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Amused Muse

Inspiring dissent and debate and the love of dissonance

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Location: Surreality, Have Fun Will Travel, Past Midnight before a Workday

Master's Degree holder, telecommuting from the hot tub, proud Darwinian Dawkobot, and pirate librarian belly-dancer bohemian secret agent scribe on a mission to rescue bloggers from the wholesome clutches of the pious backstabbing girl fridays of the world.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

What I Owe to Carl Sagan

It is something that cannot be measured.

These things I gained from him:

A sense of wonder at the cosmos. That goes without saying. No matter what he said or what special effects he employed, he communicated best through his own astonishment at our mysterious and surprising universe, and that sense of wonder was infectious. It made the rest of my family watch his programs, even when they disagreed with him.

Skepticism and conviction. Skepticism is a gift far greater than faith. Doubt is the ultimate result of deep conviction. This is the paradox of the inquiring mind. Faith is a set of beliefs that one holds against the onslaught of the new and of the unknown, but skepticism allows one to question that siege mentality, and conviction allows one to step into the unknown without preconceived ideas, trusting that you can handle whatever comes up. Carl taught me this, for he did it himself. He was the person that he asked me to be.

Integrity and courage. Carl said what he meant and stood upon his word. Even people who vehemently disagreed with him remarked upon his honesty. He proposed some wacky ideas and didn’t care that other scientists looked askance at him. It did not surprise me that he met his end with valor. In his book Cosmos Carl quoted an epitaph of two astronomers: We have loved the stars too much to be afraid of the darkness. That was obviously true for him, and that says it all for me. We appear from, and vanish back into, the place where we are now. He is gone but he is here, for the cosmos is here, and the cosmos is our home, and even in death we will always be “starstuff.”

I never say, “Rest in peace,” for I had the sweetest high school chemistry teacher in the world (and a Christian) who drilled it into our heads that there was no plane of rest in the universe—everything was in motion, all the time. So I say instead, Dance with nature in peace, Carl Sagan.

UPDATED: PZ says: We need a thousand Sagans.

Carl Sagan Blog-a-Thon

(Shimmies to Carl, Bad Astronomy, Pharyngula, Nick Sagan, and Cosmic Log)


Blogger Rev. Barking Nonsequitor said...

Carl was one of the better impressions that I used to do. That, and Peter Lorre and James Mason.

If he were to speculate, Carl would agree that he is currently not dancing, or resting in peace or in any other state other than decay.

December 20, 2006 12:40 PM  
Blogger Kristine said...

Awww, come on. Decay is not dance?

It is all a dance, Rev. Barky, as you will find out should you participate in my "Uncommon Descent into the Snake Pit" skit next year. Planets around the sun, stars in their galaxies, rotting fruit and yes, worms and bacteria, are all participating in the great Cosmic Shimmy.

So, shake it! (You can do Peter Lorre and James Mason impressions? I ADORE those two actors! You must do them for me sometime. You must, you must.)

December 20, 2006 12:50 PM  
Blogger Kristine said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

December 20, 2006 12:50 PM  
Blogger Kristine said...

I got so excited at the prospect of the verbal Mason-Lorre shimmy that I double-posted to my own blog.

December 20, 2006 12:51 PM  
Blogger Rev. Barking Nonsequitor said...

Of course when I die, I am going to a paradise with a harem of spotless virgins for the rest of eternity. Allah is Great! All praise and thanks are due to Allah!

December 20, 2006 11:18 PM  
Blogger Kristine said...

No, no, no! When you die you’re coming with me. We’re going to the Rock the Maggots Festival, and I don’t want to hear any arguments about it. Then we’re going to polka with the Sun Goes Supernova Band. I have it all planned out so don’t spoil my fun, you.

December 21, 2006 9:03 AM  
Blogger Rev. Barking Nonsequitor said...


Spotless virgins.

Maggots and supernovas.

Spotless virgins


Reality loses.

Allah is Great!

December 21, 2006 11:17 AM  
Blogger Kristine said...

Okay, smartie-pants: ;-) Just remember that I'm the expert on Islam and the Middle East!

So you better make the hajj. I'm watching you next year. (That's where you go to Mecca in Saudi Arabia and touch the big Kabba. No, it's not what you're thinking. And if you get stampeded, don't come crying to me.)

