Monday, August 11, 2014

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

The Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan is a very enthralling series of essays that tells of multiple subjects of superstitious beliefs in regards to science. He speaks on so many different topics in this regard, some including: UFO’s and aliens, witchcraft, demons and the supernatural, and mediums. He uses his scientific knowledge to logically describe how the curious mind is at fault for making outrageous claims of the bizarre. Through the use of these essays, Sagan shows evidence of how to break through these bizarre claims and find truth.
            In Chapter 11: The City of Grief, Sagan tells of how after his views of UFO’s were published in Parade Magazine, many readers wrote to him in response. Among the sections of letters Sagan includes, I found the most prominent part of the book for me. The reader describes how animals must feel when humans capture them for testing:
”They see a large hovering object making a terrible noise above them. They begin to run and feel a sharp pain in their side. Suddenly they fall to the ground . . . Several man-creatures approach them carrying strange-looking instruments. They examine your sexual organs and teeth. They place a net under you and then let it take you in the air with a strange device. After all the examinations, they then clamp a strange metal object on your ear. Then, just as suddenly as they had appeared, they are gone. Eventually, muscle control returns, and a poor disoriented creature staggers off into the forest, not knowing [whether] what just transpired was a nightmare or a reality.”
            After reviewing chapter 6 in our lectures about alien abductions, I had felt that people who claimed to be abducted had a wild imagination of what it could be like. I had watched the video of Jesse Long and felt utterly confused about his recollection of the accounts of his own several abductions. It is powerful to watch a grown man nearly in tears as he recalls the embarrassment of being taken into a “spaceship” and being paralyzed while these strange beings conducted experiments on him. However, after reading the review of Sagan’s reader who intelligently linked the abduction of humans to the abduction of animals by humans, it actually made the claims of Jesse Long and other abductees become more realistic to me. After I was able to see that connection of how abductees describe their experience, with how animals are treated indefinitely, I was able to feel more empathetic towards those who claim abduction.

            Pseudoscience has a very large “market”, so to speak, and can be found in many areas. Carl Sagan described many cases of Pseudoscience and how it comes to play in the real world. It is hard to believe some claims; however, I would like to share a story of the supernatural that I have personally encountered.  I had heard stories for years of a supernatural being they called “Shadow Man”. He would appear in the late evenings and terrorize young children with nightmarish thoughts and long nights awake. Once you first see the Shadow Man, he haunts you forever. I never believed in him, until one day I was taking pictures of my new house and I noticed a strange figure outlined in one of my photos. This is the actual picture that clearly shows a ghoulish figure in front of my fireplace.
Shadow Man
       Of course, Shadow Man is not real. In fact, I just took this picture on my iPhone using a family member standing behind me. The point is that anyone can take a picture, or see something out of the ordinary, and let the imagination run wild. This is where Pseudoscience comes from; this is the basis of what Carl Sagan is portraying in his novel, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark. There are many things that I had heard while I was growing up that I fully believed. I even went through a phase that I was terrified to sleep at night because I thought there could be a "ghost" in the house. I had absolutely no evidence of this being true, but I had heard of other kids who supposedly had ghosts in their houses so I assumed reasonable belief to be scared. This is how paranormal beliefs live, and this is the reason why small and unrealistic stories grow into what we now know as Pseudoscience and the Paranormal. 
       Carl Sagan's words are launched straightforward into his opinions of why Pseudoscience is what it is, and how to detect what is real and what is not. There are so many different paranormal beliefs and stories that it is difficult to see through these stories sometimes. Sagan gives us tools for the real world to be able to use his scientific mind as a basis for exposing stories such as "The Shadow Man", which is a story that sounds fake and unrealistic, but has a picture to prove it and apparently many people that saw him. Using tools given by the genius mind of Carl Sagan, we can use science to show why reality still prevails when it comes to these stories, and the very many other forms of Pseudoscience.

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