Carl Sagan (1934-1996) was a professor of astronomy at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, who became a celebrity on television and a vocal advocate for increased searches for intelligent life in outer space. Time magazine reported that Carl Sagan "talked with Jimmy Carter about such esoteric matters as black holes and exobiology (the study of possible extraterrestrial life)." He was instrumental in the development of Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence. (SETI)Professor Sagan, like many scientists throughout the 20th century, was convinced that there was intelligent life in outer space.
"The significance of a finding that there are other beings who share this universe with us would be absolutely phenomenal, it would be an epochal event in human history," Sagan declared.
Indeed, Sagan's most popular work of fiction Contact, later made into a movie, was about finding extraterrestrial life.
To Sagan, there was nothing beyond physical reality.
"The cosmos is all that is, or ever was, or ever will be."
- "We have looked close-up at dozens of new worlds. Worlds we never saw before. And unless we are so stupid to destroy ourselves, we are going to be moving out to space in the next century," he said. "And if I'm fortunate enough to have played a part in the first preliminary reconnaissance in the solar system, that's a terrifically exciting thing."
From a religious point of view, Sagan was an atheist or an agnostic depending upon how it is interpreted - Sagan referred to himself he was an agnostic. In practice he was an atheist, but as a scientist could never say with certainty that evidence couldn't arise that is currently unknown that would point toward a god force, he is more correctly described as being agnostic.
"Though Dr. Sagan is one of the most frequently cited experts on atmospheric issues by the media, his predictions are often wrong. For example, at the outset of the Persian Gulf War, Sagan warned that if Saddam Hussein delivered on his threat to set fire to Kuwait's oil wells, so much black soot would be sent into the stratosphere that sunlight would be blocked and a variation of the "nuclear winter" scenario would occur. Hussein followed through on his threat and by the close of the war over 600 wells were on fire. But the fires had little environmental or climatic effect beyond the Gulf region and virtually no ill effects globally."
- Frederic Golden, "The Cosmic Explainer," Time.com 20 Oct. 1980.
- Norma Quarles, "Carl Sagan Dies at 62," CNN.com 20 Dec. 1996.
- Cosmos series, 1980
- "Retired atmospheric physicist Fred Singer dismissed Sagan's prediction as nonsense, predicting [correctly] that the smoke would dissipate in a matter of days."