Editor's comment

Astronomer and advocate of space exploration, Carl Sagan describes the modern world-view of the development of life on Earth.

The great public interest in space exploration may be an expression of a yearning for cosmic connections. Once humans thought they were the central actors in a universal drama. Does the search for extraterrestrial intelligent life today represent a longing to find partners in space and still the fears of cosmic loneliness?


Sagan, Carl The Cosmic Connection, Anchor Press, Doubleday Garden City, New York 1973 [abstract— 390 words]— expressing the longing for a cosmic perspective

About five billion years ago in Earth’s early oceans molecular collisions produced larger molecules. Under the inexorable laws of chemistry and physics these molecules interacted and formed molecules much more complex.

Eventually a molecule was formed that was able to produce, out of the molecular building blocks of the surrounding waters, a fairly accurate copy of itself. Such a molecular system—capable of replication, mutation, and replication of its mutations—can be called “alive.” Evolving by change and natural selection the first cells arose and life forms of all kinds developed.

A very useful adaptation is the ability of an organism to control its environment. Mankind has prospered because he can do this well. But there is no reason to think that the evolutionary process has stopped. 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…

Anciently humans banded together in interrelated tribes. Loyalty to the tribe made for evolutionary success. Tribes coalesced and expanded and the allegiance of an individual human being was to his particular nation-state, religion, race, or economic group. Now it is time for allegiance to mankind as a whole. And, further, it is time for respect not just for all human beings, but also for all life forms.

Cosmic Perspective
The universe is vast and awesome, and for the first time we are becoming a part of it. Our Sun is an ordinary star, one of some two hundred billion that make up the Milky Way Galaxy that is one of billions of other galaxies strewn though the vastness of space.

Humans are the evolutionary product of a long series of biological accidents but in the cosmic perspective, there is no reason to think that we are the first or the last or the best.

We have become aware of our deep connection, both in form and in matter, with the rest of the universe. There is great interest in space exploration. 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.