Tag Archives: Carl Sagan

That Sagan Quote…

Tomorrow, we begin 2022– a new year. It promises to be a turning point–since I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that the barbarians are at the gate.

The divisions that characterize our “body politic” are deep, and every day appear more insurmountable. As yesterday’s post noted, we are rapidly approaching a point where the country will choose between two seemingly irreconcilable visions of what it means to be an American.

Or for that matter, a human. 

I can’t describe the stakes as well as Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan did in their 1995 book “The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark.”A widely quoted observation from that book rings eerily prescient.

“I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time — when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness…

The dumbing down of American is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30 second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance.”

The only element of our current landscape that that quote from Sagan didn’t predict is the “silo-ing” of that “enormously influential” American media–and the consequential division between those of us who occupy a credible, if confusing, evidence-based reality, and those whose “research” and selective media consumption lead them to…goodness knows where.

Somewhere else.

Credible and substantive information remains available, so we still have a choice–we can still opt for reality, messy and ambiguous as that reality is. But I don’t know how long that choice will be available. The institutional mechanisms of democratic government are being steadily appropriated by a barbarian cult composed of White Supremicists– along with the venal, the frightened and the ignorant. I worry that our window of opportunity for defeating that cult is closing.

The Democrats can’t do it alone–especially when they’re burdened with faux Senate Democrats like Manchin.

If at least a couple of “good guys”– aka honorable adult Republican politicians living in the real world and having the guts to speak truth to power– are ever going to show up, this would be a really good time.

Happy New Year….