Monday, August 10, 2015

book report - Carol Sagen, The Demon-Haunted World

After I finished reading “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg, I experienced an overwhelming sense of optimism. However, at the conclusion of Carl Sagan’s “The Demon-Haunted World Science as a Candle in the Dark”, the first and foremost vision was of Mr. Sagan standing in front of a class of five year old children and solemnly announcing that Santa Claus cannot possible exist.
Yet despite this deflating visualization, the writing of Mr. Sagan is incredibly thorough, easy to comprehend, and very entertaining. There are unexpected statements that he makes in the book which motivated me to research on the Internt.
Carl Sagan states, “approximately 95% of Americans are scientifically illiterate” (p.6) and unfortunately, this statistic will have devastating consequences unless we learn to distinguish the difference between pseudoscience and science. And the path to doing this is to acknowledge that science is a way of thinking. And one of the most important tools that enable an individual to “think scientifically”, is the “baloney detection kit”. (p.210) By utilizing this kit of skeptical thinking appropriately, Mr. Sagan believes the percentage of scientifically illiterate Americans may decrease.
In response to the dismal percentage of Americans and their lack of scientific schooling, I used the Internet to explore the media as a source for supporting a more scientific culture. Ironically, the three sources, which looked the most promising all quoted Carl Sagan. The first article was written by Donald Prothero (Network Decay, 2012) and examined the commitment of the Discovery Channel, the Learning Channel, the History Channel, the Science Channel, and the National Geographic Channel to science and history. Unfortunately, the author found that all of the channels were “dominated by UFOs, the Bible Code, ghosts, Atlantis, Nostradamus, and the end of the world”.  The Discovery Channel offers four shows about ghost hunters. Consequently, as long as the ratings of the public are used to determine the scheduling, these channels will satisfy the demand of its viewers and not the need for programs which all pass the “baloney detection kit”.
In the blog post, Peter Damian states, “Science needs more Sagan rock stars.” (2012)
Michael Collins, a writer for Forbes Magazine presented the results of a research poll from March of this year, which revealed, “science is on the decline in terms of public interest”. (Pew Research, 2015) He also quotes Carl Sagan, “We have arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a recipe for disaster.” (Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World Science as a Candle in the Dark, 1996)
Over all, I cannot recommend this book more highly. It’s one of those books in which you are surprised to have reached the final chapter. And while it may not leave you felling as optimistic as “The Power of Habit”, it will leave you feeling motivated to become more scientifically knowledgeable.

Attached to this report is  a photo of a banana that looks exactly like a person! One of my all time favorite photos. I promise i did not alter it to make it look like that. 

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