Friday, July 15, 2011

Carl Sagan's "The Demon-Haunted World"

I chose Carl Sagan's novel "The Demon-Haunted World" for my book report. In this book Sagan attempts to demystify several prominent pseudoscience topics using science. Sagan eliminates the haze that often accompanies topics such as alien abductions, demons, and witchcraft, not by dismissing common beliefs but by explaining the psychology behind these beliefs and using scientific evidence to disprove them. Sagan shows that there are reasons behind why people accept these myths as truths...and equally valid reasoning behind their falsity.

My favorite part of the novel was the chapter on alien myths such as the Roswell, New Mexico controversy and various claims of alien abduction and subsequent sexual abuse. My father is extremely interested in abductions, crop circles, and possible alien visits to earth, specifically "Roswell", therefore this chapter sparked my interest. I found it so interesting that Sagan was able to so flawlessly disprove claims that an alien spacecraft landed in Roswell, New Mexico in the Summer of 1947, replacing them with encouraging evidence that the "UFO" was actually a weather balloon used in the Cold War. Sagan was also able to draw a strong connection between alien abduction and sexual abuse to victims' haunting memories of childhood sexual assault, therefore debunking claims of abduction and placing blame on painfully vivid memories.

The belief that a human can be abducted and have consequent unpleasant sexual experiences as well as the belief that a UFO landed in Roswell New Mexico can be related to out of body experiences discussed in “Scientific Perspectives on Pseudoscience and the Paranormal”. It is disproven that the mind can leave the body by the simple fact that the mind depends on brain power to function; without an active brain one ceases to produce thoughts. This is similar to how a person’s claim that they were sexually assaulted after they were forcefully brought onto an alien spaceship can be explained rather logically. The person was instead experiencing a frightening and vivid memory brought forth from their childhood. The Roswell, New Mexico scandal can also be explained simply; the “UFO” was actually a weather balloon.

The fact that these elaborate stories, controversies, and scandals can be born from events that can be so simply explained makes me believe that they were produced to create the effect that the public has created over and over again. Maybe events such as Roswell, New Mexico and out of body experiences are created to grab the public’s attention and create controversy. Whatever the reason, no matter how well authors like Carl Sagan can put these myths to rest, American society will continue to believe them.

1 comment:

  1. I forgot to include the video I found of Sagan commentating a possible UFO abduction: