16 March 2007
Sic semper ignorance...
Skeptic magazine is running a tribute to one of the greatest popularizers of science and wonder of the 20th century. He is, of course, Carl Sagan. I became a Saganite in high school. When the first airing of his COSMOS series appeared on PBS, I forced the school play rehearsals for Sweeney Todd to be adjusted in order that I could see the series.
Sagan provided the necessary wonder and layman's language for the immense possibilities, discoveries and limitations of science. He gently addressed myth and its place in the human psyche and fought against "pseudoscience" and promoted a political viewpoint of humanity as a custodian of the planet (very anti-war / disarmament / etc.).
Cosmic Connie, one of my favorite writers, posted a great essay on the continual struggle between skepticism and the "unknown". I must confess to being in a similar quandry.
I want to believe in aliens, ghosts, magnetic fields, the Bermuda triangle and other amazing possibilities. I have had some strange personal experiences (seeing a "ghostly figure" on the USS LEXINGTON, recording some EVP in Charleston, etc.). However, until we can measure these things in a meaningful way, they are simply that, possibilities. What is disheartening is that there are a LOT of people who profess to "know" the answers and a lot of folks who simply believe them
I think this is an age old struggle and is unlikely to end anytime soon. For each time we unveil a new level of knowledge, there is still the next horizon to be imagined and unlocked. This is, actually, a good thing. It forces us to think of the possible while proving the probable.