Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors Quotes

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Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors by Carl Sagan
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“Fireflies out on a warm summer's night, seeing the urgent, flashing, yellow-white phosphorescence below them, go crazy with desire; moths cast to the winds an enchantment potion that draws the opposite sex, wings beating hurriedly, from kilometers away; peacocks display a devastating corona of blue and green and the peahens are all aflutter; competing pollen grains extrude tiny tubes that race each other down the female flower's orifice to the waiting egg below; luminescent squid present rhapsodic light shows, altering the pattern, brightness and color radiated from their heads, tentacles, and eyeballs; a tapeworm diligently lays a hundred thousand fertilized eggs in a single day; a great whale rumbles through the ocean depths uttering plaintive cries that are understood hundreds of thousands of kilometers away, where another lonely behemoth is attentively listening; bacteria sidle up to one another and merge; cicadas chorus in a collective serenade of love; honeybee couples soar on matrimonial flights from which only one partner returns; male fish spray their spunk over a slimy clutch of eggs laid by God-knows-who; dogs, out cruising, sniff each other's nether parts, seeking erotic stimuli; flowers exude sultry perfumes and decorate their petals with garish ultraviolet advertisements for passing insects, birds, and bats; and men and women sing, dance, dress, adorn, paint, posture, self-mutilate, demand, coerce, dissemble, plead, succumb, and risk their lives.

To say that love makes the world go around is to go too far. The Earth spins because it did so as it was formed and there has been nothing to stop it since. But the nearly maniacal devotion to sex and love by most of the plants, animals, and microbes with which we are familiar is a pervasive and striking aspect of life on Earth. It cries out for explanation. What is all this in aid of? What is the torrent of passion and obsession about? Why will organisms go without sleep, without food, gladly put themselves in mortal danger for sex? ... For more than half the history of life on Earth organisms seem to have done perfectly well without it. What good is sex?... Through 4 billion years of natural selection, instructions have been honed and fine-tuned...sequences of As, Cs, Gs, and Ts, manuals written out in the alphabet of life in competition with other similar manuals published by other firms. The organisms become the means through which the instructions flow and copy themselves, by which new instructions are tried out, on which selection operates.

'The hen,' said Samuel Butler, 'is the egg's way of making another egg.' It is on this level that we must understand what sex is for. ... The sockeye salmon exhaust themselves swimming up the mighty Columbia River to spawn, heroically hurdling cataracts, in a single-minded effort that works to propagate their DNA sequences into future generation. The moment their work is done, they fall to pieces. Scales flake off, fins drop, and soon--often within hours of spawning--they are dead and becoming distinctly aromatic.

They've served their purpose.

Nature is unsentimental.

Death is built in.”
Carl Sagan, Shadows Of Forgotten Ancestors: A Search For Who We Are
tags: sex
“If the Earth were as old as a person, a typical organism would be born, live and die in a sliver of a second. We are fleeting, transitional creatures, snowflakes fallen on the hearth fire.”
Carl Sagan, Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors
“We are rendering many species extinct; we may even succeed in destroying ourselves. But this is nothing new for the Earth. Humans would then be just the latest in a long sequence of upstart species that arrive on-stage, make some alterations in the scenery, kill off some of the cast, and then themselves exit stage-left forever. New players appear in the next act. The Earth abides. It has seen all this before.”
Carl Sagan, Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors
“Even if we ourselves are not personally scandalized by the notion of other animals as close relatives, even if our age has accommodated to the idea, the passionate resistance of so many of us, in so many epochs and cultures, and by so many distinguished scholars, must say something important about us. What can we learn about ourselves from an apparent error so widespread, propagated by so many leading philosophers and scientists, both ancient and modern, with such assurance and self-satisfaction?

