Prophet of Reason


10 years ago, almost to the minute, I was sat at a bar having too many beers. Normally, in this sort of setting, I would have been laughing, carrying on, and making an ass of myself in a goofy and idiotic way.

But on this particular night, I saw something come across the screen of one of the TVs that had me sobbing in my beer like a country music cliché.

Professor Sagan had passed away.

Sagan in 1996
Sagan in 1996

Most of the other bar patrons probably thought I had just had one too many brewskies, but the loss of professor Sagan still makes me sad. It’s been ten years now, and (with all due respect to Professor Hawking) no one has stepped forward to carry on Sagan’s work of making science popular to the masses. I can remember seeing Sagan on TV when I was little, and thinking, “Man, astrophysics is cool!” I may have been a tad more nerdy than the average boy, but I don’t think that very many boys have eminent scientists as role models these days.

Everybody, it seems, is under the impression that the entertainment industry is the place to be. Movie stars, rock stars, professional athletes, and other worthless professions seem to top the list of “what I want to be when I grow up.”

It works, bitches
from XKCD

This is a sorry state of affairs. The Church of Reason needs a new prophet to inspire the next generation that it is a better thing to be smart than to be cool.

I would love to believe that when I die I will live again, that some thinking, feeling, remembering part of me will continue. But as much as I want to believe that, and despite the ancient and worldwide cultural traditions that assert an afterlife, I know of nothing to suggest that it is more than wishful thinking.

— Carl Sagan. 1995

This year, as part of my winter solstice observance, I intend to raise a glass (or two, or three…) to the memory of Carl Sagan, and wish upon a star for a new cosmic holy man, who can inspire awe and wonder in the minds of young geeks.

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