Thursday, August 6, 2015

Book Report: The Demon-Haunted World by Carl Sagan

I chose to do my book report on The Demon-Haunted World by Carl Sagan for a few reasons. First, I thought this would be a perfect book for me to focus on because it really questions and challenges, just like this class, my previous beliefs. I have been raised to believe more in pseudoscience rather than science and in this book Sagan discusses why this is problematic for our society. Sagan begins the book with stating that scientific illiteracy amongst Americans is so high and extremely dangerous. Sagan questions why Americans are not more skeptical about what popular culture feeds us, which according to him, is essentially “dumbing us down.” Sagan reflects on the lower emphasis and lower tests results in mathematics and sciences amongst American students and how science works among our own political leaders. Sagan also dedicates chapters to discuss what has happened when science has disproved extremely popular religious beliefs, such as witch hunts, exorcisms, demons, Gods, and devils. Sagan suggests that we do not all have to be professional scientists in order to apply the scientific method in order to make scientific conclusions or opinions. Sagan merely suggests that everyone should use science, not just pseudoscience, when evaluating things such as UFO’s, demons, dreams or hallucinations, etc.   
My favorite part of this book is chapter seven, The Demon-Haunted World. I found this chapter the most interesting because Sagan discusses the transition from believing in gods and demons into aliens and why there is a connection between the two. It was believed that demons were the communicators between God and humans and these demons would come down and have sexual intercourse with humans, resulting in their offspring, witches. And when trying to accuse people for witchcraft, they would look for the “devil’s mark.” Which led me to personally think, I have a birthmark over my eyebrow, would I have been publicly persecuted for being the offspring of a demon and human? Prior to 1947, there were no reports of flying saucers. “Science may have evicted ghosts and witches from our beliefs, but it just as quickly filled the vacancy with aliens having the same functions” (Sagan, p. 130, 1996). It is part of our human nature to unconsciously incorporate cultural norms, such as popular culture’s obsession with aliens and UFO’s, and make them our own, as seen when individuals recall alien abduction accounts. This chapter was my favorite part of the book because this was a point in the book when I had a light bulb moment. I had never connected the similarities between religious witch hunts and popular beliefs in alien abductions. This chapter just really showed me the mentality behind time specific movements or obsessions. This topic largely relates to a couple of topics we discussed this semester. Most specifically, this largely coincides with our lectures on witch hunts and also alien abduction stories and UFO’s.

  If you guys are interested in learning more from Carl Sagan, but do not want to buy the book... they have the audio version on YouTube for free!!

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