Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Book Report Post - Carl Sagan's The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark

I chose to do my book report on Carl Sagan’s “The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark” because I am a big fan of Carl Sagan and I have read a few of his books previously. This book was published in 1995, the year of my birth, with the intention of making the audience think more logically skeptically. It begins with Sagan remembering an encounter he had with his driver who asked him questions about extraterrestrials, channeling, Atlantis, and more. The driver was excited to hear a scientist’s view point, but Sagan disappointed him with facts and realistic explanations. He goes on to talk about how science has made such great strides in the world curing so many diseases and all of the technological advances that have been made at a cost of course. Sagan doesn’t understand how even after so much scientific enlightenment pseudoscience and superstitions have remained a staple in human lives. He believes that pseudoscience and superstitions are born from the misunderstandings we may have, for the things that are difficult to understand and without enough evidence to make a conclusion we make our own. This is supported by mass media and times even the government making it difficult to remove. Sagan explains that almost everything can be explained by science in some form or another and it has a “built in error correcting machinery” meaning no science is perfect but it’s accuracy can be measured. Somewhere in the science there is fact, data, and evidence but when hopes and facts get confused pseudoscience slips in. Throughout the book Sagan touches on different pseudoscience topics like aliens, demons, witchcraft, and more. Each chapter covers a different topic where he shares his experiences, opinions, and relevant stories always sticking to his view that science is the answer and he wants to educate his readers. He concludes the book by talking about how science has the potential to improve so many aspects of the world and that in order to be free of the world’s constructs we must think for ourselves.

              My favorite part of the book was the last chapter. Throughout the book he talks about so many interesting concepts from the potentially pervasive actions of aliens, the horrifying witch trials, hallucinations, and even how to detect what he calls baloney. The final chapter he points out that science is the key to fixing the world’s political, social, and economical problems. He claims that every major decisions in the way of life can be considered experiments like decriminalizing marijuana or investing in new technologies. The key to fixing the problems we face today is by using science and experimenting things on small scales until an answer is found. He accurately, in my opinion, states that humans are afraid of people who are different, and we bully those who are different. We are easily manipulated and suggestible by the right kind of leader at the right time. He then gives a short summary of Thomas Jefferson’s life an individual who fond of science, history, and skepticism. Jefferson believed in the freedom of speech and that people should think for themselves. Sagan wonders where the Thomas Jefferson’s of today have gone. He explains how the constitution and bill of rights was meant to change with the times but can so easily be misinterpreted and used in a different form. Sagan says that inventions, new ideas, and creativity are a form of freedom. Breaking out of the status quo and thinking for yourself. Questioning what you are told and looking for your own answers is the best way. Most importantly he says that if we are educated and have our own strong opinions the people in power will work for us but if we are weak and unable to think for ourselves we are pawns. This is my favorite chapter because this book was written in 1995 and now in 2018 everything he said is relevant. We are failing to think for ourselves to question what is happening and demand change. The government has taken over, there is so much corruption and it has occurred because we have failed to think for ourselves. We are educated by schools that are trying to erase certain parts of history, we are provided the news the government tells the media to share, we are believing what we are told to believe. This isn’t how it should be we should look for our own answers and our own resources.

This book relates to the whole course because Sagan covered a lot of the topics we covered in the lecture slides and a lot of the information was parallel. It also conveys the message that a lot of the pseudoscience and superstitions we have can be explained by science as so many of the topics we learned about were. And how most of the time pseudoscience is born when something is difficult to understand, or an answer can’t be determined immediately. I think this book really has inspired me to be skeptical and think critically for myself. To step out of my comfort zone and look for my own answers. 
Follow the link to see one of Carl Sagan's last interviews where he talks about this book!


No comments:

Post a Comment