One of several possible answers: A sharp distinction between humans and "animals" is essential if we are to bend them to our will, make them work for us, wear them, eat them--without any disquieting tinges of guilt or regret. With untroubled consciences, we can render whole species extinct--for our perceived short-term benefit, or even through simple carelessness. Their loss is of little import: Those beings, we tell ourselves, are not like us. An unbridgeable gap gas thus a practical role to play beyond the mere stroking of human egos. Darwin's formulation of this answer was: "Animals whom we have made our slaves, we do not like to consider our equals.”
Carl Sagan, Ann Druyan, Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors
“Killing an enemy with teeth and bare hands is emotionally far more demanding than pulling a trigger or pressing a button. In inventing tools and weapons, in contriving civilization, we have disinhibited the controls - sometimes thoughtlessly and inadvertently, but sometimes with cool premeditation. If the beasts who are our nearest relatives engaged recklessly in … mass murder they would have rendered themselves extinct. If our non-human ancestors did it, we would not be here.”
Carl Sagan, Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors
“The wolf stands on its hind legs, places its forelegs on the scientist’s shoulders, and places its jaws around the scientist’s head. This is just the wolf’s way of being friendly. If you’re an animal who doesn’t know how to talk, a very clear signal is communicated: “See my teeth? Feel them? I could hurt you, I really could. But I won’t. I like you.”
Carl Sagan, Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors
“If anything like this is true, then we would be denied even our self-congratulatory distinction of being the only animal that makes self-congratulatory distinctions.”
Carl Sagan, Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors
“The family tree of each of us is graced by all those great inventors: the beings who first tried out self-replication, the manufacture of protein machine tools, the cell, cooperation, predation, symbiosis, photosynthesis, breathing oxygen, sex, hormones, brains, and all the rest-inventions we use, some of them, minute-by-minute without ever wondering who devised them and how much we owe to these unknown benefactors, in a chain 100 billion links long.”
Carl Sagan, Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors
“We go to great lengths to deny our animal heritage, and not just in scientific and philosophical discourse. You can glimpse the denial in the shaving of men’s faces; in clothing and other adornments; in the great lengths gone to in the preparation of meat to disguise the fact that an animal is being killed, flayed, and eaten. The common primate practice of pseudosexual mounting of males by males to express dominance is not widespread in humans, and some have taken comfort from this fact. But the most potent form of verbal abuse in English and many other languages is “Fuck you,” with the pronoun “I” implicit at the beginning. The speaker is vividly asserting his claim to higher status, and his contempt for those he considers subordinate. Characteristically, humans have converted a postural image into a linguistic one with barely a change in nuance. The phrase is uttered millions of times each day, all over the planet, with hardly anyone stopping to think what it means. Often, it escapes our lips unbidden. It is satisfying to say. It serves its purpose. It is a badge of the primate order, revealing something of our nature despite all our denials and pretensions.”
Carl Sagan, Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors
“A new generation gladly abandons its critical and skeptical faculties. Old slogans and hatreds are dusted off. What was only recently muttered guiltily is now offered as political axiom and agenda.”
Carl Sagan, Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors
“Of all the planets, moons, asteroids, and comets in our Solar System, there is fire only on Earth—because there are large amounts of oxygen gas, O2, only on Earth. Fire was, much later, to have profound consequences for life and intelligence. One thing leads to another.”
Carl Sagan, Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors
“Each of us is a tiny being, permitted to ride on the outermost skin of one of the smaller planets for a few dozen trips around the local star.”
Carl Sagan, Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors
“What thin partitions sense from thought divide!”
Carl Sagan, Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors
“Even victims of atrocious brutality and intractable pain may retain a longing, sometimes even a zest, for life.”
Carl Sagan, Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors
“They will manage to cross the ocean of becoming.”
Carl Sagan, Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors
“Apart from the social insects, no other species has been clever enough to invent war It is an institution optimally configured to benefit the alphas”
Carl Sagan, Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors
“So next time you hear a raving demagogue counseling hatred for other, slightly different groups of humans, for a moment at least see if you can understand his problem: He is heeding an ancient call that—however dangerous, obsolete, and maladaptive it may be today—once benefitted our species.”
Carl Sagan, Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors
“But if intelligence is our only edge, we must learn to use it better, to sharpen it, to understand its limitations and deficiencies—to use it as cats use stealth, as walking sticks use camouflage, to make it the tool of our survival.”
Carl Sagan, Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors
“If ever there was an avian candidate for psychotherapy, the male blue heron is our nominee.”
