Carl Sagan’s last interview warned us about Trump and the era of science denial

Not long before he died in 1996, Carl Sagan gave his last interview with Charlie Rose, and seemed to give a dire warning about the rise of religious fundamentalism in America and its war on science.

Long before likes of famed freethinkers like Richard Dawkins, Sagan was already at the forefront making the case for scientific thinking, arguing that it’s essential for progress. During the interview, he made the point that religious zealotry and pseudo-science have been around for ages and are nothing new. But if society loosens its hold on scientific thinking, it’s the ignorant politicians and fundamentalists that will step in and replace it.

“We’ve arranged a society based on science and technology, in which nobody understands anything about science and technology,” Sagan said. “And this combustible mixture of ignorance and power, sooner or later, is going to blow up in our faces.”

“Science is more than a body of knowledge,” he continued. “It’s a way of thinking, a way of skeptically interrogating the universe with a fine understanding of human fallibility. If we are not able to ask skeptical questions to interrogate those who tell us that something is true, to be skeptical of those in authority, then we’re up for grabs for the next charlatan, political or religious, who comes ambling along.”


[The headline of this article has been updated] Featured image via screen grab



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    June 14, 2015 at 12:34 pm

    Did the author even watch this clip? Sagan makes no comment whatsoever about religious fundamentalism. He says without scientific understanding “we will not run the government, the government will will run us.” He’s right that a skeptical, educated and engaged public are vital for a democracy to succeed. He does not opine on religion at all. I would point out that history shows scientific inquiry without a foundation in morality results in dangerous science-based/justified inhumanity – see Dr. Joseph Mengele and Eugenics.

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    July 5, 2015 at 11:45 pm

    It can be – but he’s saying that it is important to harness the tools through critical interrogation to be ‘better’ equipped to think rationally for oneself . HE also mentions fallibility, and one trait humans exhibit is their affinity for suggestibility which can be destructive on so many levels if programmed a particular way . He’s not saying the belief in science is the answer , because as you point out scientists can commit immoral acts . It’s basically ‘ego’ and is true on religious levels . That is an example of human fallibility , not that science is corrupt . True science relies on philosophy and is a way of thinking . When future generations learn to think objectively then perhaps we will see progress as a race !

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