05 December 2007
I want an Ann Druyan of my own
Carl Sagan The Demon-Haunted World: Science As A Candle In The Dark
Here is a collection of essays representing a spectrum of topics ranging from UFOs and alien abduction to the effects of religion on society to the terrible deficiencies in science education among American youth. While the topics are diverse, they flow quite well together and the read never feels disjointed as such a vast array is wont to do.
Later in the book there are several essays that Carl co-wrote with his wife and collaborator Ann Druyan. These tend to be more general in scope; mostly regarding science education, science's role in society and the possibilities for societal betterment that scientific advancement provides. I thought this made sense given Ann's role in co-writing much of the Cosmos tv series. I also get the impression that she probably helped edit and improve the flow of most of Carl's pieces.
What I appreciate most about Carl's work in popularizing science is his continuous encouragement in questioning everything and keeping a sharp, critical, skeptical mind about what confronts us on a daily basis. It's such a simple concept and seems cliché, but to remain vigilant in the face of encroaching darkness and magical thinking is difficult. I can only imagine what Carl would think if he were still alive in this day of pseudoscience and anti-science, of "intelligent design" in schools and diminished science literacy in general. When I was growing up I remember Mr Wizard and 321 Contact among other science shows for kids. Do they even have that now? Sure, kids can use computers, but too many can't think and aren't exposed to methods of critical inquiry at a young age.
I've completely lost focus now and I'm just rambling. I hate to say "we're fucking screwed" even thought it often feels like it, so it makes me terribly happy and hopeful that we still have the work of Carl Sagan as a light in this terrible tunnel.