I posted this squib on Facebook
On FB and elsewhere I have been reading tributes to Carl Sagan from people who praise him for his prophetic insight into America's cultural decline. In fact, Carl Sagan was a primary symptom of American cultural decline, and the popularity of his TV performances was evidence that our country was aready hopeless. He accepted and promoted virtually every leftist cliché, advocated a simple-minded materialism that excluded the divine, constantly ridiculed religion and anyone who believed in God yet he wasted huge amounts of other people's money in a futile search for extra-terrestrial life forms, which, he declared, were immortal, all-knowing, and perfectly good. Gee, those are the attributes of a God! In his infantile book/TV show Cosmos, he actually plagiarized the Encyclopedia Britannica in his account of how an evil Christian mob lynched the philosopher Hypatia.
If decent Christian Americans have ever had an enemy, it was certainly Carl Sagan. When I argued this with a scientist friend 40 years ago, he tried to tell me that Sagan was a major scientist. Provoked by my mockery, he tried to find out what Sagan's scientific accomplishments were. He came up with very little. Sagan was just one more PT Barnum taking advantage of the suckers that were born every minute.
Bob Geraci added this caveat: Sagan was so much worse than a Barnum because the latter alway said he was a showman whereas the former was a charlatan to his core, so corrupted that he didn't even know as such, to which I responded:
Thanks for the needed addition. I thought about making that point but it would have spoiled the mean-spirited ending. I wrote an essay on this subject in the early 1980s.
Tony Esolen commented:
One of the dumbest things Sagan ever said was that even a child could show that God did not exist, by asking, "Who made God?" Fine way not to bother even trying to understand what the question is, you silly Mr. Sagan, to which Karl Keating responded:
I thought his dumbest claim was that you could prove intelligent extraterrestrial life with mathematics alone: there are so many galaxies, each with so many stars, each with so many planets, and the number of planets is so vast that there must be ([mis]using probability) a tremendous number that are constituted much like Earth, so it's virtually certain (or more than certain!) that there are many planets that developed life like ours and that have intelligent life like ours.
My Marxist pen-pal Bill Haywood (not his name) added:
As I recall Walker Percy exposed Sagan in "Lost in the Cosmos" " "Sagan's book gave me much pleasure," Percy writes, a pleasure which was not diminished (perhaps it was increased) by Sagan's unmalicious, even innocent, scientism, the likes of which I have not encountered since the standard bull sessions in high school and college—up to but not past the sophomore year .... For me it was more diverting than otherwise to see someone sketch the history of Western scientific thought and leave out Judaism and Christianity." To which I responded:
Sagan's use of statistical probability is entirely bogus, both mathematically and methodologically. It is like the equally bogus argument that life could have evolved spontaneously on earth, given, as one scientist friend once informed me, "infinite time and variability of conditions." Ah, but no less an expert than Bernard Crick, co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, dismissed the argument as fantasy and thus had to fall back on spores from outer space, thus reintroducing the infinity mystification. Sagan's answer to the question, why haven't these superior ET's contacted us, was that they are so advanced they don't wanter to tamper with our primitive culture. Beam me up, Scotty! You see. there is this to be said about the unknown: We simply don't know it. Thus to speculate, as Sagan did, and then turn the speculation into an article of belief, is simply bad science and worse logic. The search for intelligent life beyond the stars is not a scientific project at all but a desperate ploy of an absurd superstition. They ghave to find it because in their shallow thinking, the discovery of any life form refutes Christianity. I doubt they'll ever find anything, but hardly a week goes by that we don't hear of some possibility of organic compounds (ammonia, perhaps) on Mars. Once they disprove the existence of God, then they can all become gods and live with Lord Musk on Mars. My friend Walker had a great sense of humor up till the end. Poor Sagan never realized that the joke's on him.
When a student of physics, who had been inspired by Sagan, rejected him as a pop guru along with Stephen J Gould and E.O.Wilson, I pointed out:
Wilson was a pretty humble man. Like many scientists, his studies had dried out and hardened his mind against anything supranatural, but he once told me that he did not criticize Christianity because his wife was a believer. Properly used, sociobiology confirms the Christian/Aristotelian view of man as limited by his nature and his history. That is why he was so hated by leftist scientists like Gould. Everywhere he went, back in the 70's and 80's, he was reviled. Philosophically, he was intensely conservative, as anyone who has grasped the signfigance of natural selection must be. It took many many millions of years, according to their theory, to produce human nature, and our recorded history is roughly 5000 years, nowhere near enough to have any real impact on our basic wiring.