Transcript: Interview: Carl Sagan | Jan 30, 1995

The screen shows host Mary Hynes and her guest sitting in the studio. There’s a coffee table with a book on it.

Mary is a woman is her forties. She has short blond hair and piercing blue eyes. She wears a satin white shirt with a floral vest on top and rounded earrings. The background reads ‘Studio 2.’

Mary says CARL SAGAN IS AN ASTRONOMER
WHO HAS LOOKED UP
AND WONDERED EVER
SINCE HE WAS A CHILD.
HE HAS WANTED TO VISIT
THE PLANETS SINCE THEN.
NOW, HE HAS A VISION OF
OUR FUTURE IN SPACE
AND HE EXPLAINS IN HIS
LATEST BOOK "PALE BLUE DOT."
PROFESSOR CARL
SAGAN JOINS ME NOW.
WELCOME.

Carl says THANK YOU SO MUCH.

Carl is a man in his fifties. He has short brown hair, and is clean-shaven. He wears a black suit, a light blue shirt, and a geometric square green tie. A slate below him reads ‘Carl Sagan. Author of Pale Blue Dot.’

Mary continues THERE ARE A NUMBER OF WAYS OF
LOOKING AT THIS PALE BLUE DOT
OF OURS; SOME PEOPLE WOULD
SEE IT AND BE STRUCK
BY THE IMMENSITY OF THE
UNIVERSE, OTHERS WOULD SEE IT
AND BE STRUCK BY SOME SORT
OF TERRIBLE INSIGNIFICANCE
OF THIS PLANET WE INHABIT.
WHAT DO YOU SEE WHEN YOU
LOOK AT THE PALE BLUE DOT?

Carl says WELL, IT IS TRUE THAT SOME
PEOPLE ARE DISAPPOINTED THAT
THE EARTH HAS SUCH A
COMPARATIVELY INSIGNIFICANT
ROLE IN THE UNIVERSE, BUT
MY VIEW IS, FIRST OF ALL,
IT'S NOT OUR JOB TO
IMPOSE OUR WISHES
OR FEARS ON THE UNIVERSE.
OUR JOB IS TO UNDERSTAND WHAT
THE UNIVERSE IS REALLY LIKE.

Mary says THERE IS SOMETHING VERY
HUMBLING ABOUT THAT PICTURE
WE'VE JUST SEEN
THOUGH, ISN'T THERE?
I MEAN, DOES IT
STRIKE YOU THAT WAY?

Carl says OH, CERTAINLY.
I MEAN, HERE WE ARE LIKE
MITES ON A PLUM AND
THE PLUM IS THIS LITTLE
PLANET AND IT GOES AROUND
AN INSIGNIFICANT
LOCAL STAR, THE SUN.
AND THAT STAR IS ON
THE OBSCURE OUTSKIRTS
OF AN ORDINARY GALAXY,
THE MILKY WAY,
WHICH CONTAINS 400
BILLION OTHER STARS.
AND THIS GALAXY IS
JUST ONE OF SOMETHING LIKE
100 BILLION OTHER GALAXIES
THAT MAKE UP THE UNIVERSE.
AND IT IS NOW BEGINNING TO
LOOK, THIS UNIVERSE IS ONE
OF AN ENORMOUS NUMBER, MAYBE
EVEN AN INFINITE NUMBER,
OF OTHER CLOSED
OFF UNIVERSES.
SO THE IDEA THAT
WE ARE CENTRAL,
THAT WE ARE THE REASON THERE
IS A UNIVERSE IS... PATHETIC.
WE HAVE TO SIMPLY COME TO
GRIPS WITH THE REAL UNIVERSE
THAT WE REALLY LIVE IN AND IF
SOME OF OUR MYTH AND SOME OF
OUR RELIGION IS
INCONSISTENT WITH IT,
IT'S TIME TO CHANGE THE
MYTH AND THE RELIGION.

