a reply to: spiritualarchitect
I can not remember what Sagan supposedly plagiarized, but this was evidently held over his head until the end when the discussion was focused on ET.
The fact that he was associated with Menzel and Hartmann, at all, would make any pronouncements on the matter suspect. Again this is conjecture, but
knowing what I do and with the hindsight of history, I think he was persuaded to shy away from the topic in the public discourse.
In 1966, Sagan was a member of the Ad Hoc Committee to Review Project Blue Book. The committee concluded that the U.S. Air Force's Project Blue Book
had been lacking as a scientific study, and recommended a university-based project to give the UFO phenomenon closer scientific scrutiny. The Condon
Committee (1966-1968), led by physicist Edward Condon, and their still-controversial final report, formally concluded that there was nothing anomalous
about UFO reports.
Ron Westrum writes that "The high point of Sagan's treatment of the UFO question was the AAAS's symposium in 1969. A wide range of educated opinions
on the subject were offered by participants, including not only proponents as James McDonald and J. Allen Hynek but also skeptics like astronomers
William Hartmann and Donald Menzel. The roster of speakers was balanced, and it is to Sagan's credit that this event was presented in spite of
pressure from Edward Condon" (Westrum 37-38). With physicist Thornton Page, Sagan edited the lectures and discussions given at the symposium; these
were published in 1972 as UFO's: A Scientific Debate.
Jerome Clark writes that Sagan's perspective on UFO's irked Condon: "... though a skeptic, [Sagan] was too soft on UFOs for Condon's taste. In 1971,
he considered blackballing Sagan from the prestigious Cosmos Club" (Clark 603).
Some of Sagan's many books examine UFOs (as did one episode of Cosmos) and he recognized a religious undercurrent to the phenomenon. However, Westrum
writes that "Sagan spent very little time researching UFOs ... he thought that little evidence existed to show that the UFO phenomenon represented
alien spacecraft and that the motivation for interpreting UFO observations as spacecraft was emotional" (Westrum 37).
It is sometimes noted that Sagan's generally skeptical attitude to UFOs conflicted sharply with his views in a 1966 book he wrote with Russian
astronomer and astrophysicist I.S. Shklovskii, Intelligent Life in the Universe. Here Sagan instead argued that technologically advanced alien
civilizations were common and he considered it very probable that Earth had been visited many times in the past. Yet only a few years later in UFO's:
A Scientific Debate, Sagan was now highly skeptical of interstellar visitation. As to the physical possibility of interstellar travel, Sagan brought
up the proposed Bussard ramjet as an interstellar vehicle. While not terribly practical, Sagan thought such proposed propulsion systems were
nevertheless important because they demonstrated that there were conceivable ways of accomplishing interstellar travel "without bumping into
fundamental physical constraints. And this suggests that it is premature to say that interstellar space flight is out of the question." But to this
Sagan added, "I believe the numbers work out in such a way that UFO's as interstellar vehicles is extremely unlikely, but I think it is an equally bad
mistake to say that interstellar space flight is impossible."
Sagan again revealed his views on interstellar travel in his 1980 Cosmos series. He rejected the idea that UFOs are visiting Earth, maintaining that
the chances any alien spacecraft would visit the Earth are vanishingly small. However, in another episode he said the stars would "beckon" to
humanity, and described the Bussard ramjet as one way humans might achieve interstellar travel. In one of his last written works, Sagan again claimed
that there was no evidence that aliens have actually visited the Earth, either in the past or present (Sagan, 1996: 81-96, 99-104).
For what it's worth, Contact was a great movie and until the SERPO movie comes out, a classic ET flick.
edit on 13-1-2020 by play4keeps