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  1. Dec 4, 2003 #1

    “The Demon Haunted World”, by Carl Sagan
    A Critique by MirabileAuditu

    The late Carl Sagan built a considerable reputation, and fortune, writing such books as “Cosmos”, “Pale Blue Dot”, and “The Demon Haunted World”. In each of them, he pretends to promote the ideals of the scientific method, which one might think was his most cherished belief. Or was left wing extremism his most cherished belief?

    While his scientific efforts were generally commendable, he was inconsistent, and made numerous errors and oversights in science. Meanwhile he hatefully and scornfully mocked the deeply held religious views of others, as can be seen here. This is intolerant and inexcusable. It is anathema to the liberals' habit of calling themselves "moderates" and "compassionate (ha ha ha)."

    The strange thing is this - he quotes the Bible often, and even provides numerous Scriptural references and admits his own “longing to believe” in “existence somewhere” after death. (My remarks follow parenthetically.)

    Page 6 “Some 95% of Americans are ‘scientifically illiterate’ “.

    (Professor Sagan was a teacher and scientist. Does he not bear an inordinate amount of responsibility for his own lamentation, along with those who emphasize not science, but “art”, as they say, “whatever THAT is”.)

    P 13: “...the Bible is ‘inerrant’ “.

    (A mockery of Christian and Jewish beliefs.)

    P 19: “Nancy and Ronald Reagan relied on an astrologer in private and public matters - unknown to the voting public.”

    (Vilifying Presidents Reagan and Nixon along with our Armed Forces was and is a favorite theme of Sagan’s and liberals everywhere. So too is referring to the “chauvinisms” of others.)

    P 27: “Science has built-in error correcting machinery at its very heart.”

    (Well then consider his own words on the very next page.)

    P 28: “Except in pure mathematics, nothing is known for certain.”

    (What is “error” if there is no certainty?)

    Ibid: “But even laws of nature are not absolutely certain.”

    (Professor Sagan seemed very certain of his opinions of Reagan, Nixon, and excessive military spending, to name just a few things.)

    P 29: “Science is not only compatible with spirituality, it is a profound source of spirituality.”

    (Why then did he mock religions so consistently?)

    P 29-30: “The notion that science and spirituality are somehow mutually exclusive does a disservice to both.”

    (Professor Sagan did disservices to both, as is here documented.)

    P 30: “If you want to save your child from polio, you can pray or you can inoculate.”

    (“Science is a profound source of spirituality”, P 29. Concordance on one page became mutual exclusivity on the next.)

    P 32: “Valid criticism does you a favor.”

    (As I hope to do for Sagan and his legions of “believers”.)

    Ibid: “I maintain that science is part and parcel humility.”

    (Demands, bordering on the militant, for more government funding hardly strikes me as “humility”. The mockery of religion does not indicate “humility”.)

    P 35: “No contemporary religion and no New Age belief seems to me to take sufficient account of the grandeur, magnificence, subtlety, and intricacy of the universe revealed by science.”

    (No contemporary science seems to me to take sufficient account of God’s hand in these intricacies. They are anything but random events.)

    Ibid: “The fact that so little of the findings of modern science is prefigured in Scripture to my mind casts further doubt on its divine inspiration. But of course I might be wrong.”

    (Such a popular and brilliant scientist - WRONG ? How could that possibly be? Two thousand years ago, the Scripture stated, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made”. And “The heavens proclaim the glory of God.” To this day, there has been no end of discoveries elucidating these and other profound Biblical truths and wisdom. Ironically science has underscored and emphasized their reality. This he calls “doubt” of divine inspiration, and concludes with what appears to be a snide remark.)

    P 38: “...abandoning science is the road back into poverty and backwardness.”

    (What is abandoning God?)

    Ibid: “The values of science and the values of democracy are concordant, in many cases indistinguishable.”

    (So have the costs. P 396: “ . . .science has been growing exponentially for centuries.” What of spiritual values?)

    P 140: “Mr. Reagan told an epic story of World War II .. . . .only it never happened. Many other instances of this sort can be found in Reagan’s public statements. . . It is not hard to imagine serious public dangers emerging out of instances in which political, military, scientific, or religious leaders are unable to distinguish fact from vivid fiction.”

    (Like the cold fusion hoax?)

    P 153: “A scientist of my acquaintance says, ‘If the aliens would only keep all the folks they abduct, our world would be a little saner.’ But her judgement is too harsh.”

    (Unless it is impugning Reagan, or Nixon, or our Military, to name but a few.)

    P 178: “How is (SETI, the Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence) different from fantasy and pseudoscience?”