Mary says YOU CALL THEM THE
GREAT DEMOTIONS,
ALL OF THESE THOUGHTS WHICH
WE HAVE SO CHERISHED -
WELL, GUESS WHAT?
THE UNIVERSE DOESN'T REVOLVE
AROUND THE EARTH AND GUESS WHAT?
THE EARTH ISN'T THE
ONLY WORLD OUT THERE.
ARE WE STILL CLINGING TO ANY
CONCEITS SUCH AS THOSE WHICH
LED TO THE GREAT DEMOTIONS
OVER THE PAST FEW CENTURIES?

Carl says WELL, YOU WOULD THINK
THAT WE SHOULD BE OVER IT,
BUT WE STILL ARE BATTLING, AT
LEAST IN THE UNITED STATES,
THE CONCEIT THAT HUMANS ARE
SEPARATE FROM THE REST
OF NATURE, THAT AN UNBRIDGEABLE
GAP SEPARATES HUMANS FROM
THE OTHER PLANTS AND ANIMALS,
THAT WE ARE THE PARTICULAR
BENEFICIARIES OF THE CONCERN
OF THE CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE
MORE THAN ANY OF THE 10 MILLION
OTHER SPECIES OF PLANTS AND
ANIMALS ON THE EARTH.
WHEN IN FACT, ALL OF OUR
VAUNTED UNIQUENESS TURNS OUT
TO BE SHARED WITH OTHER ANIMALS,
ESPECIALLY WITH CHIMPANZEES -
OUR CLOSEST RELATIVES, WITH
WHOM WE SHARE 99.6 PERCENT
OF OUR HEREDITARY MATERIAL.
ANOTHER AREA IN WHICH THE
DEMOTION IS BEING FOUGHT,
IS THE IDEA THAT THERE ARE
NO OTHER PLANETS BEYOND
THOSE IN OUR OWN
SOLAR SYSTEM.
BUT IN THE LAST 15 YEARS,
THE MOST MARVELLOUS SET OF
FINDINGS HAS OCCURRED IN
WHICH IT NOW APPEARS THAT
PLANETS ARE AN ORDINARY,
PROBABLY INEVITABLE,
ACCOMPANIMENT OF STAR
FORMATION AND THAT ALMOST
EVERY YOUNG STAR,
LIKE THE SUN,
IN THE EARLY STAGES
OF FORMATION,
IS SURROUNDED BY THIS
FLAT DISC OF GAS AND DUST
OUT OF WHICH THE
PLANETS WERE FORMED.
WE NOW HAVE THE FIRST BONA
FIDE REAL PLANETARY SYSTEM
AROUND A VERY UNLIKELY OBJECT,
A PARTICULAR PULSAR CALLED
1257 PLUS 12, AND THE TECHNOLOGY IS
JUST ABOUT TO REACH OUT
AND FIND WHATEVER PLANETARY
SYSTEMS THERE ARE NEARBY.
THE THIRD ONE IS THE IDEA THAT
EVEN IF THERE ARE AN ENORMOUS
NUMBER OF PLANETS, ONLY OURS
HAS LIFE AND INTELLIGENCE.
AND THERE, THE STORY IS OPEN.
WE SEND SPACECRAFT TO
OTHER PLANETS LIKE MARS
TO SEE IF THERE ARE ANY
SIMPLE FORMS OF LIFE,
WE USE RADIO TELESCOPES TO SEE
IF MESSAGES ARE BEING SENT
TO US BY CIVILIZATIONS ON
PLANETS OF OTHER STARS.
SO FAR, ALTHOUGH THERE HAVE
BEEN SOME VERY CURIOUS,
TANTALIZING FINDINGS IN
BOTH OF THOSE APPROACHES,
WE HAVE FOUND NOTHING
DEFINITIVE, UNAMBIGUOUS
EVIDENCE FOR
EXTRATERRESTRIAL LIFE.
AND THE DEBATE IS STILL
OPEN, IN OUR IGNORANCE,
THE GEOCENTRISTS
STILL FIND HOPE.

