“I don’t want to believe, I want to know.” – Carl Sagan:

The following is my personal response to one quote that is in my quotation presentation.

Vintage engraving from 1883 of a cross section of a human head showing the brain
Vintage engraving from 1883 of a cross section of a human head showing the brain


“I don’t want to believe, I want to know.” – Carl Sagan

Carl Sagan has exceptionally depicted one of the many goals and attributes I hold myself to through his quote, “I don’t want to believe, I want to know.” Knowledge is the one true power that allows us, mere mortals, to level the playing field with the world; initially incomprehensible phenomenons explained through science, the theory of evolution putting humans in their place on the timeline and spectrum of this world, in addition to much more. This knowledge, however, is not limited to that which we would consider one to be “book – smart.” Knowing encompasses general knowledge, as there is “usefulness in useless knowledge” (Abraham Flexner), and the application of that knowledge is critical to attaining a sense of purpose, even effectiveness in life. It is in this area that I believe we are lacking.


It seems to me that, while we have become more advanced in the bookish sense, individuals have simply disregarded how essential it is to apply their knowledge, to think rationally, to simply be aware.  Awareness is fundamental to living a fulfilled life and allows us to have the ability to apply our knowledge; it is through a lack of awareness that we become ignorant. Simply choosing what is “relevant” or “worthy” to learn will only hinder the process in which one becomes knowledgeable. We are purposely neglecting certain truths in the world, whether they are social, scientific, or of any other aspect, merely because they are not suitable or desirable. Distancing one’s self from the truths of the world, only desiring to learn what is linear, factual, or interesting will, I believe, only lead to an underdeveloped mind, unable to use logic, participate or understand the realities of the world. For instance, there are things in this world that I believe are wrong, but choosing to ignore the fact that they exist, that they are a part of this life, is being conscientiously stupid and ignorant. Becoming aware socially is as crucial as it is to become aware sagaciously or knowledgeably, or in every other aspect of life.


It is for these reasons that Carl Sagan’s quote, “I don’t want to believe, I want to know,” resonates deeply within me. I have always been more of the “nerdy” type, purely due to the eagerness that I have to obtain knowledge as it is something that I truly value. I would have rather known something than believed in it, even in my youth I was not very creative, I was realistic and, in relation to that, loved to learn about the real world through science. I found it exciting, electrifying to know that I was part of the same race that was able to, miraculously, find out everything and everything they could about the world simply because they had the ability to. From a young age, I was determined to become “smart” through attaining factual information, to become the epitome of intellect, just because it was something I found was interesting, something that I wanted to be known for.


It was in this manner that I had become the opposite of what I had hoped to achieve. I now realize how foolish I had been. I had sought to gain factual knowledge without application, rather than awareness, completely disregarding the one aspect that truly mattered when it came to becoming “knowledgeable.” I essentially had wasted the knowledge I had gained through allowing it to be inert. “I don’t want to believe, I want to know,” provides the basis on which intellect can be formed, followed by the awareness that I believe is paramount to becoming the logical, comprehensive, cognizant individual I have aspired to become.


I now understand the importance of the application of knowledge, the importance of becoming aware; the significance I held to becoming the “epitome of intellect” now lacks in comparison. There is no definite end to knowledge, nor is it static. I believe it is the most malleable, yet sturdy, strong tool that we have the capability to yield. It is only with awareness and a true recognition of all aspects of the world that we are able to use it effectively.


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3 thoughts on ““I don’t want to believe, I want to know.” – Carl Sagan:

  1. Dear Shyla,
    I remember being in your grade nine class as a visiting TA last year, and I knew from the moment I read your response to “The Cask Of Amontillado” that you were destined for AP. Thank you for being brave enough to not only take this class, but share your wonderful works, like the above, with us.

    I wish I had read this quote when I was in tenth grade. I was thirsty of the “desirable” knowledge you speak about that I neglected to see where it all fit in to the application of my own life. I saw numbers and equations where I know see possibilities and explanations. Had I been able to possess your perspective, my early high school career would have possessed so much more meaning – I am hopeful to see you succeed all throughout your’s.

    Your incredibly elevated diction left me in awe. You not only have the development of thought, but also the incredible ability to express it intelligently. The application to your own life and being able to identify where you have chosen to apply this quote to guide yourself down the right path, was very well constructed and flowed effortlessly from one paragraph to the next.

    You were meant to share your fascinating thoughts and experiences with our class and we are so happy that you have joined us! I can’t wait to see what else your brilliant mind conjures throughout the semester.


  2. Dear Emily,

    Thank you so much for the comment, I truly appreciate it. I cannot believe you remember my response from grade nine! Reading this comment made me smile, your words were so kind. I hope that I can live up to your expectations in future blogs.

    Thanks again.



  3. What I am going to say does not change anything on your beautiful post: Carl Sagan never said or wrote “I don’t want to believe, I want to know”. It’s a misattribution. This sentence was said and written by Paulo Bitencourt, author of the books “Liberated from Religion” and “Wasting Time on God”. It does not really matter, it is not super important. I just wanted to clarify that. Greetings.

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