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Dec. 20th, 2006 @ 02:59 pm 1 year and 10 years ago today in science "PR"
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1 Year Ago: Scientists, science-teachers, and science-bloggers (including me) across the country celebrated the 139 pages of artwork in the Kitzmiller decision, showing that the courts could recognize what we all knew: ID is nothing but re-packaged creationism.

10 Years Ago: we lost Carl Sagan.  Anniversary memorials are pouring in the science-blogging community.  Ann Druyan, Carl's wife and collaborator, is the best place to start if you're interested in reading about him today.

For myself, I couldn't possibly express the importance of Cosmos to this susceptible 10 year old.  Much of my mind-set came from that work, but in stages as I grew older and was able to interpret more of it.  First I learned the facts of the planets.  Next I learned of the people who discovered those facts; Cosmos was quite particular in also talking about their personal flaws and the mistakes they made along the way.  Next, in combination with James Burke's Connections, I better understood the order of things, how each one necessarily discovered what they found because of what came before them - there are few "eureka" moments and never a "see, I was right all the time" sentiment came from any of them.  Finally, I see the interconnectedness of all things (yeah, call me Dirk).  That you can segue from Whales to Neurology may seem odd, but like any bridge in music or poetry, it's just a matter of making the connections.

Artistically, I also learned much - one "split" in me is that I do tend to label music even as I can argue and insist that "it's all just music".  Cosmos was an inspiration in that as well.  The background music freely mixed baroque, classical, avant-gard, film music, early electronic "new-age" (Tomita, Vangelis), and rock and blues, as if there was no reason to divide them. Because there wasn't - it was all music, all valuable, all good, all part of our terrestrial heritage.

Extrapolate to science and I think you can see into his mind: all the sciences are the same - they are science.  Though his specialty was astronomy, he could present all the sciences equally because they are equal.

From Cosmos, I also learned a bit about skepticism, something delved into more deeply in his seminal work, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark.

But I also learned about Hope.

While "hope" remains a major part of Jesus's message, in modern times it is tainted by a fear - fear of the unknown, fear of punishment (just and unjust), fear of that which is different.  The church as we know it can harbor a deep darkness, one which even in my own church I am no longer comfortable being around - the irony of the church claiming to be a source of light and illumination is not lost on me.  I was fortunate that my mother also would not tolerate the darkness in some mens' and some churches' hearts, and picked the church we grew up in because of the light they chose to bring rather than the darkness many choose to present as the reality of the world that they claim to be the savior to.  Such churches breed the pain we have today and I refuse to believe that is the message that Jesus wanted to present by any stretch of the imagination.

My childhood church didn't live in fear - it lived in hope.

Carl Sagan's Cosmos also lived in hope.  Everything is possible in science.  Not only possible, it's likely, as long as you don't give up, fall back on the "known" and just say "it can't be solved" or "God did it, that's enough for me."  Such thoughts are a dead end for knowledge, and as such a dead-end for our species and our future.  Yes, every answer raises more questions, just as every missing link is two more gaps in the fossil record.  Such is the ultimate in hope - that there is always something more to know, so we can always keep learning.  In this, there is always hope for the future.

Where "Star Trek" is the embodiment for some of what we hope to be, Cosmos presents Carl's hope of how to get there

Or to get whereever else we hope to be.

For Carl, keep hoping.
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From:kiltboy
Date:December 20th, 2006 09:03 pm (UTC)
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Damned well said.
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From:javasaurus
Date:December 20th, 2006 09:39 pm (UTC)
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Wonderful write-up. Thank you!