Author Topic: How much of Carl Sagan's stature within skepticism is due to his passing?  (Read 522 times)

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Offline Quetzalcoatl

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It is no secret that Carl Sagan is a highly respected figure in the skeptical community. He was a popularizer of science, co-founder of CSICOP (which arguably kick-started the modern movement). His book The Demon-Haunted World is often praised by self-identified skeptics, and commonly mentioned as a good introduction to skepticism.

I wonder, how much of Carl Sagan's stature is dependent on him having passed away in 1996? His passing away means that he could not have taken part in the internal conflicts that have occurred within the community since then. I'm thinking of conflicts such as those over feminism, religion (the "new atheism" from the early 2000s), and to what extent skeptics should tackle purely political topics (anger of this caused PZ Myers to renounce skepticism).

Public figures taking sides in these kinds of conflicts will inevitably piss off some of the people who take the opposite side. Sagan's absence means that he has not publicly taken sides (though of coruse one can make educated guesses about what he might have thought about various issues), and therefore not pissed off any faction.

I'm not saying that he would not have been a prominent figure had he lived one or two decades longer. Of course he would. But absence meaning making fewer people angry (which is inevitable I think). For example, I think Dawkins' reputation has been at least somewhat hurt from his use of Twitter. Who knows what Sagan would have been like on Twitter?

What do you think?
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I think he would've stayed out of the pissing contests.

NdGT manages to do shows, Tweets, and public appearances without losing stature.
Amend and resubmit.

Online gmalivuk

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Tyson does stick his foot in it from time to time when he opines about things outside his expertise, and Sagan definitely might have done the same from time to time.

I think Dawkins's use of Twitter has hurt him more than Tyson's because he's simply a shittier person.
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Offline seamas

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I see no indication that Carl Sagan would behave like Dawkins.
They are pretty distinct personalities.

Even though Sagan died before the advent of Twitter, he had more media exposure and access than anyone in the field.
He wasn't shy about giving his opinion of subjects, but he also was able to do so thoughtfully and without being a dick. I don't think social media would have changed that.



Offline Nemmzy

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I see no indication that Carl Sagan would behave like Dawkins.
They are pretty distinct personalities.

Even though Sagan died before the advent of Twitter, he had more media exposure and access than anyone in the field.
He wasn't shy about giving his opinion of subjects, but he also was able to do so thoughtfully and without being a dick. I don't think social media would have changed that.

Now I am sure these are picked but I have read stories about Sagan that leaves one with the idea that over all he was a nice guy. The Sagan Little Tyson story for instance. While Dawkins comes off as looking down at people even before Twitter. Twitter, just took the editorial filter off.

Offline Johnny Slick

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Offline seamas

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I see no indication that Carl Sagan would behave like Dawkins.
They are pretty distinct personalities.

Even though Sagan died before the advent of Twitter, he had more media exposure and access than anyone in the field.
He wasn't shy about giving his opinion of subjects, but he also was able to do so thoughtfully and without being a dick. I don't think social media would have changed that.

Now I am sure these are picked but I have read stories about Sagan that leaves one with the idea that over all he was a nice guy. The Sagan Little Tyson story for instance. While Dawkins comes off as looking down at people even before Twitter. Twitter, just took the editorial filter off.


Dawkins has always turned me off in that it seemed that his focus was on making sure everyone that encountered him would know that he was smarter than them.
That is job one. The rest is secondary. "I'm right because I'm super smart." It wouldn't surprise me to learn that is a chapter in one of his books.

From what I have seen of Sagan is he didn't take HIS intelligence seriously--he took MY intelligence seriously--he took YOUR intelligence seriously. That's why we was effective.


It isn't Sagan's stature within the Skeptical world that is important.
It is his stature outside of it.

Online gmalivuk

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Though I appreciate your attempt to actually answer the question instead of getting pulled off into the Dawkins tangent (which I am admittedly guilty of continuing), I do have a pet peeve about excessive significant figures that give a false sense of precision to a number.

Like, are you really that confident that the number is between 41.725% and 41.735%? Or might it be less misleading to say 42% or even just 40%?
The world is so exquisite with so much love and moral depth, that there is no reason to deceive ourselves with pretty stories for which there's little good evidence. Far better...is to look death in the eye and to be grateful every day for the brief but magnificent opportunity that life provides.

Offline Johnny Slick

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Though I appreciate your attempt to actually answer the question instead of getting pulled off into the Dawkins tangent (which I am admittedly guilty of continuing), I do have a pet peeve about excessive significant figures that give a false sense of precision to a number.

Like, are you really that confident that the number is between 41.725% and 41.735%? Or might it be less misleading to say 42% or even just 40%?
Yes.
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Online gmalivuk

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[citation needed]

I'm gonna need to see your statistical methods before I just take you at your word on that.
The world is so exquisite with so much love and moral depth, that there is no reason to deceive ourselves with pretty stories for which there's little good evidence. Far better...is to look death in the eye and to be grateful every day for the brief but magnificent opportunity that life provides.

Online Desert Fox

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Curious, how do people think that Stephen Jay Gould would have done with respect to modern communication methods?
"Give me the storm and tempest of thought and action, rather than the dead calm of ignorance and faith. Banish me from Eden when you will; but first let me eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge."
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Offline ShadowSot

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  Sagan, like a lot of public figures, had a public and private persona.
I have read up what is available, and he could be a jerk and be dismissive and occasionally rant. Especially later on in his life.
 In a time of ready and active social media, I think he would not have been as polished as we like to picture him.
 I don't know how he would have handled feminism. Certainly Ann Dryan is a strong figure for feminism and the sciences. But feminism has changed over the years, and of course her views wouldn't be his.
“I'm smart enough to know that I'm dumb.”
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Offline Johnny Slick

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Curious, how do people think that Stephen Jay Gould would have done with respect to modern communication methods?
Well, I personally am a *huge* SJG fan and I would like to think at least that he would not have terminal foot in mouth disease the way Dawkins does. He'd also be a pretty old guy by now if he was still alive so it's very possible that I'd just be disappointed in him too. :( I will say that generally I prefer the Gould approach to interacting with non-atheists and non-skeptics to Dawkins/Sam Harris/insert New Atheist here. Sure, you have to amend it a *little* bit so that instead of just calling science and religion in general non-overlapping magisteria, you refer to the specific bits that are non-overlapping, but I also think collaboration > confrontation on this stuff.
Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day.

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[citation needed]

I'm gonna need to see your statistical methods before I just take you at your word on that.

Can't tell if humorless....or just a decent yes, ander

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I don't know how he would have handled feminism. Certainly Ann Dryan is a strong figure for feminism and the sciences. But feminism has changed over the years, and of course her views wouldn't be his.

I doubt Martin Luther King would have been as progressive as Coretta Scott King as well.

Well, I personally am a *huge* SJG fan and I would like to think at least that he would not have terminal foot in mouth disease the way Dawkins does. He'd also be a pretty old guy by now if he was still alive so it's very possible that I'd just be disappointed in him too. :( I will say that generally I prefer the Gould approach to interacting with non-atheists and non-skeptics to Dawkins/Sam Harris/insert New Atheist here. Sure, you have to amend it a *little* bit so that instead of just calling science and religion in general non-overlapping magisteria, you refer to the specific bits that are non-overlapping, but I also think collaboration > confrontation on this stuff.

Bill Nye has been able to not get into the problems that Dawkins has even though he is pretty old as well.
"Give me the storm and tempest of thought and action, rather than the dead calm of ignorance and faith. Banish me from Eden when you will; but first let me eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge."
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