Carl Sagan


Carl Sagan’s Secular Scientific Spirit

An OLLI course at the Reuter Center (UNCA)

Spring 2023 (March 30-May 4)

Course Description:

Eminent astronomer and author Carl Sagan (of “Cosmos” fame), was a popular interpreter of science and skepticism. His work on the Voyager spacecraft parallels his exploratory voyages into matters of religion. In this class we will venture with Sagan on his journeys to the far reaches of reason and belief. With a freethinker’s framework, we will engage his most creative questions that impact the future of both science and religion.

Recommended Texts: The Demon-haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark; The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God


Week One: (March 30): Introduction to the Life and Work of Carl Sagan

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Screen:  Sagan images

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Secular Scientific Spirit

Video:  “We are children of the stars”

Week Two: A Scientist’s Search for God/Supernatural

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Authority, Natural Theology and Revelation

Thomas Paine: True Theology

Center of the Universe?

Curiosity and Intelligence

Video:  “Center of the Universe” (“Lost Lecture” at Cornell)

Week Three: Candles of Critical Thinking Confronting the Demons of the Dark

Demon-haunted World + Earth

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Pale Blue Dot

Candle in the Dark

Scientific Method // Religious Method

Superstition and Pseudoscience

Video:  Pale Blue Dot (from Carl Sagan.com)

Week Four: Nones & Nonsense: Calling Baloney Baloney (the challenge of pseudo-science and pseudo-religion)

UFOs, Miracles and Skeptical Scrutiny

Video:  Baloney Detection Kit (Shermer)

Video:  Skepticism (last interview 1996)

Week Five: Ann Druyan and Sasha Sagan: The Next Generation

Video:  Tyson on Cosmos (S1 E1)

Video: Sasha Sagan (2:30-17:40) and Ann Druyan (science communicator, producer of Cosmos), 26:00: speech at FFRF convention, Boston, 2021)

Week Six: (May 4):  Contact: is there intelligent life. . .on earth?
Beyond the Boundaries of Belief

Starman (Bowie)

James Webb Telescope Images

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The Planetary Society

Carl Sagan

SETI (intro video)

Video:  Star Trek (Voyager opening)

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