4 May 2009
When Carl Sagan passed in 1996 the world of Science lost it’s greatest champion. I’ve been reading Richard Dawkin’s The Oxford Book Of Modern Science Writing. He included a snippet from Carl Sagan’s book “The Demon-Haunted World“.
Sagan writes some profound thoughts, and I quote from it below. You should get and read both books.
From “The Demon-Haunted World” by Carl Sagan:
We’ve arranged a global civilization in which most crucial elements- transportation, communication, and all other industries; agriculture, medicine, education, entertainment, protecting the environment; and even the key democratic institution of voting- profoundly depend on science and technology. We have also arranged things, so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for awhile, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces.
…For much of our history, we were so fearful of the outside world, with it’s unpredictable dangers, that we gladly embraced anything that promised to soften or explain away the terror. Science is an attempt, largely successful to understand the world, to get a grip on things, to get a hold of ourselves. To steer a safe course. Microbiology, and meteorology now explain what only a few centuries ago was considered sufficient cause to burn women to death.
Avoidable human misery is more often caused by not so much by stupidity, but by ignorance, particularly ignorance about ourselves. I worry that…pseudoscience and superstition will seem year by year more tempting, the siren song of unreason more sonorous and attractive.
…The candle flame [ of Science] gutters. It’s little pool of light trembles. Darkness gathers. The Demons begin to stir.
I end with another book recommendation.
Bill Bryson is an author best known for his book Notes On A Small Island. It’s a must read for any fellow anglophiles out there. Imagine my surprise when he turns around, and writes what perhaps is the best popular Science book of all time. Well, excluding Charles Darwin’s Origins of the Species of course. Did you know that Darwin and Lincoln were born on the exact same day. Feb. 12 1809!
A Short History of Nearly Everything is a must read.