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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index S > Carl Sagan Quotes > Skepticism

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Carl Sagan
(9 Nov 1934 - 20 Dec 1996)

American astronomer, exobiologist and writer remembered for popularizing astronomy and science, especially with his public television series Cosmos. Its accompanying book spent seventy weeks on The New York Times bestseller list. He was an adviser to NASA for the Mariner, Voyager, and Viking unmanned space missions.



In a lot of scientists, the ratio of wonder to skepticism declines in time. That may be connected with the fact that in some fields—mathematics, physics, some others—the great discoveries are almost entirely made by youngsters.
— Carl Sagan
Quoted in interview with magazine staff, Psychology Today (Jan 1996).
Science quotes on:  |  Connection (87)  |  Decline (12)  |  Discovery (601)  |  Enthusiasm (35)  |  Fact (628)  |  Mathematics (597)  |  Physics (304)  |  Ratio (16)  |  Scientist (459)  |  Skepticism (18)  |  Wonder (152)  |  Youth (62)

It is the tension between creativity and skepticism that has produced the stunning and unexpected findings of science.
— Carl Sagan
In Broca’s Brain: Reflections on the Romance of Science (1974, 1986), 73.
Science quotes on:  |  Creativity (70)  |  Finding (30)  |  Production (107)  |  Science (1741)  |  Skepticism (18)  |  Stunning (4)  |  Tension (7)  |  Unexpected (26)

Skepticism enables us to distinguish fancy from fact, to test our speculations.
— Carl Sagan
In Cosmos (1980), 4.
Science quotes on:  |  Distinguish (35)  |  Enable (26)  |  Fact (628)  |  Fancy (17)  |  Skepticism (18)  |  Speculation (77)  |  Test (101)

Some ideas are better than others. The machinery for distinguishing them is an essential tool in dealing with the world and especially in dealing with the future. And it is precisely the mix of these two modes of thought [skeptical scrutiny and openness to new ideas] that is central to the success of science.
— Carl Sagan
In 'The Burden of Skepticism', Skeptical Inquirer (Fall 1987), 12, No. 1.
Science quotes on:  |  Better (146)  |  Distinguish (35)  |  Essential (92)  |  Future (256)  |  Idea (457)  |  Machinery (25)  |  Mix (13)  |  New (380)  |  Openness (5)  |  Science (1741)  |  Scrutiny (13)  |  Skepticism (18)  |  Success (215)  |  Thought (400)  |  Tool (71)

The method of science is tried and true. It is not perfect, it’s just the best we have. And to abandon it, with its skeptical protocols, is the pathway to a dark age.
— Carl Sagan
From a sound clip from CSICOP, now CSI (Committee for Skeptical Inquiry). If you know a more specific citation, please contact Webmaster.
Science quotes on:  |  Abandon (41)  |  Age (146)  |  Best (143)  |  Dark (67)  |  Pathway (11)  |  Perfection (75)  |  Reliability (14)  |  Scientific Method (156)  |  Skepticism (18)

Too much openness and you accept every notion, idea, and hypothesis—which is tantamount to knowing nothing. Too much skepticism—especially rejection of new ideas before they are adequately tested—and you're not only unpleasantly grumpy, but also closed to the advance of science. A judicious mix is what we need.
— Carl Sagan
In 'Wonder and Skepticism', Skeptical Enquirer (Jan-Feb 1995), 19, No. 1.
Science quotes on:  |  Acceptance (43)  |  Adequacy (9)  |  Advancement (37)  |  Especially (20)  |  Hypothesis (231)  |  Idea (457)  |  Knowledge (1148)  |  Mix (13)  |  Need (226)  |  New (380)  |  Nothing (302)  |  Notion (33)  |  Openness (5)  |  Rejection (25)  |  Science (1741)  |  Skepticism (18)  |  Test (101)


See also:
  • 9 Nov - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Sagan's birth.
  • Carl Sagan - context of quote A Subject Called Chemistry - Medium image (500 x 350 px)
  • Carl Sagan - context of quote A Subject Called Chemistry - Large image (800 x 600 px)
  • Carl Sagan - context of quote “Advances in medicine and agriculture” - Medium image (500 x 250 px)
  • Carl Sagan - context of quote “Advances in medicine and agriculture” - Large image (800 x 400 px)
  • Carl Sagan: A Life in the Cosmos, by William Poundstone. - book suggestion.
  • Booklist for Carl Sagan.

Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
Quotations by:Albert EinsteinIsaac NewtonLord KelvinCharles DarwinSrinivasa RamanujanCarl SaganFlorence NightingaleThomas EdisonAristotleMarie CurieBenjamin FranklinWinston ChurchillGalileo GalileiSigmund FreudRobert BunsenLouis PasteurTheodore RooseveltAbraham LincolnRonald ReaganLeonardo DaVinciMichio KakuKarl PopperJohann GoetheRobert OppenheimerCharles Kettering  ... (more people)

Quotations about:Atomic  BombBiologyChemistryDeforestationEngineeringAnatomyAstronomyBacteriaBiochemistryBotanyConservationDinosaurEnvironmentFractalGeneticsGeologyHistory of ScienceInventionJupiterKnowledgeLoveMathematicsMeasurementMedicineNatural ResourceOrganic ChemistryPhysicsPhysicianQuantum TheoryResearchScience and ArtTeacherTechnologyUniverseVolcanoVirusWind PowerWomen ScientistsX-RaysYouthZoology  ... (more topics)
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- 100 -
Sophie Germain
Gertrude Elion
Ernest Rutherford
James Chadwick
Marcel Proust
William Harvey
Johann Goethe
John Keynes
Carl Gauss
Paul Feyerabend
- 90 -
Antoine Lavoisier
Lise Meitner
Charles Babbage
Ibn Khaldun
Euclid
Ralph Emerson
Robert Bunsen
Frederick Banting
Andre Ampere
Winston Churchill
- 80 -
John Locke
Bronislaw Malinowski
Bible
Thomas Huxley
Alessandro Volta
Erwin Schrodinger
Wilhelm Roentgen
Louis Pasteur
Bertrand Russell
Jean Lamarck
- 70 -
Samuel Morse
John Wheeler
Nicolaus Copernicus
Robert Fulton
Pierre Laplace
Humphry Davy
Thomas Edison
Lord Kelvin
Theodore Roosevelt
Carolus Linnaeus
- 60 -
Francis Galton
Linus Pauling
Immanuel Kant
Martin Fischer
Robert Boyle
Karl Popper
Paul Dirac
Avicenna
James Watson
William Shakespeare
- 50 -
Stephen Hawking
Niels Bohr
Nikola Tesla
Rachel Carson
Max Planck
Henry Adams
Richard Dawkins
Werner Heisenberg
Alfred Wegener
John Dalton
- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
Edward Wilson
Johannes Kepler
Gustave Eiffel
Giordano Bruno
JJ Thomson
Thomas Kuhn
Leonardo DaVinci
Archimedes
David Hume
- 30 -
Andreas Vesalius
Rudolf Virchow
Richard Feynman
James Hutton
Alexander Fleming
Emile Durkheim
Benjamin Franklin
Robert Oppenheimer
Robert Hooke
Charles Kettering
- 20 -
Carl Sagan
James Maxwell
Marie Curie
Rene Descartes
Francis Crick
Hippocrates
Michael Faraday
Srinivasa Ramanujan
Francis Bacon
Galileo Galilei
- 10 -
Aristotle
John Watson
Rosalind Franklin
Michio Kaku
Isaac Asimov
Charles Darwin
Sigmund Freud
Albert Einstein
Florence Nightingale
Isaac Newton



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