    (A good question, never answered.)

    P 180: “I would be very happy if flying saucer advocates and alien abduction proponents were right. . . . They do not ask us, though, to believe on faith.”

    (Another mockery of religious “faith” - a faith which he longingly but reluctantly expresses on Page 203.)

    P 191-199: (Bizarre letters from many people, none of which can compare with Sagan’s remark, “We will spread through the Milky Way”, P 394,, or “So much Milky Way, so little time”, P 400, Pale Blue Dot.)

    P 203: “I long to believe that (my parents) essence, their personalities, what I loved so much about them - are really and truly still in existence somewhere. . . . Plainly there’s something within me that’s ready to believe in life after death. And it is not the least bit interested in whether there’s any sober evidence for it.”

    P 208: “As Tom Paine warned, inuring us to lies lays the groundwork for many other evils.

    (“Evil” is a term more appropriately discussed within the context of religion. What is a “lie” when “Nothing is known for certain”, P 28. Contemporary liberalism, which like Carl Sagan, abhors Reagan, Nixon, and the US Military, finds it convenient to dismiss the countless lies of President Clinton because of his charm, appearance, and political party. Most critically, how does “science” define “evil”?)

    P 218: (Professor Sagan attacks the cigarette industry - a politically correct target of contemporary liberalism. Why does he not attack the greater killer, fat and cholesterol laden foods, contributing to obesity/indolence? Or the more certain, more contagious killer, IV drug use and homosexuality, leading to AIDS?)

    P 254: “Scientists make mistakes. A few cheat and steal.”

    (But enough about OUR extremely few and very small imperfections.)

    P 260: “Who among us is wise enough to know which information and insights we can safely dispense with, and which will be necessary ten or a hundred or a thousand years into the future?”

    (Or tomorrow, at the moment of death . . .)

    P 261: “Fervid ideologues and authoritarian regimes find it easy and natural to impose their views and suppress the alternatives. Aldoph Hitler: ‘There is no truth, in either the moral or the scientific sense.’ “

    (This sounds a great deal like Dr. Sagan, P 28: “Nothing is known for certain.” Does he not try to suppress religious views with authoritarian science and militant “separation of church and state/school”?)

    P 273: “We could have lived in a Universe with different laws in every province, but we do not. This fact cannot but elicit feelings of reverence and awe.”

    (Again and again, he intones the concept of reverence or spirituality for all that is around us. Yet his statement of “consistency” can be little more than scientific presumption, as he contradicts himself. “Even laws of nature are not absolutely certain”, P 28.)

    P 274: “A small number of comparatively simple laws of Nature is one of the chief triumphs of science. And, it seems to me, its findings are perfectly consonant with many religions.”

    (Few?? The equations describing the laws of nature are many and complex. Please refer to university texts in physics, and chemistry. Review a Handbook of Physics and Chemistry. Then tell me of the “simplicity” of neutrinos and dark matter. Also, why did he continue to mock religious beliefs?)

    P 277: “There is no necessary conflict between science and religion. On one level, they share similar and consonant roles, and each needs the other.”

    (P 13: “The Bible is ‘inerrant’.” P 30: “You can pray, or you can inoculate”. P 180: “Alien abduction proponents do not ask us to believe on faith.” Unlike Believers.)

    P 278: “Indeed, this (an infinitely old Universe) is the one conceivable finding of science that could disprove a Creator - because an infinitely old Universe would never have been created.”

    (Alas, the Big Bang Theory was, if you will pardon the pun, “created” long, long after the Biblical creation of the Universe was described in Genesis. Coincidence?)

    End of Part I of II
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 4, 2003 #2
    P 288: “Also in the 1980's, Teller sold President Ronald Reagan the notion of Star Wars - called by them the ‘Strategic Defense Initiative’.”

    (P 216: “Weasel Words - a tool to recognize a fallacious or fraudulent argument.” - like “Star Wars”?)

    Ibid: “10,000 scientists pledged they would not work on Star Wars. This provides an example of widespread and courageous non-cooperation by scientists.”

    (Never a reference to anyone but “scientists” in connection with “courage”. P 212: “Argument from authority” - a tool to recognize a fallacious or fraudulent argument.” Finally, how many of those 10,000 “scientists” couldn’t contribute to SDI if they WANTED to?)

    Ibid: (Dr. Sagan “worries” that Edward Teller proposed thermonuclear destruction or deflection of asteroids, and in “Pale Blue Dot, Sagan proposes such deflection himself, shamelessly coopting the very idea of Teller’s he ridiculed.)

