11 December 2015

The Candle of Knowledge Flickers This Dark December

Posted by Dan Satterfield


The Japanese have launched a spacecraft called Hyabusa 2 to look at an asteroid, and as it passed Earth this week (to get a speed boost), it grabbed this shot of the Earth and Moon in one frame. Take some time and look at that picture, and consider that the highest we go now is about a millimeter above the Earth in that image. We used to all the way to that dot on the left though, but in those days the folks funding NASA accepted basic science.

In one year, America spends more on defense than NASA spent to go to the Moon, and Jupiter, and Pluto and Mars….

Carl Sagan died 19 years ago this month. His book The Demon Haunted World makes a great holiday gift for high school and college students.

Carl_Sagan_Planetary_Society“I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time — when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the 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 superstition and darkness…

The dumbing down of American is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30 second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance”

“I worry that, especially as the Millennium edges nearer, pseudoscience and superstition will seem year by year more tempting, the siren song of unreason more sonorous and attractive. Where have we heard it before? Whenever our ethnic or national prejudices are aroused, in times of scarcity, during challenges to national self-esteem or nerve, when we agonize about our diminished cosmic place and purpose, or when fanaticism is bubbling up around us – then, habits of thought familiar from ages past reach for the controls.

The candle flame gutters. Its little pool of light trembles. Darkness gathers. The demons begin to stir.” Carl Sagan- The Demon Haunted World.