Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Demon-Haunted World

  1. Jun 19, 2008 #1
    I just finished reading this book. I found it very enlightening. I would like to share a quotation:

    Science is more than a body of knowledge; it is a way of thinking. I have a foreboding of an America in my children's or grand children's time-when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what's true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstitions and darkness.​

    Have the issues of science education and skeptical thinking as it relates to the American public improved or degenerated since Sagan published this book in the late 1990's?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 19, 2008 #2

    jim mcnamara

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

  4. Jun 19, 2008 #3
  5. Jun 19, 2008 #4
    The knowledge of science is going down faster than... than... umm... some witty analogy.

    But technology is everybody's friend. Look at Youtube. It holds people accountable for what they say finally. Crooked cops, idiot politicians, idiots in general. It's for the world to see. Secrets are suddenly a lot harder to keep.

    But you also have the Ted Stevens'es of the world telling people that the Internets aren't a dump truck, etc.

    But in general people embrace new technology in order to further their lives, not in some scared attempt to protect them.
  6. Jun 19, 2008 #5
    Using technology is not the same as understanding it. I have come to the conclusion, that for the average person, a computer, cellular telephone, or microwave might as well be some magic box, rather than a piece of technology that works in a very specific and understandable way, governed by the natural laws of the universe.
  7. Jun 19, 2008 #6
    going down faster than michael jackson on a 5 year old! haha
  8. Jun 19, 2008 #7
    Bam. Thanks. I was trying to do something with Monica Lewinsky, but then I realized it's not 1998 anymore.
  9. Jun 19, 2008 #8
    True. But then again, when do you really learn how a transistor works? You kind of have to be into that stuff to learn it. LED's? That requires some knowledge of physics/chemistry, or at least understanding what an electron is and discrete energy levels.

    Lots of kids these days are code monkeys, but few understand beyond digital logic, like where it comes from?
  10. Jun 19, 2008 #9
    true it is good to have a basic understanding of where it comes from but it is not needed... as one of my professor always says, dont reengineer something... stand on your predecessors shoulders and further their work!
  11. Jun 19, 2008 #10
    There is a difference between understanding a subject and being an expert or professional in that subject.

    You can understand how a transistor works without being an electrical engineer. The average person should know what it does; AND, OR, et cetera.

    You do not have to understand quantum physics to understand the basic concept behind something like a microwave. If someone could say, "specific frequencies of radio waves are generated, hit the electrons in the food, cause them to become excited, and thus increase the temperature of the food," that is a perfectly good level of understanding for someone who does not need to design such a device.

    You can understand how computers work: the CPU, RAM, Hard Disk drive, Operating system, without being a computer engineer or computer scientist.

    I guess the point I was trying to make is, though people use more technology, they understand less of it. I think that Sagan is worried about a day when technology and the science behind it is understood only by a handful of scientists, engineers, and technicians. To everyone else, they might as well work by magic as by natural laws.

    It is patronizing to believe that the average person is incapable of understanding science and technology. A non musician can understand harmony, melody, rhythm, and chord progression without spending years in music theory classes. A lawyer or human resources manager should be able to understand on a basic conceptional level, how most technology works.
  12. Jun 19, 2008 #11
    No, that is treating is as a magic box like you claim laypersons do to technology. Knowing what it does and understanding how it works are two different things.

    Except that it's microwaves and water, not food. Thinking "food" is how you get paranoid people who say microwaving causes cancer and whatnot.
  13. Jun 20, 2008 #12

    Ivan Seeking

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    What is a ghost? Did they bother to ask, or do we just assume any definition that we like? Is that scientific?

    Did they ask why people have these beliefs? Did they ask how many base their beliefs on personal experience, or do we just assume that all beliefs magically appear from the aether for no reason whatsoever? Is that a justified assumption? If so, prove it.

    How many people today do we find clutching their crystals? And what does this have to do with exporting jobs? Are we to believe that globalization is the result of hippy rituals?

    Why is it that we are losing jobs to nations rich in religious beliefs? Should we therefore conclude that America is failing because of atheism?
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2008
  14. Jun 20, 2008 #13
    I thought China was mainly atheist.
  15. Jun 20, 2008 #14

    Ivan Seeking

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    India, Mexico, South American countries...


    Last edited: Jun 20, 2008
  16. Jun 20, 2008 #15
    Thats one you never hear about anymore, eh? MEXICO. I think the reason is that China is taking the good jobs these days, even from places like mexico. But what does south america make, even the sweat shops are in china now!

    If only we could follow the chinese and ban scientology.
  17. Jun 20, 2008 #16
    I thought the Chinese were mainly Buddhist. Is that the same as Atheist? Religion confuses me.
  18. Jun 20, 2008 #17
    (a (b))
    ~(r (a))
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2008
  19. Jun 20, 2008 #18

    jim mcnamara

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Since asking polling questions about topics that simply are 'how do you feel' is not necessarily science to start with, it is just 'what is your opinion?', and there is no definition that matches anything real, I don't see the problem. Similar to 'Do you believe in Angels?'

    If you want to dispute it, swell. But the OP wanted to know the state of the degradation of science knowledge. This is one possible metric. And the fact that questions like that are taken seriously by 'pollees' is another, more depressing, metric.
  20. Jun 20, 2008 #19

    Ivan Seeking

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    The entire context of this discussion is to make unjustified assumptions, generalizations, and to draw conclusions that can't be defended.

    My wife and I experienced a "haunting". Now, I don't claim to know what it was that we experienced, but it was real. Did we have a ghost? I don't know what that means. I only know what happened. And to assume that this absolute reality is somehow a measure of mysticism and crystal chanting is completely bogus, and completely unscientific.

    Many beliefs are based on observations and personal experience. One may choose to ignore this fact, but that is a leap of faith - a religious belief.
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2008
  21. Jun 20, 2008 #20

    Ivan Seeking

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Critical thinking does not require that one deny what they know to be real - that is what cowards do.
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Similar Discussions: Demon-Haunted World
  1. The Haunted Mansion (Replies: 1)

  2. Haunted house (Replies: 38)