Dawkins on Sagan

This tribute appeared alongside others in the March/April 1997 issue of Skeptical Inquirer, whose current issue features a picture of Dr. Sagan on the cover.

In my review for The Times of London, of The Demon-Haunted World, I mentioned a chapter heading of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos: “Who Speaks for Earth?”. I went on that it was “a rhetorical question that expects no particular answer, but I presume to give it one. My candidate for planetary ambassador, my own nominee to present our credentials in galactic chancelleries, can be none other than Carl Sagan himself. He is wise, humane, polymathic, gentle, witty, well-read, and incapable of composing a dull sentence.” In the Financial Times this year, I described him as “a beacon of clear light in a dark world of alien abductions and ‘real-life X-files’, of psychic charlatans and New Age airheads, of fatcat astrologers giggling all the way to the millennium.” I met him only once, so my feeling of desolation and loss at his death is based entirely on his writings. Carl Sagan was one of the great literary stylists of our age, and he did it by giving proper weight to the poetry of science. It is hard to think of anyone whom our planet can so ill afford to lose.

– Richard Dawkins