Carl Sagan vs Von Däniken

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a) Scientist Carl Sagan was open about his criticisms towards Von Daniken when he spoke to someone who was to interview Von Daniken for Playboy in 1974, and spoke about the idea that astronomers sent signals into space being a common misconception. This was for the August edition of Playboy, and well a few months later that year in November, a message was transmitted into space from the Aricebo radio telescope aimed at the globular star cluster M13 some 25,000 light years away.  

proponent of healthy skepticism,
Professor Carl Sagan,
(Nov 9, 1934 – Dec 20, 1996)

b) However from his memories of Carl Sagan on an televisions interview discussing the phenomena of UFOs, Von Daniken found reason to be not so impressed with Carl Sagan's ability to think about anything mysterious such as UFOs without thinking them to be anything but delusions.

c) Sagan later contributed a forwards to Ron Story's "The Space Gods Revealed: A Close Look At The Theories of Erich Von Däniken", in which he himself was able to humour the oddity of the controversy that Von Däniken had created, saying that his book was constructed using sloppy thinking and he also hoped for the continuing popularity of books like Chariots of the Gods? in hight school and college logic course, as object lessons in sloppy thinking. He knew of no then recent books so riddled in logical and factual errors as the work of Von Däniken. However the kindest thing he could say about von Däniken was that he ignores the science of archeology, every time he saw something he couldn't understand, he attributed it to extra-terrestrial intelligence and since Von Däniken understood almost nothing, he saw evidence of extraterrestrials all over the place.

Carl Sagan in The Case of the Ancient Astronauts, BBC Horizon/ PBS Nova 1977

d) However Carl Sagan viewed the idea that we are or were once visited by powerful benign beings who live in the sky basically follows a religious idea but the terminology is slightly different. We don't talk about angels but instead we talk about extra-terrestrials, but the emotional significance is identical. So at a time when for whatever reason religions have declined in the degree to which the average person believes in them but the same emotional needs are there. At a time when society's in occasionally rather dire straights, it would be very nice to believe that there are powerful beings that look after us up there in the sky and they dip in and make things right and goodness, and Carl would be delighted if that happened, but it's a dangerous doctrine if false, because it might for example lead humanity to do less than their own best efforts to put things right
  1. See: Aricebo Message
  2. Playboy: On another subject, you write, "Our radio astronomers send signals into the universe to make contact with unknown intelligence." But in fact no such experiment has ever been performed.

    Von Däniken: Oh , it has, Sagan should know this very well

    Playboy: Well, we asked Sagan about it. He called it a common misconception. He added , as an opinion of your work:  "The kindest thing I can say about Von Daniken is that he ignores the science of archeology. Every time he sees something he can't understand, he attributes it to extraterrestrial intelligence, and since he understands almost nothing, he sees evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence all over the planet."

    Von Däniken: Yes, Well, once in the States I watched a TV program with Sagan, J. Allen Hynek, the UFO specialist from Northwestern University, and two or three other gentlemen. One was a helicopter pilot who said he encountered a UFO that turned the air blue. He and three other men aboard the helicopter tried to make a quick landing, but some unknown force lifted them thousands of feet, then suddenly went away. Sagan said they must have suffered from a delusion. Hynek said, "What about the altimeter? Did it have a delusion. too?  After the program, those of us watching decided that a man like Sagan thinks he is the only one to whom everybody else should listen, and people who see UFOs should have to convince scientists like him that what they say is true. We decided, no, they should not have to convince such scientists, because the scientists do now want to be convinced (Playboy August 1974 )   
  3. Carl Sagan: I hope that one salutary consequence of books like Chariot of the Gods? will be a resurgence in the exciting field called archeology, which covers, among other things, the study of how ancient monuments were in fact constructed. A fascinating introduction to this subject is contained in the book the Ancient Engineers by L. Sprague de Camp. The present book by Ron Story among its other virtues provides a very pleasant excursion amongst some of the more interesting monuments and artifacts of ancient human civilisations. I also hope for the continuing popularity of books like Chariots of the Gods? in high school and college logic courses, as object lessons in sloppy thinking. I know of no recent books so riddled in logical and factual errors as the work of von Däniken. A careful reading of chariots of the gods with a cheerful guidance of Ron Story and a dollop of reasonable skepticism can do a substantial amount of good in a society daily asked to believe contentions even more implausible than those of Erich von Däniken. We need practice in skepticism as recent politic all events have so clearly demonstrated. (Space Gods revealed.1976))
  4. Carl Sagan: The idea that we are being visited or were once visited by powerful benign beings who live in the sky is after a religious idea, the terminology is slightly different, we don't talk about angels, we talk about extra-terrestrials but the emotional significance is identical. So at a time when for whatever reason religions have gradually declined in the degree to which the average person believes in them but the same emotional needs are there. At a time when our society's in occasionally rather dire straights, it would be very nice to believe that there are powerful beings that look after us up there in the sky and they dip in and make things right and goodness, I would be delighted if that happened, but you see it's a dangerous doctrine if false, because it might for example lead us to do less than our own best efforts to put things right (The Case of the Ancient Astronauts, BBC Horizon/ PBS Nova 1977)

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