Thursday, August 2, 2018

Book Report- The Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark

In Carl Sagan’s book The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark the author tries to push the idea of awareness on his readers. He explains that he is a person who has always had a love for science ever since he visited The World’s Fair as a child. From this love for science he has made an active effort towards informing people to be wary of the ideas of pseudosciences using his “Baloney Detection Kit”. He is a scientist that wants to express his findings through writing to reach a larger audience.

Throughout the book, Carl Sagan mentions different forms of pseudosciences from the man on the moon all the way to demons and ghosts. For each category, he goes through the different stories behind it, what is the history involving it, and then follows up by disproving the theory using science. He does this, not in a way that might be condescending or belittling to the readers, but rather, he does so in a way that you can tell the author truly wants to educate- because he is just so passionate about science.

A great example of this is a part of the book that ties perfectly with a video from our lectures. Sagan goes on to tell about different “alien encounters” which aligned perfectly with what the man in the lecture explained about his personal abduction. The descriptions in both the video and the book were that of small gray creatures with large eyes and that take people in to retrieve sperm or eggs and they are presented with their alien/human spawn. Carl Sagan goes on to explain that these are often memories that are brought about during therapies. He then explains how people who have experienced trauma in their youth, for example- sexual assault- might replace those memories with that of the aliens focusing on their genitalia and reproducing (to repress those painful memories).

I think by far my favorite thing about this book was a passage about the use of technology and how it will impact the future. While this book was written in the mid 90’s, the author warns of a time when the American people will have technology at their disposal to debunk anything they don’t think is true but is widely accepted. He is afraid that those people will not have the drive to try and figure things out for themselves and instead will follow the pseudoscientific folklore they are taught. I liked this because just 20 years later I feel like we have already hit that point, where people are too lazy to question anything even though they have the tools to do so.

Throughout the book, Carl Sagan gives the readers the tools to question things in the pseudoscience world, which is his “Baloney Detection Kit”. This video by Michael Sherman shows us how to detect baloney in your everyday life.

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