Author: Carl Sagan
Publisher: Random House
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A few years back, I watched the full television series of Carl Sagan’s, “Cosmos” and fell in love with him. The way his voice shakes and his eyes twinkle when he talks about the wonders of science; he overwhelms his faithful viewers and draws them to see the world through his own eyes. We can understand his excitement and feel a part of what he feels about science.
Reading his written work was an equally satisfying experience. The soul of this book is in the narrative style of Sagan. As usual, he picks sensational stories from media tabloids regarding UFO’s, aliens and supernatural phenomenon. His treatment of these stories is exceptional, as he tries to draw the excitement of his readers on every page. Then, he uses the scientific method to analyse every story. He dissects these stories to their very bone and makes the naked truth visible and comprehensible to his readers. Believe me, even if you are a huge fan of crop circles or you think that your grandfather was once abducted by aliens, you will understand the real world logic behind them and learn to accept your own fallibility in realizing your senses.
Sagan does not talk like a philosopher, nor does he mock or ridicule like some other writers of his genre like Richard Dawkins. Instead, he flips between the role of a wise teacher and that of an excited child while recounting his own experience and adventures with science. You can visualize him smiling while penning down some indigestible media stories (like millions of Americans feel that they have been kidnapped at least once by aliens in their lifetime). Actually, if you had been born in the medieval ages, you might have had the same experience, only the aliens would have been replaced by ghosts or witches. The secret to this delusional thinking lies in “mass hysteria” in people brought upon by a common fear of a less understood problem. It can also be due to some common psychological problems that we all face at some stage of our life. To know more- well, you will just have to read the book.
I would not classify Sagan as a militant atheist in the category of Hitchens, Harris or Dawkins. His views tend to be less about offending religious people and more about educating them about science and its methodology. “More than science, we need scientific method in the world”, and I agree on this with Carl. In this world full of cheaters and thugs, where even the most educated of people consult a numerologist or astrologist before marrying or buying a house, where our eyes are blinded with confirmation bias and we vote on caste and religion rather than development – Science is of course a candle in this demon haunted world.