Tuesday at the Library of Congress, a stunning list of science luminaries — from Bill Nye the Science Guy to Neil deGrasse Tyson to White House science adviser John Holdren — joined one funny science aficionado (Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane) to celebrate the late astronomer and television star Carl Sagan. The occasion was the opening of the "Seth MacFarlane Collection" of Sagan's personal papers: 1,705 boxes of Sagan's letters, notes, and writings now reside at the Library. The event also felt much like a preview of the coming Fox series Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey, a remake of the show that made Sagan famous, that will be hosted by deGrasse Tyson and produced by MacFarlane and Sagan's widow, Ann Druyan.
One of the leading themes, however, was political. Speaker after speaker used the occasion to lament the way science is treated in the United States today, usually leading with the example of climate change. Science is suffering from "politicization on steroids," said MacFarlane. "We took a big, big hit when we lost Carl Sagan," he added later. Holdren remarked that Sagan "would have loved" President Obama's comment in June that when it comes to climate, "we don't have time for a meeting of the Flat Earth Society." Steven Soter, a writer on the original Cosmos series, added that Sagan would have been "appalled" by today's attacks on climate scientists, and that he would have "deeply altered the landscape" on the climate issue were he still alive.