Better Than Fiction New Sagan Book Laments Rise of Pseudo-Science

By Bettijane Levine 1996, Los Angeles Times | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), May 3, 1996 | Go to article overview

Better Than Fiction New Sagan Book Laments Rise of Pseudo-Science


Bettijane Levine 1996, Los Angeles Times, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


WHAT is a star? If you can't answer that one, try, why is the sky blue? If nothing comes to mind, then you're like 95 percent of Americans, Carl Sagan says. You have no replies to the simplest science questions your children ask. And you won't try to help them find any.

Such lack of interest on the part of so many, the eminent scientist says, could signal the beginning of the end for our country. Or perhaps even our planet.

But not to worry. Sagan may be one of the world's most optimistic individuals, a man who has spent his life exploring mysteries of the universe, who knows that even "the slightest alteration of course" may avert a catastrophe.

The course change he proposes in his new book, "The Demon-Haunted World" (Random House, $25.95), could be fun even for those who don't know that, in Sagan's words, "The stars are suns, very far away." Knowing the right answers is not essential to science, Sagan explains. The crucial element is respect for the questions.

Sagan's book, his 22nd, is a rumination on America's false perception that science is a subject too difficult for ordinary people to understand. And it is an indictment of the pseudo-science we have embraced instead.

From crop circles and alien abductions to astrologers, channelers and psychics, the astronomer, biologist and physicist says, we support whole industries based on crackpot notions that pretend to be science.

Have you seen the giant eggplant that looks exactly like Richard Nixon? Sagan has, and points out that thousands of people would probably be willing to believe that some Force From Beyond was trying to tell us something by creating the ski-nosed veggie.

"We believe just about anything that caters to our longing for superhuman powers," he says.

The astronomy professor and Pulitzer Prize-winning author says the consequence of not learning the scientific method - which includes healthy skepticism that leads to tough, pertinent questions and a demand for evidence before we commit to belief - leads us "into serious danger" as a nation and makes us gullible for "the next political or religious charlatans who saunter along."

Things have obviously slid downhill since 1980, when Sagan told the New York Times, "The public is a lot brighter and more interested in science than they're given credit for."

What has happened in the interim?

"We have become a nation of scientific illiterates," Sagan, 61, complains in a phone conversation from Seattle, where he is being treated for what he calls "a setback" in his fight against myelodysplasia, a rare bone marrow disease that left him with a "grave deficiency of red cells, white cells and platelets - all of which one needs to stay alive."

Luckily, his only sibling, a sister, was a perfect match, and Sagan had a bone marrow transplant about a year ago. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Better Than Fiction New Sagan Book Laments Rise of Pseudo-Science
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.