Quotes Tagged "carl-sagan"
When my husband died, because he was so famous and known for not being a believer, many people would come up to me-it still sometimes happens-and ask me if Carl changed at the end and converted to a belief in an afterlife. They also frequently ask me if I think I will see him again. Carl faced his death with unflagging courage and never sought refuge in illusions. The tragedy was that we knew we would never see each other again. I don't ever expect to be reunited with Carl. But, the great thing is that when we were together, for nearly twenty years, we lived with a vivid appreciation of how brief and precious life is. We never trivialized the meaning of death by pretending it was anything other than a final parting. Every single moment that we were alive and we were together was miraculous-not miraculous in the sense of inexplicable or supernatural. We knew we were beneficiaries of chance. . . . That pure chance could be so generous and so kind. . . . That we could find each other, as Carl wrote so beautifully in Cosmos, you know, in the vastness of space and the immensity of time. . . . That we could be together for twenty years. That is something which sustains me and it’s much more meaningful. . . . The way he treated me and the way I treated him, the way we took care of each other and our family, while he lived. That is so much more important than the idea I will see him someday. I don't think I'll ever see Carl again. But I saw him. We saw each other. We found each other in the cosmos, and that was wonderful.
I don't think science is hard to teach because humans aren't ready for it, or because it arose only through a fluke, or because, by and large, we don't have the brainpower to grapple with it. Instead, the enormous zest for science that I see in first-graders and the lesson from the remnant hunter-gatherers both speak eloquently: A proclivity for science is embedded deeply within us, in all times, places, and cultures. It has been the means for our survival. It is our birthright. When, through indifference, inattention, incompetence, or fear of skepticism, we discourage children from science, we are disenfranchising them, taking from them the tools needed to manage their future.
Every now and then, I'm lucky enough to teach a kindergarten or first-grade class. Many of these children are natural-born scientists - although heavy on the wonder side, and light on skepticism. They're curious, intellectually vigorous. Provocative and insightful questions bubble out of them. They exhibit enormous enthusiasm. I'm asked follow-up questions. They've never heard of the notion of a 'dumb question'. But when I talk to high school seniors, I find something different. They memorize 'facts'. By and large, though, the joy of discovery, the life behind those facts has gone out of them. They've lost much of the wonder and gained very little skepticism. They're worried about asking 'dumb' questions; they are willing to accept inadequate answers, they don't pose follow-up questions, the room is awash with sidelong glances to judge, second-by-second, the approval of their peers. They come to class with their questions written out on pieces of paper, which they surreptitiously examine, waiting their turn and oblivious of whatever discussion their peers are at this moment engaged in. Something has happened between first and twelfth grade. And it's not just puberty. I'd guess that it's partly peer pressure not to excel - except in sports, partly that the society teaches short-term gratification, partly the impression that science or mathematics won't buy you a sports car, partly that so little is expected of students, and partly that there are few rewards or role-models for intelligent discussion of science and technology - or even for learning for it's own sake. Those few who remain interested are vilified as nerds or geeks or grinds. But there's something else. I find many adults are put off when young children pose scientific questions. 'Why is the Moon round?', the children ask. 'Why is grass green?', 'What is a dream?', 'How deep can you dig a hole?', 'When is the world's birthday?', 'Why do we have toes?'. Too many teachers and parents answer with irritation, or ridicule, or quickly move on to something else. 'What did you expect the Moon to be? Square?' Children soon recognize that somehow this kind of question annoys the grown-ups. A few more experiences like it, and another child has been lost to science.