Pale Blue Dot
Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space (New York: Ballantine, 1994)
There is something impressively arrogant about a man who, while criticizing almost all other people for being too earth-centric, too human-centric, who sets out to write a book about everything. People with weak egos never write cosmologies. Sagan is a brilliant writer, but is more trained in the physical sciences than he is in his topic. Cosmology is a branch of philosophy and Sagan appears to not know much about the history of philosophy. His jabs at religion seem to indicate that he thinks that the theologies of five and six hundred years ago still dominate religious thinking. He can understand that nature evolves, that scientific knowledge grows, but seems to have trouble understanding that theological understanding also changes. There are some people of faith whose understanding of God and the nature of God gets bigger each time a new discovery about the universe - or perhaps the multiverse is made.
And, Sagan is more religious than he admits. He is hopelessly romantic. How else can you explain the amount of effort he put into creating a soundtrack to travel with the Voyager spacecraft on their journey out of our solar system?
He is a good writer. And he has, in his descriptions of the universe, captured some of the awe and wonder that makes it seem beautiful. His speculations about how future generations will look upon the universe are speculative, but fun speculations. As to the necessity of settlement of other worlds, he didn’t quite make his case, I fear, but the argument is at least cogent.
The book is a good read, especially for someone who enjoys philosophy. There is something genuinely amazing about a cosmology in this time of understanding how vast the cosmos really is.