Wednesday, July 12, 2017

BOOK REPORT- 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 starts out by relaying brief memories of Sagan’s youth and how he first fell in love with science. He then continues by discussing the importance of science, its process, the differences between pseudoscience and science, all the while reciting relatable anecdotes from his life. He debunks various fallacies in topics of pseudoscience like Atlantis, aliens, and mediums for example, in an enlightening fashion that makes science simple and exciting to the audience.
Throughout the piece, Sagan frequently jumps back in time to relate parts of the book to parts of his personal life. One of my favorite parts is when he describes his empathy for people who speak to their deceased loved ones at their graves. The death of his parents seems surreal when he has dreams about them being in his life and still enjoying things the way they once were. Then there is a brief mourning period when he awakes, realizing it wasn’t real but he believes their souls must be out there-- somewhere, somehow-- even though there is no scientific evidence to back up that possibility.  That conscious decision to believe in something completely unsupported by science is something Sagan understands, even as a scientist, which I completely admire. He explains that it is a part of being human. One notion that stuck with me the most is how the findings of science-- like atoms, stars, the galaxy, and beyond-- are as equally or even more incredible than topics of pseudoscience when you really think about it.
This book coincides with many topics discussed in our class lectures. One apparent commonality is discussion of the difference between science and pseudoscience. Science is slow or critical thinking which is described as a long and grumpy process of experimentation, analysis, debate, and repetition. It works off of error and accuracy which supposedly leads us closer to the truth.  Pseudoscience is the opposite, which does not give any leeway to debate. It is all very vague and does not progress. Sagan’s points and the class lecture’s points match and agree to the differences in both.
Sagan’s piece is truly genius and relates to the real world. He insists that the way science is being taught now is incomprehensible to most people and eventually discarded and swept under the rug. He explains that this disregard for science is leading down the wrong path for children of future generations and will be destructive if not taken care of. Science provides progress and without it, we are led back to times dependent on ignorance, doubt, and superstition. The argumentation, skepticism, and error in science is central to progression (contrary to pseudoscience in which vagueness does not allow debate). Current school systems should focus on the interest of science and making it easy to understand so everyone can learn and experience the gratifying feeling Sagan discusses when achieving understanding of something so grand.

Here are some funny and totally creative Carl Sagan gifs I made:

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