Sagan, Carl The Cosmic Connection

Cosmic Perspectives

The universe is vast and awesome, and for the first time we are becoming a part of it.
For centuries, Man lived in a universe that seemed safe and cozy—even tidy. Earth was the cynosure of creation and Man the pinnacle of mortal life. But these quaint and comforting notions have not stood the test of time.

Charles Darwin’s insights into natural selection have shown that there are no evolutionary pathways leading unerringly from simple forms to Man; rather, evolution proceeds by fits and starts, and most life forms lead to evolutionary dead-ends. We are the products of a long series of biological accidents. In the cosmic perspective there is no reason to think that we are the first or the last or the best.

Man is a transitional animal. He is not the climax of creation. The future development of man will likely be a cooperative arrangement among controlled biological evolution, genetic engineering, and an intimate partnership between organisms and intelligent machines.

These realizations of the Copernican and Darwinian revolutions are profound—and, to some, disturbing. But they bring with them compensatory insights. We realize our deep connectedness with other life forms, both simple and complex. We know that the atoms that make us up were synthesized in the interiors of previous generations of dying stars. We are aware of our deep connection, both in form and in matter, with the rest of the universe. The cosmos revealed to us by the new advances in astronomy and biology is far grander and more awesome than the tidy world of our ancestors. And we are becoming a part of it, the cosmos as it is, not the cosmos of our desires.

Mankind now stands at several historical branching points. We are on the threshold of a preliminary reconnaissance of the cosmos. For the first time in his history, Man is capable of sending his instruments and himself from his home planet to explore the universe around him.

There is today—in a time when old beliefs are withering—a kind of philosophical hunger, a need to know who we are and how we got here. There is an ongoing search, often unconscious, for a cosmic perspective for humanity.