Overcome Our Fear of Being Tiny July 9, 2010

Overcome Our Fear of Being Tiny

by Jesse Galef –

Carl Sagan is right up there with Richard Feynman in my list of heroes. When Sagan talks about the universe and our place in it, I can’t help but feel a profound sense of awe – first at the cosmos, and then at his ability to impact me that way. I imagine others have the same experience.

Yesterday, PZ posted a beautiful video put together by youtube user callumCGLP of the audio from Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot book-on-tape with images from Stephen Hawking’s Into the Universe and Brian Cox’s Wonders of the Solar System. I sat captivated and knew I had to share it:

Carl Sagan: A Universe Not Made For Us:

Once we overcome our fear of being tiny, we find ourselves on the threshold of a vast and awesome universe that utterly dwarfs in time, in space, and in potential the tidy anthropocentric proscenium of our ancestors.

Wonderful. Have a great Friday!


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  • This video is amazing. When I saw it on PZ’s blog I immediately shared it with everybody I knew.

  • Dan

    At 4:59 Carl Sagan says:

    We gaze across billions of light years of space, to view the universe shortly after the big bang.

    It reminds me of the great umbrage I feel knowing how many Christians try and stifle science. If only they would look at science in the fields of cosmology as a way to prove to us non-believers that god did create the universe. By which I mean, if we spend time studying the edges of the universe, perhaps we’d find out what’s over the edge – and maybe we’d see their god.

    And if their god, or someone else’s god is really out there, I sure want to know about it!

    But the Universe is expanding faster than we can see through it. Every minute a Christian (or member of any religion/faith) wastes on ignoring science is a minute we could be using to figure out a way to move faster than the speed of light. A way to view the edge and know, possibly for certain, how things came to be.

    Maybe that is what the Christian (or other believer) wants. To prevent progress until it’s too late, so science CAN NOT prove either way, thus allowing them to relish forever in their faith, which needs no evidence. It’s as if they’re waiting for the bad news of there being no god to expand out of reach of human sight, reach, and knowledge.

  • Dan

    At 6:16 Carl Sagan talks about the Garden Of Eden, how it was about us being forbidden to seek knowledge.

    I suppose God changed his mind. Because Jesus was a teacher. An educator. A job that goes hand-in-hand with knowledge. So what happened? God wanted Adam and Eve ignorant, they disobeyed, and now God decided to become human and start teaching?

    That’s the second change of mind that I’ve heard now, second to God resetting the earth with a flood.

  • sarah

    I was in awe of the Garden of Eden, living in ignorance part. Just beautiful.

    “we are the custodians of life’s meaning. We long for a parent to care
    for us, to forgive us our errors, to save us from our childish
    mistakes, but knowledge is preferable to ignorance. better by far to
    embrace the hard truth than a reassuring fable.”

    Isn’t that just a beautifully amazing statement? To say “WE are the custodians of life’s meaning” is so deep and profound and hearing Carl Sagan say it is even better.

    I feel like my life is fuller because I know I am in control of it, not some fable in the sky.

  • Dan W

    That video is awesome. When I saw it on Pharyngula I quickly favorited it on my Youtube channel. I especially loved the last few minutes of it, where Carl Sagan said (and I’m paraphrasing here) that we make our own meaning to our lives.

  • muggle

    Awesome video! Thanks for sharing it, Jesse. The man had a way with words and explaining things nicely and his words to that picture show. Fantastic.

  • Flail

    In a way, the garden story makes sense. We could never tolerate living for eternity if we had a working mind… the sheer monotony of a trillion years of living would never work. Thats one thing that has always bugged me about the concept of heaven. Being conscious for a trillion trillion years would be nothing short of a mental hell. In order for heaven to work, everyone would have to completely surrender their mind.