Interview with Carl Sagan
A = Announcer
BH =Brian Hayes
CS =Dr Carl Sagan

A This is an interview that Dr Carl Sagan gave to the LBC (London Broadcasting Company). The interviewer is Brian Hayes.

BH �We�ve examined the universe in space, and seen that we live on a mote of dust, circling a humdrum star, in the remotest corner of an obscure galaxy.� Well, they�re the words of Dr Carl Sagan, which put us into some kind of cosmic context. The task of communicating the history of the universe was taken on by Dr Sagan in a television series which we�ll see later this year, and a book called Cosmos, published last week. Carl Sagan is Director of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies at Cornell University. He�s been involved in the Mariner, Viking, and Voyager projects. There�s been much argument recently, especially in California, about Man�s origin. Was Darwin right? Do the creationists have a point? Why should we still be arguing about it?
CS Because er … Darwin is again disquieting. Er… many people who feel that there should be something special and central about human beings are unhappy about the quite compelling evidence that we are just another animal connected by many powerful lines of evidence, in an evolutionary sense, to the great apes and monkeys and the other primates. Um and er… they�re made unhappy by this. But I think it�s so much more elevating to find that we are deeply connected with all the other living things on the Earth, than to imagine that there�s something particularly special. If we want to make something special about ourselves, it is within our power to do so. But the idea that we are special through some unearned grace seems to me a little peculiar.
BH The creationists, though, also now seem to be � and I don�t know how it stands up, but � putting forward what they claim to be a scientific argument for a creation as it was told in the erm … Old Testament.
CS Er… they have claimed to do that, but when you look closely it turns out that er… nothing of the sort is being done, and their ideas are utterly bankrupt.
BH If it didn�t begin when the creationists say the universe began, when and how did it?
CS Well, �When?� is one question and �How?� is quite another question. Er… there seems to be er… very strong, although perhaps not absolutely compelling evidence, that the universe is expanding, the more distant galaxies are running away from us er… faster than the nearby galaxies, and if we run this cosmic movie backwards, we find that some fifteen thousand million years ago, all the matter in the universe, and all the energy, was confined to an extremely small volume, you can imagine the galaxies touching. That event is called the Big Bang, and the key question is not just how did it happen, but whether that is the first instant in the history of the universe, because it is perfectly possible that the universe has so much matter in it, that the present expansion of the universe will one day slow down and stop, the expansion to be followed by a contraction, all the galaxies plummetting in towards each other. In which case it is perfectly possible that we live in an infinitely old universe, in which all the galaxies, stars, planets, and living organisms are ground to cosmic ashes, at each cusp in the cycle. If that is the sort of universe we live in, then there�s no need to understand a creation, since it was always here. There�s no beginning.
BH And is it because the human mind can�t cope with that concept that we�re constantly trying to find a beginning?
CS Perhaps, but we also can�t co… cope with the concept of a creation, because I know of no plausible explanation of how that happened. There is a standard explanation, which is �God did it�, but er… it seems to me that logic requires that we take the next step and ask �Where did God come from?�, and somehow the theologians all blanch at that er… at that question, and say �God was always here�. Well, that�s fine, but why not save a step and simply say that the universe was always here?

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant: they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser person than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is. Many persons strive for high ideals and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially, do lot feign affection. Neither be cynical about love, for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars. You have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be; and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusions of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham and drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.