Afternoon Inquisition

AI: Remember Remember Carl Sagan was born in November

What up peeps! It’s Saturday! And it’s November 6, which is Carl Sagan’s birthday… and a nice reminder that if I’m going to have that “from scratch” pie ready for Thanksgiving, I have to get bustin’ on creating that universe.

So, let’s keep it simps.

Sagan was a major inspiration to many skeptics, how has he inspired you? Who else has inspired you to do great skepticy things? Do you have a recipe for Cassiopeia? Imma need some of that for my pie.

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 3pm ET.


Elyse MoFo Anders is the bad ass behind forming the Women Thinking, inc and the superhero who launched the Hug Me! I'm Vaccinated campaign as well as podcaster emeritus, writer, slacktivist extraordinaire, cancer survivor and sometimes runs marathons for charity. You probably think she's awesome so you follow her on twitter.

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  1. I’ve been catching up on Geek a Week recently and one of the stock questions asks which TV program influenced your geeky upbringing the most. Without a question for me it was Carl Sagan’s _Cosmos_. It was not only about space which I dearly loved, but I admired the way he explained incredibly complicated things.

  2. If you were taking a poll I would vote for “The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark.”
    Sagan takes apart all sorts of beliefs, and exposes many of the horrible things that have been done throughout the ages because of them. And it shows science defeating and getting rid of superstitions and other obstacles for human progress.
    Other crucial skeptical books have been for me Richard Dawkins’ “The selfish gene” and Steven Pinker’s “How the Mind Works” and “The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature”. In different ways, as they are more strictly scientific treatises than skeptical/anti-beliefs, but still really important contributions.
    Oh, and Daniel Dennett’s “Darwin’s Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life”.
    And I’m sorry, but I can’t help you with the recipe…

  3. I am obsessed with the Symphony of Science songs :) I really only vaguely remember the Cosmos series as a kid. I’ve been trying to watch it on Netflix, but I need to stop putting it on at bedtime. His voice is so soothing, it puts me right to sleep!

    Pretty much entire crew of people who worked on Nova when I was a kid are responsible for my geekery.

    Regarding the recipe, I’m not sure exactly how long to cook it, but you can find the ingredients here:

  4. Growing up in the 50’s and 60’s, I guess I’d have to say my biggest influence was Isaac Asimov, more for his non-fiction than his fiction. Heinlein, too, but I think more because his ‘good guys’ were mostly critical thinkers without being emotionless automatons.

  5. Is it okay if it is not Carl Sagan? Because I would say that Phil Plait and PZ Myers were my major influence when it comes to skepticism. Of course, I have read two of Sagan’s works, and have watched the TV series, and wow, they are really good. I remember The Demon Haunted World and the series of chapters on UFO, and how thoroughly he debunked it. I can see how he was an inspiration to a lot of skeptics.

  6. Sagan was a major inspiration to many skeptics, how has he inspired you?

    Carl Sagan inspired me with wonder and awe during the initial run of Cosmos, and then, many years later, with intellectual excitement and a sense of hope through such works as The Demon-Haunted World, and more recently with The Varieties of Scientific Experience.

    Who else has inspired you to do great skepticy things?

    Well, I’ve not done much in the way of actually doing “great skepticy things”, but Steven Pinker, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and for a while Michael Shermer (though his candle of credibility has diminished drastically with his ongoing faith-based proselytization and propagandizing of Libertarianism), have all played a major role in introducing me to and in teaching me critical thinking and skepticism.

  7. As a kid, definitely Isaac Asimov. As an adult, Kendrick Frazier led me from Science News to the Skeptical Inquirer, long ago, which I’ve read religiously ;-) since 1985. Recently, Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy web site and blog led me to the online skeptical community which pointed me to my local skeptics group.

    So Sagan was just one of many, though I’ve known of him for as long as I can remember.

    As for dong great skepticy things, that has consisted mostly of reading books, getting drunk at SitP’s and posting snarky/wannabee funny stuff on BA and here, and (very occasionally) attempting to explicate something on BA.

  8. I wrote an entire post on my blog about exactly this!

    Short version: I saw Cosmos as a young kid and it really connected with me. I read Demon Haunted World in my early 30s and began my learning about what a skeptic is. Sagan fired my imagination as a child, and sharpened my mind as an adult. How do you even begin trying to calculate the impact of that?

    (the long version in my blog post is written much better, I promise!)

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