[ Article crossposted from alt.alien.visitors ] [ Author was Paul Middler ] [ Posted on 30

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[ 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. [begin extract] [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. [laughter] [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]


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