Mary says EACH OF THESE GREAT
DEMOTIONS OVER THE CENTURIES,
WHEN EACH OF OUR
OLD CONCEITS FALL,
THEY'VE ALL BEEN IN SOME
WAY OR ANOTHER A REBUKE
TO RELIGIONS - FROM
GALILEO AND THE CHURCH,
AND GALILEO HAVING BEEN
PROVEN TO BE SOMEWHAT SMARTER
THAN THE CHURCH ALL
THE WAY ON DOWN,
YET THERE ARE STILL THOSE IN
SCIENCE WHO SAY THE EXQUISITE
NATURE OF THE UNIVERSE,
THE EXQUISITE LAWS OF THE
UNIVERSE, ARE EVIDENCE OF
A DESIGNER, OF A CREATOR.
DOES THAT VIEW
MAKE SENSE TO YOU?

Carl says IT'S VERY TEMPTING.
WE WANT TO BE THOUGHT OF AS
CHILDREN BEING CARED FOR
BY AN OMNIPOTENT, OMNISCIENT,
AND BENEVOLENT CREATOR.
THINK OF ALL THE UNCERTAINTIES
AND TURMOIL AND TERRORS
OF OUR LIFE, WHICH WOULD BE
MADE LESS TERRIFYING
IF THIS WERE TRUE, BUT HERE,
IF ANYWHERE IS A CASE WHERE
WE MUST NOT BELIEVE BECAUSE
WE WANT IT TO BE TRUE.
NOW, IF YOU TAKE
A LOOK AT DARWIN,
YOU SEE A CASE WHERE IT
WAS SO TEMPTING TO SAY,
I FIND A WATCH, IT
REQUIRES A WATCHMAKER.
WATCHES DO NOT SPONTANEOUSLY
SELF-ASSEMBLE.
AND NOW I FIND AN ACORN, OR
A SQUID, OR A BACTERIUM;
IT IS MUCH MORE INTRICATELY
AND EXQUISITELY PUT TOGETHER
THAN A WATCH – HERE TOO THERE
MUST HAVE BEEN A CREATOR.
IT'S VERY NATURAL.
BUT WHAT DARWIN POINTED OUT
IS THAT THERE'S A PERFECTLY
REASONABLE PROCESS
WHICH IS INEVITABLE,
WHICH WOULD CREATE ENORMOUS
EXQUISITE ORDER OUT OF CHAOS,
GIVEN ENOUGH TIME.
IF WE THOUGHT THE UNIVERSE
WAS ONLY 6,000 YEARS OLD,
THERE IS NOT ENOUGH TIME
AND EVOLUTION IS NONSENSE.
BUT IF, AS IN FACT IS
NOW DEFINITIVELY TRUE,
THE SOLAR SYSTEM AND THE EARTH
ARE 4.5 BILLION YEARS OLD,
BILLION YEARS OLD, THEN
THERE'S PLENTY OF TIME FOR
EVOLUTION AND OUR SENSE THAT
ORDER MEANS CREATOR IS WRONG.
FINALLY, YOU CAN SAY LOOK,
YOU CAN GO BACK AS FAR
AS YOU WANT, BUT SOMEHOW
THE STUFF OF THE UNIVERSE
HAD TO COME FROM SOMEWHERE
AND ISN'T THAT WHAT GOD DID,
BUT THAT'S ONLY TRUE IF
THE UNIVERSE WAS CREATED.
IF THE UNIVERSE
WAS ALWAYS HERE,
IF THE UNIVERSE
WAS INFINITELY OLD,
THEN THERE'S NOTHING
FOR A CREATOR TO DO.
MOST OF US WOULD BE SURPRISED
TO HEAR THAT THE UNIVERSE
IS GOING TO END ONE DAY.
WE EXPECT THE UNIVERSE TO GO
ON FOREVER INTO THE FUTURE.
WHY DO WE HAVE THE IDEA
THAT IT DOESN'T GO ON
FOREVER INTO THE PAST?
I'M NOT SAYING I KNOW
THE ANSWER TO THIS.
THIS IS ONE OF THE
DEEPEST QUESTIONS
WE DO NOT KNOW
THE ANSWER.
WE SIMPLY HAVE TO KEEP
AN OPEN MIND - ALL OF US.
PHILOSOPHERS, SCIENTISTS,
RELIGIOUS PEOPLE.
NO ONE, IN FACT KNOWS.

