Does a popular astrophysicist erode his credibility by publicly criticizing religion? This was, of course, an issue in yesterday’s post on Neil deGrasse Tyson. It behooves us, then, to consider a similar figure from an earlier time: the astrophysicist and science popularizer Carl Sagan.
Cosmos, the famous 13-part series with Sagan as presenter (written by him, Ann Druyan and Steven Soter), is now 32 years old. The original run was short: from September 28 to December 21 of 1980. Around ten years later, Sagan added some 2-minute addenda to bring the episodes up to date.
The series was enormously popular, although I have to confess that I didn’t watch it. I have watched the clips below, which, although a bit histrionic for my taste, nevertheless surprised me with the boldness of Sagan’s attack on faith. And that didn’t seem to have quashed his enormous popularity.
My conclusion, without explanation, is no, and all I’ll say at this point is that I don’t find the term “militant atheist” very useful. I’ll write on it at length some other time.
I definitely agree with you. The term militant Atheist has come to mean an Atheist who is outspoken and even strident. However, if one knows their history, one will realize fairly quickly that there’s no such thing as a non-vocal Atheist. Philosophers who were Atheists came to be known as such because they were vocal. Militant Atheism means nothing and it will remain that way until a fairly large group of Atheists band together with firearms and explosives. Carl Sagan can be put in the same category as Hitchens and Dawkins. However, he’s not as sharp in his criticism. He always found a nicer way to say what would could have been considered strident and/or offensive. He was more Harris-like actually, but of course, less vocal than Sam is.
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