Thursday, August 5, 2021

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


In his 1996 published book, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, Carl Sagan gives an extensive insight into the many beliefs which are based in pseudoscience and superstition.  Some of his topics covered throughout the book include: alien abductions, talk based therapies, religion, self-proclaimed healers, psychics and the lost city of Atlantis.  From the very beginning of the book, Dr. Sagan sets out to establish science as a means of protecting our life and beliefs against any idea that cannot be proven without the use of empirical evidence. Through his intellect and writing, Dr. Sagan demonstrates how science is more than just a subject taught in school but rather a method in which to live by.  Using the scientific method, Dr. Sagan systematically debunks myths and methodologies which are based in pseudoscience.  With his background in astronomy and teaching, it is evident that Dr. Sagan’s perspective as a scientist upholds the foundation of his beliefs.  He eventually concludes his book by explaining how science is undersold to our American youth and deprecated in our national value system.  Ultimately, Dr. Sagan uses our own history as an example of how our nation was a result of the biggest social and political experiment ever to be undertaken. As importantly, he portrays to the reader how science has taken a back seat when considering adaptation of American policy (*excluding COVID-19 policies because of the time the book was published) by demonstrating the lack of scientific awareness within our modern day political system.    


Considering my favorite chapter of Dr. Sagan’s book, I was specifically drawn to the premise of scientific experimentation as it was described in Chapter 25 entitled “Real Patriots Ask Questions”.  It is here where Dr. Sagan couples the scientific method of experimentation as it relates to the formation of the United States.  Science can be used in all aspects of our lives, even in creating the laws which govern our nation.  Because we don’t have a specific method or theory which is used to create and organize our social programs, we must rely on scientific experimentation.  Most of the time we see this starting out on a small scale within our own communities.  This is what is sometimes referred to as a grass roots movement.  The results we see working on smaller scales can then be expanded upon and adopted to use at the state and federal levels.  All of these types of changes come from those who doubt a current method of governing. They embody a form of open-mindedness combined with skepticism in order to question, develop and test new theories of social and political reform.  Thomas Jefferson himself believed that “the habit of skepticism is an essential prerequisite to responsible citizenship”.  We should question our authority figures in ways that will keep our freedoms intact.  Dr. Sagan showed through his writing that he believed in freedom as being imperative for us to be able to continue scientific experimentation.  This is the luxury we can afford in the United States that cannot be indulged in other parts of our world where tyrannical governments rule.  We live in a democracy that allows us, as citizens, to express our free will through our thoughts, speech and actions.  We can argue against our government, boycott laws that are unjust and even impeach our own president if our questioning is based in truth.  It is these truths that have been created through various forms of experimentation, which will keep us free.

Please watch the Youtube video I made relating Dr. Sagan's book to what we have learned in class and how I have extended this into my own life.  Please excuse the poor sound and lack of theatrical quality. This is my first video I have made for public use :) 


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