Mary says YOU MAKE THE ARGUMENT
IN "PALE BLUE DOT" THAT
IT'S TIME TO HIT THE ROAD AGAIN,
SKYWARD, AS IN SPACE TRAVEL
EXPLORATION, PERHAPS COLONIES,
FOR THE VERY SALVATION
OF THIS SPECIES.
HOW IS THAT?

Carl says WELL FIRST OFF,
AS YOU SUGGEST,
WE ARE A WANDERING SPECIES; WE
COME FROM HUNTER GATHERERS,
WE ARE NOMADS, AND FOR THE
MILLION YEARS THAT THE HUMAN
FAMILY HAS BEEN AROUND,
THAT WAS OUR LIFESTYLE.
THAT MUST BE BUILT
IN TO US DEEPLY.
IT'S ONLY FOR THE LAST TEN
THOUSAND YEARS THAT WE'VE
HAD A SETTLED AND SEDENTARY
EXISTENCE AND NOW THE EARTH
IS ALL EXPLORED; OUR EXPLORATORY
INSTINCTS ARE UNFULFILLED
AND I THINK MANY PEOPLE,
I RECOGNIZE NOT ALL,
BUT MANY PEOPLE WOULD
LONG FOR REAL EXPLORATION
OF REAL NEW WORLD,
EVEN VICARIOUSLY.
SECONDLY, WHILE I DON'T FOR
A MOMENT SUGGEST THE EARTH
IS A DISPOSABLE PLANET;
IT IS NEVERTHELESS TRUE
THAT WE HUMANS ARE NOW A
DANGER TO OURSELVES.
OUR TECHNOLOGY REALLY CAN
CAUSE ENORMOUS INSULTS
ON THE ENVIRONMENT THAT PROTECTS
US, ESPECIALLY THE ATMOSPHERE.
THEREFORE IF WE WERE CONCERNED,
HAD A PRUDENT REGARD FOR THE
LONG TERM WELL-BEING
OF OUR SPECIES,
WE WOULD HEDGE OUR BETS OR AS
CONSERVATIVES LIKE TO SAY,
WE WOULD DIVERSIFY
OUR PORTFOLIOS.
WE WOULD PUT SELF-SUSTAINING
HUMAN COMMUNITIES
ON MANY WORLDS, SO IF
THE WORST HAPPENS,
THERE WOULD BE AN OUTPOST
OF US SOMEWHERE ELSE.

Mary says ISN'T THE DANGER IN THAT
THINKING, THOUGH, THAT WE
COME TO REGARD THE
EARTH AS DISPOSABLE?
THAT WE FOUND THIS NEST,
LET'S MOVE ON TO THE NEXT?

Carl says THAT'S A VERY GOOD QUESTION
AND, BY THE WAY, EVEN BIRDS
KNOW NOT TO FOUL THEIR NEST,
HOW COME WE DON'T KNOW THAT?
THE ARGUMENT YOU'VE JUST
PRESENTED WOULD BE TRUE
IF IT WERE AN
EITHER-OR SITUATION.
BUT IN FACT, THE COST OF
MOVING OUT INTO SPACE,
DONE OVER A REASONABLE
TIMESCALE MATCHING
THE TECHNOLOGY, WHICH IS
CENTURIES, IS TINY COMPARED
TO THE COST OF MAKING THE
ENVIRONMENT OF THE EARTH RIGHT.
THESE ARE NOT COMPETITIVE;
WE SHOULD DO SHORT-TERM
AND LONG-TERM THINGS, BOTH.

Mary says PART OF YOUR FAME,
PROFESSOR SAGAN,
APART FROM JOHNNY CARSON
MAKING SPORT OF YOUR BILLIONS
AND BILLIONS AND BILLIONS-

Carl says WHICH I NEVER SAID,
BY THE WAY!

