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The Demon-Haunted World Audio, Cassette – Audiobook, Unabridged
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About the Author
Carl Sagan, perhaps the best known scientist of our time, is the author of Cosmos, the bestselling science book ever and the basis for his award winning television series. A Pulitzer Prize winner, he received the highest award of the National Academy of Sciences. Pale Blue Dot and The Demon-Haunted World are available from Brilliance Audio.
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Science is not a belief system or a theory. Science is a craft, a method for creating reliable knowledge. Science is self correcting, and scientific knowledge is constantly improving, growing, and becoming more precise. A scientific method consists of the collection of data through observation and experimentation, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses. Further a scientific hypothesis must be falsifiable, and the results must be possible for other scientists to reproduce. However, it is astounding how many people actually believe that science is some sort of a belief system. Just read some of the reviews here on Amazon for pseudo scientific books and you'll see. Just listen to various movie stars whose opinions seem to matter so much despite the fact that my eight year old understand science better then they do.
Many people still do not understand what science is, and a lot of people are also unaware of basic scientific findings. As an example, remember the "moon landing was a fakery" conspiracy theory (or hoax). It presented a set of really silly assertions, for example, because the sky is black in the photographs from the moon and still without stars, this would prove that the photos were staged. Well anyone with the most basic understanding of science knows that it is not the blue sky that prevents us from seeing stars during the day, it is the sun light. The rest of the "evidence" was equally silly, and never mind the lunar laser ranging retro reflector arrays on the moon we currently use to bounce laser beams off (they came with Apollo 11). Still millions of people including famous and powerful people found the evidence compelling and convincing, all while anyone with basic knowledge of science laughed themselves silly upon seeing this so called "evidence".
In this book Carl Sagan debunks a large range of fashionable or popular nonsense, and explains how this nonsense can really hurt us. He explains the scientific method, what it is not, and how science is not only making life better for all of us, but can help us all make better decisions about what to believe. He is also presents a baloney detection kit which has become a classic. Please read this book if you haven't, and please learn some science and scientific reasoning if that is a weak point of yours. With this book Carl Sagan proved that he was not only a great popularizer but he was also a great thinker.
Sagan reveals himself to be a devotee of Darwin. On page 47 he discusses an insect that looks like a walking stick and states that it was slowly moulded by "Darwinian natural selection". Sagan displays his ignorance here, as natural selection as a concept only explains how people, animals, plants thrive at the expense of others. It does not explain evolution. Later, on page 249, he declares: "And modern Darwinism makes it abundantly clear that many less ruthless traits, some not always admitted by robber barons and Fuhrers - altruism, general intelligence, compassion - may be the key to survival." But what is "modern Darwinism"? Altruism and compassion are incompatible with Darwinism.
Sagan's targets include crop circles, UFOs, alien abductions, Frank Scully's Behind the Flying Saucers, Martian canals, Atlantis and Lemuria, spiritualism. Information is presented in a take it or leave it fashion. With regard to spiritualism, he states (p230) that "Seances occur only in darkened rooms, where the ghostly visitors can be seen dimly at best. If we turn up the lights a little, so we have a chance to see what's going on, the spirits vanish. They're shy we're told, and some of us believe it." Sagan does not say how many seances he investigated. He doesn't say who told "us" that spirits are shy. Also, he claims spiritualism began when a girl cracked her toe joint and "demonstrated how it was done". That is not true. The original debunkers, of the Buffalo Medical Journal in 1851, declared that the knee joints were the source of the rapping. Therefore, Sagan is either lying or just plain ignorant when he claims it was the toe joint.
On page 65-6 Sagan relates, "In college, in the early 1950s, I began to learn a little about how science works, the secrets of its great success, how rigorous the standards of evidence must be if we are really to know something is true, ..." What a shame he did not apply those standards to his own work. Hardcore atheists might get some comfort from this book. Anyone else, you have been warned!
Apparently, Carl has not educated himself adequately on these subjects. For example, he evidently is not aware that many crop circles the size of 2 football fields have appeared in as little as 15 minutes! Or that the plants display features not duplicatable by mechanical means. Clearly, SOMETHING unexplainable is afoot! To so readily discard crop circles as 'hoaxes' displays a clear LACK of education on Mr. Sagan's part. He may be an expert, even genius, in the area of Astronomy, but, sadly, he is NOT an expert on unexplained physical phenomena such as crop circles, or paranormal phenomena, which is a vast field of study in itself!
My hitherto high respect for Mr. Sagan was diminished upon learning of his biases against that which has not yet been satisfactorily explained. I would have preferred to continue to hold him in the exalted status I had originally viewed him in. It is with regret that I realize that even gifted scientists like Mr. Sagan are often swayed by agendas. What is Mr. Sagan's agenda here? That much is obvious!
The gifted Mr. Sagan would do better to stick to the areas he is gifted in - the physical UniVerse - and leave speculation of the unknown to those who are educated on those subjects.