PT: You’ve said that when you were growing up you didn’t realize somebody could do science for a living. You envisioned being a salesman or something and doing science on weekends and evenings. It’s all too rare that someone as young as you were at the time becomes so enthralled with science. Are we essentially killing off the wonder in children?
CS: Every kid starts out as a natural-born scientist, and then we beat it out of them. A few trickle through the system with their wonder and enthusiasm for science intact.
PT: Why did yours stay intact?
CS: The main thing was that my parents, who knew nothing about science, encouraged it. They never said, “All in all, wouldn’t it be better to be a lawyer or a doctor?” I never once heard that from my parents. They said, “If you’re passionate about that, we’ll back you to the best of our ability.” In school, while there were very few teachers who excited me about science, there was no systematic effort to discourage me.
- Carl Sagan, in an interview for Psychology Today in 1996, from Tom Head, ed., Conversations with Carl Sagan (Literary Conversations) (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2006), p.119