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Friday, April 9, 2021

The Naivety of Carl Sagan

Is Carl Sagan taken seriously? I rank his two books—The Demon-Haunted World and Cosmos—among the low-quality propaganda books written in the final decades of the twentieth century. Much of the science that he offers in these two books is pop-science of the banal kind; you generally read such pop-science in third-rate tabloids. He was, I am certain, a believer in the Whig theory of history—his two books are written in the style of a Whig historian. I say this because he tries to present the movement from the ancient times to the modern age as an inevitable progression towards liberty, enlightenment, and technological advancement. He attributes all the progress that mankind has made to the work of the scientists who were motivated by an empirical view of the world. He excoriates the spiritual, theological, and religious movements of the past for creating roadblocks in the path of the scientists.

He suggests that calculus could have been invented by the time of Christ if the works of the Ancient Greek atomists like Democritus had not been lost—this is an absurd hypothesis but he offers this as a self-evident fact. To him Socrates and Plato are of less importance than Democritus—he tries to turn them into caricatures by mentioning them in reference to their purported belief in demons and ignoring their philosophical and political achievements. He prattles about the virtue of using reason and being a nonconformist, but he was himself a conformist. He blindly accepts every scientific myth of his time—from environmentalism to evolution to Big Bang to time travel and much else. He fails to see that most of the scientists of the past had a spiritual and religious side to their life. While talking of Newton, he does not mention the fact that Newton was born as a sickly child and he could not have survived to adulthood had he not been sustained by his faith in religion and God. 

The complication of human psychology is inconsequential to Sagan; man’s need for philosophy, spiritualism, and faith is inconsequential to him; the rise and fall of the empires of the past and the movement of history is inconsequential to him—the only thing that matters is the scientific theories which a few scientists have discovered. But I don’t see Sagan as a scientist; he was more of a glib talker, a shrewd marketer, a narcissistic actor, and a mediocre political theorist. His books are not about science. His basic interest is in preaching a materialistic or leftist (atheistic) view of the world. His leftism is quite simplistic and hollow. What I dislike most in Sagan is his naivety. He is like a Pollyanna, always optimistic, constantly hopeful of a prosperous and scientifically advanced tomorrow, smiling and cheerful like a clown at the circus.

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