Carl Sagan, Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors
“In a set of classic experiments, the psychologist Z. Y. Kuo6 showed that almost all kittens who witness their mother killing and eating a rodent eventually do so themselves. However, when kittens are raised in the same cage with a rat, never seeing any other rat, and never seeing a cat kill a rat, then they almost never kill rats themselves. When kittens have a rat for a littermate and also witness their mothers killing rats outside the cage, about half of them learn to kill—but they tend to kill only the kinds of rat they had seen their mothers kill, and not the kinds that they grew up with. Finally, when kittens are given an electric shock each time they see a rat, they soon learn not to kill rats—indeed, to run in terror from them.”
Carl Sagan, Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors
“- Ten thousand years ago, when we were divided into many small groups, the propensities may have served our species well. We can understand why they should be easy to evoke, why they are stock in trade of every demagogue and hack politician. But we cannot wait for natural selection to further mitigate these ancient primate algorithms. That would take too long. We must work with what tools we have – to understand who we are, how we got to be that way, and how to transcend our deficiencies. Then we can begin to create a society less apt to bring out the worst in us.”
Carl Sagan, Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors
“Maturity entails a readiness, painful and wrenching though it may be, to look squarely into the long dark places, into the fearsome shadows.”
Carl Sagan, Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors
“In human history there a precious few whose memory we revere because they knowingly sacrificed themselves for others. For each of them, there are multitudes who did nothing.”
Carl Sagan, Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors
“Life is profligate, blind at this level unconcerned with notions of justice. It can afford to waste multitudes.”
Carl Sagan, Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors
“Етноцентризмът се свежда до убеждението, че нашата група (която и да е тя) е в центъра на всичко, което е добро и истинско, в центъра на обществената вселена. Единствено ние правим нещата така, както трябва да бъдат направени. Ксенофобията е страх и омраза към чуждите. Тяхното поведение е погрешно, странно и отвратително. Те не уважават живота по същия начин, по който го правим ние. И при всички положения основната им цел е да ни причинят зло. Отново стигаме до познатото „Ние срещу тях”. Етноцентризмът и ксенофобията са изключително често срещано явление сред птиците и бозайниците, макар и да не са неизменно правило. Ятата от мигриращи птици например са напълно отворени за всички от същия вид.
Ако се сблъскаме с непознат, който иска да причини зло и на двама ни, тогава вече имаме мотивацията да забравим за всички различия между нас и заедно да се разправим с общия враг. Шансовете ни – като отделни индивиди и група – да преживеем нападението силно се повишават, ако успеем да се обединим със своите събратя. Съществуването на общ враг може да действа като могъща обединяваща сила. Общите врагове карат обществената машина да мърка. Групите, които са предразположени към ксенофобична параноя, могат да имат предимство при сплотяването в сравнение с други групи, които имат по-реалистично и безгрижно отношение. Ако преувеличте заплхата, поне ще сте успели да намалите напрежението вътре в групата. И ако външната опасност се окаже по-сериозна, отколкото лично вие сте преценили, все пак ще бъдете по-добре подготвени за нея. Докато обществената цена остава в разумни гр”
Carl Sagan, Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors
“Science exacts a substantial entry fee in effort and tedium in exchange for its insights.”
Carl Sagan, Ann Druyan, Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors
“Darwin had been lured to South America by the prospect of discovering new birds and new beetles, but he couldn’t help noticing the carnage the Europeans were inflicting. Colonial arrogance, the institution of slavery, the extirpation of countless species for the enrichment and entertainment of the invaders, the first depredations of the tropical rain forest—in short, many of the crimes and stupidities that haunt us today—troubled Darwin at a time when Europe was confident that colonialism was an unalloyed benefit for the uncivilized, that the forests were inexhaustible, and that there would always be enough egret feathers for every millinery shop until the Day of Judgment.”
Carl Sagan, Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors
“- Taken together, the dramatic societal shifts – often in ten generations or less – provide a compelling refutation of the claim that we are condemned, without hope of reprieve, to live out our lives in a barely disguised chimpanzee social order. Moreover, the shifts are occurring so swiftly that they cannot possibly be due to natural selection. Instead our culture must be drawing forth propensities and predispositions that already reside deep within us.”
Carl Sagan, Ann Druyan, Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors
“- Taken together, the dramatic societal shifts – often in ten generations or less – provide a compelling refutation of the claim that we are condemned, without hope of reprieve, to live out our lives in a barely disguised chimpanzee social order.”
Carl Sagan, Ann Druyan, Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors
“Pero la vida no sabe a donde se dirige. No tiene un plan a largo plazo. No tiene una finalidad en mente. No tiene una finalidad en mente. No hay mente que abrigue una finalidad. (...) La vida es derrochadora, ciega, indiferente en este nivel a las nociones de justicia.”
Carl Sagan e Ann Druyan, A Sombra dos nossos antepassados esquecidos

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