by Carl Sagan ‧ RELEASE DATE: Feb. 1, 1996
Alarmed by the rise of superstition and pseudoscience, a leading science writer rallies the forces of reason and scientific literacy. Sagan (Pale Blue Dot, 1994, etc.) takes it as his mission to defend the worth and importance of science against the irrational crossfire of New Age philosophies and religious fundamentalism. He starts with an anecdote of a cab driver who, upon learning that his passenger was ""that scientist guy,"" insisted on quizzing him on UFOs, Atlantis, the shroud of Turin, and similar topics from the fringes of rational discourse. Despite the proven power of science to change the world, pseudoscience thrives--claiming as its adherents bright, inquisitive people who, according to Sagan, have not learned the basic techniques of careful inquiry. As an astronomer, Sagan is especially plagued by reports of UFO visitations and abductions, so that is what he focuses on, analyzing these reports in detail, starting with the origins of the ""flying saucer"" craze in the pulp science fiction of the '30s and '40s. He points out parallels between medieval witch mania and our own UFO abduction mania, as well as similarities between posthypnotic memories of physically invasive examination during abduction and similar ""memories"" of abuse by satanic cults. In particular, Sagan claims, many of the worst symptoms of irrational belief have been encouraged, or at least ignored, by entrenched power structures because they deflect attention from real problems in society. As partial remedy to the wave of pseudoscience, Sagan presents a brief course in ""baloney detection"" and a catalogue of logical fallacies. He concludes with a passionate argument for the value of literacy and genuine education, noting that the inquiring mind needs a balance of wonder and skepticism to arrive at an informed understanding of the modern world. Sag-an has produced a valuable document on the side of scientific civilization and enlightened progress.
Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1996
Page Count: 416
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1995
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