Wednesday, August 7, 2019

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

Carl Sagan was an American astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist, astrobiologst, and author among other things. Sagan was most well known for his work as a scientist during the 1970’s and 1980’s as well as his studies of the extraterrestrial. Carl Sagan’s book, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle Light in the Dark (1995), is one of his most well known.  The Demon Haunted World is Sagan’s 457-page masterpiece in which he explains the scientific way to the average man, as well as his push to encourage people to learn how to use critical and skeptical thinking. Sagan pushes the importance of skepticism in all aspects of life, not just science. He finds a way to tie skepticism into the ever-pressing need for support of the scientific community. He does so by encouraging the reader to have an open mind when it comes to science. This book covers everything from aliens to demons to witches and wonder. This is also why I admired this piece so much; Sagan touches upon many of my favorite subjects pertaining to the pseudoscience and the paranormal.
            My favorite part of The Demon Haunted World was chapter six, Hallucinations. Chapter six is a deep dive into alien abductions and whether or not they are merely hallucinations. I favored this chapter in particular because Sagan wrote about the Betty and Barney Hill abductions. In short, the Hills were a New Hampshire couple who in 1961, claim to have been abducted by aliens who came down to them in a UFO Spacecraft. Their memories of the event had a two-hour window missing. So, through hypnosis with a hypnotherapist they were able to fill in the blanks. They recalled little gray men who probed them in their navels and subjected them to medical examinations. I learned about this case on my favorite podcast, The Last Podcast on the Left: episodes 169 and 170, so I was super excited to see it mentioned in Sagan’s book. I’m going to link the episodes below so you guys can check it out!
            Moreover, chapter six also discusses how hallucinations can be elicited by multiple reasons and factors. These include everything from drugs to alcohol to high fevers. Sagan that a 1894 census published by the international Census of Waking Hallucinations states that ten to twenty-five percent of people have experienced vivid hallucinations.  With that being said, could these alien abductions merely be hallucinations? This is where critical and skeptical thinking come into question. You could credit these abductions to aliens and UFO’s, or you could look at it from a scientific aspect. In which these abductions are due to hallucinations.
In class we discuss UFO Abductions and Projective Testing in lecture nine. This section goes over the use of hypnosis in recalling past events. The Hill’s Psychiatrist Sent them to a hypnotherapist in order to help them recall what happened during the missing two hours of the night they claimed to have been abducted. The lecture mentions suggestive interviewing and leading questions, which makes you wonder whether or not Betty and Barney Hill actually recalled the events or the thoughts were planted through the hypnosis.
In conclusion, when it comes to use in the real world, I believe that The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle Light in the Dark (1995) is the perfect handbook for anyone trying to understand how science ties into the world of the paranormal. Sagan encourages his readers to use critical thinking and to welcome scientific thought into their lives.

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