Today is the 4th annual Carl Sagan Day and like so many I find myself thinking about his memory and the legacy that he left us in words, images and video. This year’s theme is “Mars and Curiosity”, both topics that Sagan was very familiar with and especially timely with the Curiosity rover now active on Mars.
That said, I remembered a quote from him that to me embodies the very valuable, humbling fundamental idea behind science, and what separates it from the vast piles of irrational and unsupported beliefs.
In science it often happens that scientists say, “You know that’s a really good argument; my position is mistaken,” and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn’t happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion.
Carl Sagan (1987)
It’s true: in science this actually happens. People actually do accept when they are wrong and simply move on. How much better the world would be, how much greater would be our chances of increasing survivability for our planet and descendents, if we could all do that.