Skepticism and Wonder

Some thirty years ago astronomer, Carl Sagan, refused to sign a manifesto against astrology. He stated that he personally had no use for astrology but as a scientist he keep an open mind.

THE MANIFESTO – Objections to Astrology were published in the September / October 1975 issue of the Humanist magazine.  It contained the signatures of 186 astronomers, astrophysicists and scientists including several Nobel Prize winners. The message spoke to the increasing acceptance of astrology in many parts of the world. It informed those who believed in astrology that there is no verified scientific basis for their beliefs and even strong evidence to the contrary.

Carl Sagan explain his views to the scientific community, “I find myself unable to endorse the “Objections to Astrology” statement, not because I feel that astrology has any validity whatever, but because I felt and still feel that the tone of the statement is authoritarian. The fundamental point is not that the origins of astrology are shrouded in superstition. This is true as well for chemistry, medicine and astronomy, to mention three. To discuss the psychological motivation of those who believe in astrology seems to me quite peripheral to the issue of its validity. That we can think of no mechanism for astrology is relevant but unconvincing. No mechanism was known, for example, for continental drift when it was proposed by Alfred Wegner. Nevertheless, we see that Wegner was right, and those who objected on the grounds of an unavailable mechanism were wrong.”

What type of person bucks the scientific establishment and maintains an open mind?  In The Burden of Skepticism, one of Sagan’s contributions to CSICOP, he explains, “If you are only skeptical, then no new ideas make it through to you. On the other hand, if you are open to the point of gullibility and have not an ounce of skeptical sense in you, then you cannot distinguish the useful ideas from the worthless ones.” He described his immediate family as the major influence on his beliefs. “My parents were not scientists. They knew almost nothing about science. But in introducing me simultaneously to skepticism and to wonder, they taught me the two uneasily cohabiting modes of thought that are central to the scientific method.”

Carl Sagan

Carl Sagan was born on Friday giving him Venus as his INNER ruler. Venus ruled people are usually gentle souls who want the approval of friends and foes alike. Of course, that is a pretty tall order in the world that we are living in now. As a Scorpio Sun Sign his OUTER ruler is Mars, adding drive and grit to his character. This Venus and Mars INNER OUTER combination often produces people great charisma and popularity, and that seems to be case here. As stated in several other Dayology delineations #68 FRI SCO folks often act as advocates or crusaders.

During his life Carl Sagan wore many hats including: astronomer, cosmologist, astrophysicist, astrobiologist, author, and science popularizer. He wrote more than 600 scientific papers and articles, but he is known primarily for three accomplishments. First Sagan was the co-writer and narrator for Cosmos, which was at the time the most widely watched series in the history of American public television. Secondly he authored the science fiction book, Contact, which was made into the popular film by the same name. Third he skillfully assembled the universal symbols and messages that were sent into space on the Pioneer plaque and the Voyager Golden Record.