Anonymous asked in Science & MathematicsAstronomy & Space · 1 decade ago

Did Carl Sagan believe in the existence of life on other planets?

I know that Dr. Sagan was a member of SETI. I think he was brilliant.

My Fiancee was asking me if Sagan believed in life elsewhere, and I told her that he eventually concluded that there isn't any. Was I wrong?

What did he believe?

7 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    I studied under Carl Sagan for 4 years, and was friendly with him and went to his house many times.

    Of course he believed in life elsewhere. Most any knowledgeable scientist in that or related fields believed that even then. The question is only one of frequency of occurrence, and that was a question that he could not hope to answer.

    He knew that there are 100 billion stars in our galaxy. And 100's of billions of galaxies. And he supposed that most stars have planets (as we know today to be true). And he knew that the primitive amino acids that are the basic building blocks of life occur quite easily when dishing up a broth of primeval soup out of chemicals found on a primitive earth.

    So he was certain that there is life on other planets -- around other stars.

    Did he believe in the existence of life on other planets of our solar system? Well he didn't rule it out, but he found it unlikely. But he was hopeful, and devoted his life to finding out. Hopeful is the word that explains his opinions. Unfortunately he died before it became more likely. Europa for one. Mars is unlikely (in my opinion, not his.)

    In my opinion, I believe that life occurs anywhere it can, and that is --most everywhere where conditions are right. Europa for example, perhaps. But intelligent life--very very rare among the planets that do harbor life. Its a matter of how stable the planet is to provide 4+ billion years of reasonable conditions.

    Source(s): I have a Ph.D. in Astronomy from Cornell in 1972. Carl Sagan was my advisor.
  • kinkel
    Lv 4
    4 years ago

    Carl Sagan On Aliens

  • Gail
    Lv 4
    5 years ago

    I think it's possible that life exists on other planets. The fact that it happened once means it's certainly possible, and the vast number of solar systems in the universe increases the likelihood that it may have happened again. However, the existence of other life throughout the universe is something physical that can be tested, even if we don't have the ability to test it right now. The existence of the supernatural (i.e. god) can never be tested, not now, nor in the future, and remains unproven. There's no evidence to suggest that any supernatural intervention has taking place in this universe and therefore no reason to assume anything supernatural does exist. For one thing, if in the absence of evidence for existence or nonexistence, we should assume that a god does indeed exist, which one are we to assume it is? You capitalize God as if there's a specific one we should be looking to, but for what reason should we assume we'd know anything about which god this is or what it's like? Most if not all religious stories and holy texts have been shown to be factually incorrect in the claims they make, so it's rather irrational to assume it's the god of any particular religion. This "god" could be something no one has ever conceived of. Perhaps this supposed higher power couldn't care less about what happens in the universe and doesn't interfere with it in any way. But even assuming that deistic position would be claiming to know something that has no evidence to support it. It'd be irrational to assume any particular concept of a god we might have actually exists, without any evidence to suggest it does. We may not be able to directly test for the supernatural. But with no evidence to suggest such a thing exists, why assume it does? In any other rational situation the default position when presented with a positive claim with no evidence is to not accept the claim until evidence is provided. An existing supernatural being that has no effect on and leaves no trace of itself in our universe, is the same as a nonexistent being.

  • suitti
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    I'm often asked the question, "Do you think there is extraterrestrial intelligence?" I give the standard arguments -- there are a lot of places out there, and use the word *billions*, and so on. And then I say it would be astonishing to me if there weren't extraterrestrial intelligence, but of course there is as yet no compelling evidence for it. And then I'm asked, "Yeah, but what do you really think?" I say, "I just told you what I really think." "Yeah, but what's your gut feeling?" But I try not to think with my gut. Really, it's okay to reserve judgment until the evidence is in. - Carl Sagan, The Burden Of Skepticism, The Skeptical Inquirer, Vol. 12, Fall 87

  • How do you think about the answers? You can sign in to vote the answer.
  • 1 decade ago

    No, he simply considered it an unanswered question. And he thought the answer had very important implications, whether yes or no.

    Somewhere, I think it was in his book _The Demon Haunted World_ but I can't find the quote right now, he said something along the lines of 'People often ask me if I believe in extraterrestrial life or not, as if I have to adopt either the belief in it or against it. I just tell them I don't believe one way or the other, I try not to just 'believe' in things, I would prefer to wait until enough evidence comes along to make a decision that has nothing to do with belief.'

    I'm sure I butchered the quote quite well, but that's the jist of it.

  • 5 years ago


Still have questions? Get your answers by asking now.