    P 289: “(Teller) has always been a fervent anti-communist and technophile.”

    ( Sagan and his friends were certainly fervent technophiles as well. Clearly this means then that Sagan was pro-communist.)

    Ibid: “Somehow, somewhere, he (Teller) wants to believe, thermonuclear weapons, and he, will be acknowledged by the human species as its savior and not its destroyer.”

    (Sagan has disingenuously condemned nuclear weapons and vilified the chief scientist who developed them, while he promotes them to deflect asteroids and power the Orion space ship. “Cosmos”, P 203)

    P 291: “This moral multiple personality disorder is hardly restricted to Judaism and Christianity.”

    (Did Sagan believe that only atheists are perfect?)

    P 294: “Nothing is too wonderful to be true.” Michael Faraday

    (Especially Heaven. See P 203)

    P 296: “All societies use technology.”

    (Ever read National Geographic Magazine? There are many primitive tribes in Africa that do not “use technology.)

    P 326: “(Today) science (and other) teaching is too often incompetently or uninspiringly done, its practitioners, astonishingly having little or no training in their subjects, impatient with the method . . . and sometimes themselves unable to distinguish science from pseudoscience.”

    (What a persuasive reason to further increase their government funding, rather than offer school choice through tax deductions, such as those given to religious donations - hardly “separation of church and state”. If any “Reagan conservative” had said such as this, he would be ridiculed as “anti-education”, or even “hateful and mean-spirited”.)

    P 327: “We need more money for teachers training and salaries.”

    (The science of economics does not support his entreaty. Thirty years of throwing more money at public education bureaucracies hasn’t improved things, and he wanted to continue this exercise in futility?)

    P 330: “Nature is always more subtle, more intricate, more elegant than what we are able to imagine.”

    (Anything but random.)

    P 332: “The oldest stars seem to be older than the Universe. . . .someone has made a mistake. Who?”

    (It COULDN’T be a scientist. They’re way too perfect. Must’ve been a “fundie”.)

    P 335: “Nobel Laureate Leon Lederman described a hypothetical building block as a “God particle”. In my opinion, they’re all God particles.”

    (Another deference to God, interspersed with its opposite.)

    P 347: “WHY are we pouring so much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere?”

    (Translation: “I’ll fly to this important meeting and that, and send up rockets with a 40% failure rate. You stay home. For the good of Mother Earth.”)

    P 349: “Ithica, New York has suffered the decline of its nineteenth century manufacturing base. Half the children live below the poverty line.”

    (But he JUST lamented “pouring so much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere”. That’s what manufacturing does!)

    P 357: “For 99 percent of the tenure of humans on earth, nobody could read or write.”

    (Many Americans are pushing to make that 100%. Incidentally, why then did our big brains “evolve”?)

    P 358: “Only 4 percent of those at the highest reading level are in poverty, but 43 percent of those at the lowest reading level are . . . And you’re much more likely to be in prison if you’re illiterate or barely literate.”

    (Or don’t have a car, pouring out “carbon dioxide”.)

    P 360: “Almost a quarter of American children now live in poverty. Between 1980 and 1985 more American infants and children died of consequences of dire poverty than all American battle deaths during the Vietnam War.”

    (So . . . more money for space?)

    P 362: “In its early years, the United States boasted perhaps the highest literacy rate in the world.”

    (Schools were private then.)

    Ibid: “The sixth-grade textbooks of today are much less challenging than those of a few decades ago . . .”

    (So yet even more money for public education will fix that . . . . how?)

    P 369: “I hope no one will consider me unduly cynical if I assert . . . how commercial and public television programming work is simply this: Money is everything. Television has become almost entirely profit motivated.”

    (“Profits” are evil. More money for science and education = pure goodness. No “P” word. Scientific logic.)

    P 370: “In the hands mainly of African-American players, basketball has become - at its best - the paramount synthesis in sport of intelligence, precision, courage, audacity, anticipation, artifice, teamwork, elegance, and grace.”

    (What touching Political Correctness. Which is more contrived, the part about “intelligence”, or the one about “courage”? Hint: Think Dennis Rodman.)

    P 381: “Stereotypes abound.”

    (Here are a few: “right wing religious extremists” ; “compassionate (ha ha ha) conservatives”.; “bible thumpers” ; “fundies”.)

    P 383: “Why subsidize geeks to pursue their absurd and incomprehensible little projects? Well, we know the answer to that: Science is supported because it provides spectacular benefits at all levels in the society, as I have argued earlier in this book.”

