Faith & Science
Physics, Earth & Space
Sworn in on a Copy of…a Carl Sagan Book?
If you look closely at the photo that accompanies NASA’s press release about the new director of the Goddard Space Flight Center, you’ll see something both curious and delightful — that she’s taking her oath not on the Bible, or any other conventional holy book, but on a copy of Carl Sagan’s 1994 “Pale Blue Dot.”
Indeed, as NASA Watch‘s Keith Cowing spotted following Dr. Makenzie Lystrup’s swearing in last Friday, the first woman ever to lead the Maryland space center marked the occasion with a nod to that other star enthusiast, the late Sagan.
“Normally I just pass on these staged pics,” Cowing wrote. “But people have noticed something unusual about this photo.”
In the good old days when I was young, people viewed oaths as particularly dangerous. If you violated an oath, you didn’t just come under the wrath of the State, you came under the wrath of God. Therefore taking an oath of office involved a Bible to give it extra binding power. It reassured the public that even if you violated your oath, God would even the score. Apparently, even atheists fear the wrath of God, and do not want to use a Bible, which they say they don’t believe in. Of course no one “believes in Carl Sagan,” but that is exactly the point — the oath has no teeth. I don’t know Makenzie Lystrup’s personal beliefs, but it’s astonishing how many atheists reveal they believe in God by the things they avoid.