Friday, June 11, 2010

The Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan

The Demon Haunted World By Carl Sagan is truly a wonderful piece of literature. This book gives its reader the opportunity to investigate all of the fascinating tales of paranormal activity, extraterrestrial visitors, witchcraft, demons, and numerous other unusual phenomenon that have been pestering mankind throughout the ages. Carl Sagan carefully presents each individual phenomenon to the reader and explains them away by simple science. Carl Sagan attempts to relay the importance of science and its method as an invaluable tool in the growth and advancement of mankind. He warns that the institution of science in America is in sharp decline. He fears that science is what separates us from the people of the dark ages. Upon the conclusion of this book, I realized that science is critical to our society. Science provides the answers to life’s deepest mysteries. This is the message that Mr. Sagan is trying so desperately to relay to his readers. Science has provided mankind with a wealth of knowledge and technology throughout the ages. Phenomena of past generations that were once considered acts of demons or alien invaders, are now easily explained by scientist. It is absolutely critical to our society to continue to advance our scientific exploration and implore our younger generations to take up the reigns of the science and push our boundaries of knowledge and understanding to even greater heights.

I particularly enjoyed chapter 7; this chapter explores “The Demon Haunted World”. Sagan takes you on a journey back in time to the dark ages. He explores the catalyst that fueled the witch hunts in Europe. He outlines the thinking and logic of the people during these turbulent times. He shows how a select few used the power of fear and persecution to advance their own personal lot at the expense of countless innocents lives. The most fascinating and educating part of chapter 7, in my opinion, was the section that referred to Pope Innocent VIII proclamation pertaining to public obsession with demons. In 1484, Pope Innocent VIII declared, “It has come to Our ears that members of both sexes do not avoid to have intercourse with evil angels, incubi, and succubi, and that by their sorceries, and by their incantations, charms, and conjurations, they suffocate, extinguish, and cause to perish the births of women”. “With this bull, Innocent initiated the systematic accusation, torture, and execution of countless “witches” all over Europe. They were guilty of what Augustine had described as “a criminal tampering with the unseen world.” Despite the evenhanded “members of both sexes” in the language of the Bull, unsurprisingly it was mainly girls and women who were so persecuted. I found this particular passage to be very interesting. How could the Pope, a person that is suppose to inspire peace and stability to the land and its people bring such chaos and panic to his people? I found this fascinating, it wouldn’t be usual to me if a person of low class and education was responsible for such rhetoric but a person of the Pope’s caliber should be leading his followers out of darkness not creating a pandemic of fear. Carl Sagan’s book is a warning to mankind, continue to embrace science and all its wonderful discoveries or revert back to more animalistic times.

Sagan, Carl. The Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark. New York: Ballantine Books, 1996.

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