Honor Carl Sagan by Helping Protect Science in Policymaking

Dear Friend of CFI,

Did you know that this past Saturday was Carl Sagan Day? Born November 9, 1934, Carl Sagan was an extraordinary astronomer and science communicator who inspired millions with the wonders of science and helped to found the skepticism movement and what would become the Center for Inquiry. To honor his memory, we are asking friends and supporters to contact their congressional representatives and urge them to support the Preserve Science in Policymaking Act (H.R. 4557) to protect science-based policy from political attacks.

A professor of astronomy at Cornell University, Sagan proposed that the surface conditions of the planet Venus were dry and extremely hot (900 degrees Fahrenheit), attributable to the greenhouse effect, a controversial hypothesis at the time. He also proposed that liquid compound oceans might be present on Saturn’s moon Titan and that Jupiter’s moon Europa possesses liquid water. All of these ideas were later confirmed by experiments.

His award-winning 1980 television series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage is the most widely watched series in the history of public television. Viewed by at least 500 million people in sixty countries, this landmark cultural event also inspired a follow-up series, Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, hosted by astrophysicist and Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) Fellow Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Sagan was a founding member of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP, later renamed CSI), and is a fellow of that organization. CSI is now a program of CFI. Sagan published several articles in CSI’s magazine, Skeptical Inquirer, including this timeless 1995 piece in which he explored the tension between openness and certainty that lies at the heart of science-informed skepticism and the need for humility in the face of this contradiction.

To honor Dr. Sagan’s memory, CFI invites you to request that your congressional representatives cosponsor the Preserve Science in Policymaking Act (H.R. 4557) to protect federal science advisory committees from disbanding and politicization. The Act, introduced by Rep. Sean Casten, a member of the Congressional Freethought Caucus, prohibits the termination of federal advisory committees without an act of Congress.

Rep. Casten introduced this bill in response to the Trump administration’s onslaught against advisory committees on critical issues such as climate change; protecting marine life and mitigating invasive species; more than half of the committees at the Environmental Protection Agency, including Children’s Health Protection; fetal tissue research; and Jason, a military science advisory committee that provides technical expertise on sensitive issues, including the United States’ stockpile of nuclear weapons.

Will you call your representatives today and ask them to cosponsor H.R. 4557? Let’s protect the legacy of science for which Carl Sagan fought so hard. 

 


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