I didn't see you at the Convention Center, celebrating Eid-al-Fitr (end of Ramadan)!

Nobody at Holy Land Bakery & Deli has heard of you. But they have some awesome hummus for you to try. (They enable my fix so totally.) virgins for you, young man!

Oh, by the way. Those virgins all look
like this! Ha, ha, ha. That usually converts them.

December 21, 2006 12:39 PM  
Blogger Rev. Barking Nonsequitor said...

no, I think you mena they look like this:

December 21, 2006 2:55 PM  
Blogger Kristine said...

Link didn't work for me. :(

December 21, 2006 3:22 PM  
Blogger PiGuy said...

Sorry to have been away for so long (it appears that you've been pretty busy as well - congrats on your good grades!) but your post reminded me that I should include 'Contact' on my Blogger Profile list of favorite books.

My favorite passage is the one where Dr. Ellie Arroway and Palmer Joss go to the Smithsonian to the Foucault Pendulum to test the faith of each in their respective fields - Ellie's faith in science and Joss's faith in god. Ellie holds the gallon jug-sized brass bob to her face, releases it, and holds her ground as the pendulum returns and misses hitting her face by fractions of a centimeter. She then challenges Joss to do the same but to move forward a step and pray to god to ask that he not be struck. Of course, as we all know, god doesn't work that way. He works in mysterious ways, just not that way. I choose Einstein's god.

As my daughter Emily said to me this week, "Happy Chistma-Hana-Kwanzaka!"

December 21, 2006 8:27 PM  
Blogger Kristine said...

Okay, here.

Yeah I have to admit she's pretty hot. But you know the old saying, Rev. Bark--"never buy a horse with its blanket on." ;-)

Hi, PiGuy! How are dynamic link libraries treating you these days? Thank you for your congrats on the grades--how are you doing?

I enjoyed Contact very much. I remember that scene, that was very enjoyable. I also loved the scene when they first discovered the signal, and Arroway is so cool until she's finally alone, and let's out a "Holy shit!"

I've been reading, reading, reading now that I have free time. I recommend Why Darwin Matters by Michael Shermer and Evolution: the Triumph of an Idea by Carl Zimmer. I also started Finding Darwin's God by Kenneth Miller because I wanted to see if I should give it to someone for Christmas--so far, it's fantastic!

Rev. Barking Nonsequitor and I were just in a musical performance as part of the Freethought Follies, and I'm trying to convince him to play a part in my skit for next year, "Uncommon Descent into the Snake Pit." I'm planning to have a creationist character, a belly-dancing serpent (me), and a Conga line with the earth's species through time (tilobites, dinosaurs, early mammals, etc.).

December 21, 2006 10:17 PM  
Anonymous JanieBelle said...

The first one was cruel, Kristine. A cruel joke for which I fell and clicked on, and found despair and disgust.

But to prove that I have great faith in your humanity, I clicked the second link as well...

...and was greatly rewarded.

Thank you for that.

December 23, 2006 1:41 PM  
Blogger Kristine said...

You gotta take the thorns with the rose, JanieBelle! ;-)

You're welcome!

December 23, 2006 3:16 PM  
Blogger Rev. Barking Nonsequitor said...

Warning - make sure that whatever skit you write that you can find or make the costumes and props with a resonable amount of money and effort. I had a hard time rousing up a freaking BEAR costume. Fortunately most of the skits have gods in them and a bedsheet comes in handy. I don't know where I can rent a trilobite suit.

December 24, 2006 12:25 AM  
Blogger Kristine said...

Haven’t you heard of DUCT TAPE, my friend? Duct tape. Costumer’s best friend, second only to hot glue.

If you are willing to play the Dembski character and to whip off your glasses at the end, don a bitchin' Liberace suitjacket and sing “Common Ancestor” to the tune of “Greased Lightning,” I’ll take care of the rest.

No pressure. ;-)

December 27, 2006 8:55 AM  
Blogger said...

I stubled on this post while looking for the Lyrics to the song Carl Sagan by Loch Lamond. How is it I missed you for so long.

I am adding your blog to the links directory on and will be back often.

Thank you.

June 03, 2008 12:44 PM  

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