Mary continues YOU NEVER SAID THAT?

Carl says NEVER DID I SAY IT.
HE SAID IT.

Mary laughs and continues AND HERE HE
MADE A CAREER
OUT OF HIS IMPRESSIONS.
PART OF YOUR FAME STEMS
FROM THE FACT THAT YOU ARE
A SCIENTIST WHO MAKES
SCIENCE INTELLIGIBLE.
DOES IT TROUBLE YOU THAT TO SO
MANY PEOPLE SCIENCE REMAINS
UNINTELLIGIBLE, THAT SCIENCE
IS SOMETHING SO FOREIGN
TO PEOPLE, PEOPLE TAKE SOME
SORT OF PRIDE IN SAYING
UH, I KNOW NOTHING ABOUT
SCIENCE, I'M A REAL LUDDITE.

Carl says ABSOLUTELY.
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY ARE
THE KEY TO OUR CIVILIZATION.
LOOK AT TELEVISION,
LOOK AT SO MUCH.
IF YOU LOOK AT ANYTHING,
FOOD, ANYTHING, YOU FIND
WE HAVE MADE A CIVILIZATION
BASED ON SCIENCE
AND TECHNOLOGY AND THEN AT THE
SAME TIME HAVE ARRANGED THINGS
SO ALMOST NOBODY UNDERSTANDS
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY.
THAT IS A CLEAR
PRESCRIPTION FOR DISASTER.
WE MIGHT GET AWAY
WITH IT FOR A WHILE,
BUT SOONER OR LATER THIS
COMBUSTIBLE MIXTURE
OF IGNORANCE AND POWER IS
GONNA BLOW UP IN OUR FACES.
WE MUST MAKE SCIENCE AND
ENGINEERING PALATABLE.
AND THE THING IS,
IT IS SO EXCITING.
IT IS SO STIRRING.

Mary says WELL IT'S EXCITING
LISTENING TO YOU;
IT WASN'T EXCITING IN GRADE 11
PHYSICS, LET ME TELL YA.

Carl continues BUT LET ME TELL
YOU MY EXPERIENCE.
MY EXPERIENCE IS, YOU GO
TALK TO KINDERGARTEN KIDS,
OR FIRST GRADE KIDS,
YOU FIND A CLASS FULL
OF SCIENCE ENTHUSIASTS.
AND THEY ASK DEEP
QUESTIONS!
WHAT IS A DREAM?
WHY DO WE HAVE TOES?
WHY IS THE MOON ROUND?
WHAT IS THE BIRTHDAY
OF THE WORLD?
WHY IS GRASS GREEN?
THESE ARE PROFOUND,
IMPORTANT QUESTIONS.
THEY JUST BUBBLE
RIGHT OUT OF THEM!
YOU GO AND TALK TO
TWELFTH GRADE STUDENTS
AND THERE'S NONE OF THAT.
THEY'VE BECOME
LEADEN AND INCURIOUS;
SOMETHING TERRIBLE HAS
HAPPENED BETWEEN KINDERGARTEN
AND TWELFTH GRADE AND
IT'S NOT JUST PUBERTY.

Mary says AND YOU'RE A NERD IF YOU LOVE
SCIENCE IN THE TWELFTH GRADE.

Carl continues ABSOLUTELY.
NOW WHATEVER THIS IS DUE TO,
AND PART OF IT IS CERTAINLY
THE FACT THAT GROWN-UPS HAVE
NOT MADE THE EXCITEMENT OF
SCIENCE AVAILABLE TO KIDS,
THIS IS REALLY FOOLISH.
WE HAVE, IN FACT, BEATEN
SCIENCE EXCITEMENT OUT OF KIDS.
THEY START OUT EXCITED,
AND THEN WE ARRANGE,
WHATEVER THE MACHINERY IS,
FOR THEM TO WIND UP
NOT LIKING IT AND THIS IS
JUST SO SELF-DESTRUCTIVE.

