to be sure that this is not something like
dreaming or hypnagogic sleep or hallucinations which are also very
common and nothing to be ashamed of, before we could give the
slightest amount of credence to this. What is striking to me is the
absence of physical evidence - no page from the captain's log book,
no photograph of the interior of the spacecraft that could not have
been faked, no flake of alien paint, no small artifact which is
examined and people say "oh my goodness these isotopes are completely
unfamiliar on Earth." Nothing, anything like that, nothing
approaching it. And until there is, I think we must treat these cases
with most extreme skepticism.
[McComb] We don't want to belabor this particular issue but the
believers would suggest that all of those things exist - the crashed
spacecraft and the bodies of aliens, etc, etc, but that it's all a
massive government coverup.
[Sagan] Yes, yes, they can say that, but that may or may not be true.
But until they can produce the physical evidence we don't know. It's
a mere contention.
[Till] What is your new work about, "The Pale Blue Dot - a Vision of
the Human Future in Space"?
[Sagan] It's a book that will be out in the United States and Canada
in October, so we are talking about a couple of months before
publication, and it's about a number of things. One thing it's about
is the human propensity in all cultures to develop the conceit that
we're at the center of the universe or that we are the reason that
the universe was made. And this is a kind of childish fantasy which
many of the world religions have embraced. And it has held back the
progress of science, it has held back the knowledge of ourselves, and
it has also undermined religion because when religions invest
themselves in statements that are clearly erroneous and refuse to
give in to the facts, they then undermine the authority of their
statements, for example, in moral and ethical areas. And I think it's
very interesting to track the kind of resistance there has been at
every step in the progress of science by many people to acknowledge
that we are not at the center of the universe, that we are in the
galactic boondocks, that we are obscure and small. There is a fear of
tinyness that I believe is a kind of characterlogical deficit. And
one of the advantages of our time is that our true circumstances, our
true coordinates in the universe are becoming clear. That's one theme
of the book. Another theme is to trace the recent history of
planetary exploration so we can place our planet in the context of
the hundred other worlds that we know something about in our solar
system and beyond, because we have now evidence for at least three
planets going around another star, and the expectation that planets
are a cosmic commonplace. And in the last part of the book is an
effort to trace, and this is of course quite speculative, what our
future involvement will be in space, motivated by the kinds of things
[we are an exploratory species, comet and meteor threats] I said at
the very beginning of this program. Not because I believe I can
predict the future but to present a positive vision of such a future
to...as a basis for further discussion. So that's, I guess, the three
components of "Pale Blue Dot".
[Till] Are we stuck, at the moment, when it comes to space travel, I
mean the shuttle goes up on missions but we don't seem to go very
far. We're not... seem to be going to the spectacular lengths of the
Moon Shot or is that simply layman's nonsense that I've just...
[Sagan] No, no that's layman's truth and Space Agency nonsense. That
is...you send four to seven people up 200 miles in the air, above the
air. Note 200 miles. That's nothing...200 miles is not the distance
between Montreal and Quebec, I believe. And that's considered to be a
remarkable accomplishment. And there they orbit the Earth for a week
running over the same orbit that has been done dozens of times
before, and they grow tomatoes or watch newts reproduce or something
like that, and then they come back down again. And that's passed onto
us as if..as exploration. That's not exploration, that's riding a
bus. And you are absolutely right, that from 1969 to 1972 there was a
historic, truly exploratory venture, the Apollo program, in which
humans went to another world, did true exploration of a place that no
human had ever been to before. It reminds me of a toddler who takes a
few courageous steps away from his mother, and then, frightened, runs
back and hides behind her skirts. We had the courage and the
resources for a few years and since then, as far as the human space
program, the so-called manned space program goes, we've lost our
initiative. But at the same time the most extraordinary, true
exploration has been happening throughout the rest of the solar
system with robotic spacecraft, mainly from the United States and
Soviet Union with a few further missions from Japan and the European
Space Agency. And that is the most extraordinary, exploratory story
of the last few decades.
[end of extract]