    (Spectacular pictures of Mars rocks; spectacularly wealthy scientists, who happen to be, by the way, spectacularly handsome. ~~Smiling~~ )

    P 396: “. . . science has been growing nearly exponentially for centuries and it cannot continue such growth.”

    (Yet Sagan continued to passionately argue for such growth anyway.)

    Ibid: “We (insist) on spending the national wealth to protect us from an enemy that no longer exists.”

    (Really? See P 415)

    P 400: “Of course there are many pressing problems facing our nation and our species. But reducing basic scientific research is not the way to solve them.”

    (Perhaps dismantling our nation’s defense is? Also see P 360)

    P 415: “Saddam Hussein - a slavering monster menacing the world.”

    (P 396 “We insist on spending the national wealth to protect us from an enemy that no longer exists.” Like China. Or North Korea. Or Iran. Why then are our troops in Yugoslavia even now?)

    P 429: John Brockhoeft is an “extremist ‘Bible thumping fundamentalist’ quoted in a ‘pro-life’ newsletter.”

    (P 381: “Stereotypes abound.”)

    Ibid: Randall Terry, founder of “Operation Rescue”: ‘Let a wave of intolerance wash over you . . . Yes hate is good.”

    (When did Dr. Sagan ever attempt to demonize the left? Did he not earlier lament the deaths of children? Evidently he supported “late term” abortions.)

    P 431: John Stuart Mill: “A society that will trade a little liberty for a little order will lose both, and deserve neither.”

    (The definition of liberalism is trading a great deal of our liberty for overwhelming control, not mere “order”.)

    P 434: “If we can’t think for ourselves, if we’re unwilling to question authority, then we’re just putty in the hands of those in power.”

    (I quite agree, which is precisely why Carl Sagan’s “authority” and “power” and atheism and liberalism are here called into question. He responded to my letter citing many such questions by merely asking me to buy his latest book. Like those "greedyrich" "Neocons," Carl lusted after more and more money. Imagine that.)
  4. Dec 4, 2003 #3

    The great Italian filmmaker (and atheist), Pasolini, used to talk about his "nostalgia for belief". A very honest man, like Sagan.

    The love of learning starts at a very early age. The entire American educational system (indeed, one might say the entire American culture) is to blame for the "scientific illiteracy" of Americans. Sagan was only one man, but contributed an enormous amount to the spreading of science beyond the walls of academe. If only there was a Sagan in every classroom, scientific literacy would be as common as general literacy, and rabid right wingers such as yourself would be driven to distraction.

    Ah yes, let's bash art while we're at it.

    Error is when something doesn't conform to our repeatable experience of reality.

    Because religion and spirituality are not synonyms.

    Not at all. You can pray and you can inoculate. Nothing mutually exclusive about it.

    Ah yes, bash the homosexuals, too.

    Oh dear. Complete ignorance again. Not only do you confuse equations with laws, but you also are unaware, apparently, that the equations to be found in a Handbook of Physics are nearly all of the derivative variety. They can be derived from a handful of simple laws.

    Yes, good point. Religion and science are in conflict. People like Dawkins spell this out very well. Sagan was wrong about this, in my opinion.

    Fire is technology. Spears are technology. Canoes are technology. Fishing nets are technology. It's not just mobile phones and portable computers, you know.

    Your conception of "random" is primitive.

    No, it was scientists. And if you were following the subject, rather than just spitting your bile at it, you would have known about it. In recent years, globular cluster ages have been revised down due to increased and refined knowledge of how stars evolve along the main sequence. A lot of this is thanks to that "evil" funding of telescopes.

    Learn the difference between relative and absolute. Literacy in America now is higher than it was in its "early years". Thanks in large part to public education. It's just that much of the rest of the world has caught up, and a large part of it has surpassed America in this respect, usually countries which spend a greater proportion of money on public education (e.g. Western Europe).

    Much closer to a definition of neoconservatism.

    You racist little f**k. I thought that I was dealing with an ignorant, rabid, right-winger. Then I realised I was also dealing with a Christian fundamentalist. And now I realise that I'm also dealing with a racist homophobe. Sod off.
  5. Dec 5, 2003 #4
    cragwolf, well said.
  6. Dec 5, 2003 #5
    I like Dennis Rodman - he is someone who a very good at what he does without taking himself too seriously - he knows how to enjoy life.
  7. May 20, 2004 #6


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    Quite the scathing critique. Also highly biased and misrepresenting the real deal, IMO. Hopefully, I'll find some spare time to debate your points. Ditto for the Cosmos thread.
    Last edited: May 20, 2004
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