Mary says HOW DO WE GET
IT BACK?
HOW DO WE IMBUE THEM WITH THAT
SORT OF, LOVE FOR SCIENCE?

Carl says TELEVISION IS CERTAINLY
A VERY GOOD WAY TO DO IT.
THE SUCCESS OF "COSMOS,"
SEEN IN 60 COUNTRIES,
BY 500 MILLION PEOPLE.

Mary says YOUR SERIES ON PBS.

Carl continues THAT'S RIGHT, I MEAN, WHO
FIGURED IT'D BE SO SUCCESSFUL.
AND FROM THE LETTERS IT'S
VERY CLEAR, SO CLEAR,
THAT PEOPLE HUNGER - THEY
UNDERSTAND THAT SCIENCE IS
ESSENTIAL FOR THEIR FUTURE.
THEY UNDERSTAND THAT
DECISIONS ARE BEING MADE,
USING SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY,
ABOUT THEIR FUTURE THAT THEY
HAVE NO CONTROL OF,
ESPECIALLY IN DEMOCRACIES,
BECAUSE THEY DON'T
UNDERSTAND IT.
THEY UNDERSTAND THAT SCIENCE
IS REACHING OUT TO THE DEEPEST
QUESTIONS OF ORIGINS FROM
THE ORIGIN OF OUR SPECIES
AND OUR PLANET, TO THE ORIGIN
OF THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE.
ISSUES, THAT EVERY HUMAN
CULTURE HAS ADDRESSED,
AND THAT WE ARE REALLY FINDING
OUT THE ANSWERS TO TODAY.
THEY WANT IN AND THE
SOCIETY DOESN'T PROVIDE IT.
SCHOOLS DO NOT TEACH IT WELL,
THE MEDIA ARE IN MANY RESPECTS
HOSTILE TO IT.
YOU SEE, IT RUNS RIGHT THROUGH
THE SOCIETY AND STUDENTS
HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY, TEACHERS
HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY,
ESPECIALLY TEACHERS WHO DON'T
UNDERSTAND THE MATERIAL
THAT THEY ARE TEACHING.
WHY IS THE BASKETBALL A
COACH TEACHING CHEMISTRY?
WHY IS IT THAT VERY SPIFFY
JACKETS WITH THE SCHOOL LETTER
ON IT, THAT ARE ATTRACTIVE
TO MEMBERS OF THE OTHER SEX,
ARE MADE AVAILABLE
TO VARSITY FOOTBALL,
BASEBALL AND BASKETBALL TEAMS,
BUT NOT THOSE WHO PERFORM
EXTREMELY WELL IN
MATHEMATICS OR SCIENCE
OR HISTORY OR ENGLISH?
WHO MADE THE DECISION THAT
THESE ATTRACTIVE JACKETS
SHOULD GO TO THE ONE GROUP,
BUT NOT THE OTHER GROUP?
AND IS THAT A WISE DECISION?
THE ISSUE THAT YOU'VE RAISED
SEEMS TO ME A VERY IMPORTANT
ONE AND THE INTERESTING THING
IS THAT THERE IS NO ONE PLACE
IN THE SOCIETY - IF ONLY WE
COULD FIX THAT ONE THING,
HIGHER TEACHER STANDARDS, LET'S
SAY, WE WOULD FIX IT ALL.
NO, IT RUNS TOO DEEPLY.
MANY PLACES IN THIS
SOCIETY HAVE TO BE FIXED
FOR THIS TO HAPPEN.
AND IF NOT, THEN SOME OTHER
NATIONS WHICH DO SCIENCE
EDUCATION BETTER, WILL HAVE
CORRESPONDING ADVANTAGES
INCLUDING ECONOMIC ADVANTAGES,
AND ONE NATION WILL SINK AND
ANOTHER WILL RISE IN THE
STANDARD DARWINIAN SENSE.

Mary smiles and concludes CARL SAGAN, THANK YOU.

Carl says IT WAS A PLEASURE TO
BE HERE, THANK YOU.

Watch: Interview: Carl Sagan