Review of Carl Sagan book (Part 4 of series on Evolution)

Review of Carl Sagan book (Part 4 of series on Evolution)

The Long War against God-Henry Morris, part 5 of 6

Uploaded by  on Aug 30, 2010

I got this from a blogger in April of 2008 concerning candidate Obama’s view on evolution:

Q: York County was recently in the news for a lawsuit involving the teaching of intelligent design. What’s your attitude regarding the teaching of evolution in public schools?

A: “I’m a Christian, and I believe in parents being able to provide children with religious instruction without interference from the state. But I also believe our schools are there to teach worldly knowledge and science. I believe in evolution, and I believe there’s a difference between science and faith. That doesn’t make faith any less important than science. It just means they’re two different things. And I think it’s a mistake to try to cloud the teaching of science with theories that frankly don’t hold up to scientific inquiry.”

This is a review I did a few years ago.

THE DEMON-HAUNTED WORLD: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan. New York: Random House, 1995. 457 pages, extensive references, index. Hardcover; $25.95.
PSCF 48 (December 1996): 263.
Sagan is the David Duncan Professor of Astronomy and Space Sciences at Cornell University. He is author of many best sellers, including Cosmos, which became the most widely read science book ever published in the English language.
In this book Sagan discusses the claims of the paranormal and fringe-science. For instance, he examines closely such issues as astrology (p. 303), crop circles (p. 75), channelers (pp. 203-206), UFO abductees (pp. 185-186), faith-healing fakes (p. 229), and witch-hunting (p. 119). Readers of The Skeptical Inquirer will notice that Sagan’s approach is very similar.
Sagan writes:
The Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal is an organization of scientists, academics, magicians, and others dedicated to skeptical scrutiny of emerging or full-blown pseudo-sciences. It was founded by the University of Buffalo philosopher Paul Kurtz in 1976. I’ve been affiliated with it since its beginning. Its acronym, CSICOP, is pronounced Asci-cop C as if it’s an organization of scientists performing a police function Y CSICOP publishes a bimonthly periodical called AThe Skeptical Inquirer. On the day it arrives, I take it home from the office and pore through its pages, wondering what new misunderstandings will be revealed (p. 299).
Sagan points out that in 1991 two pranksters in England admitted that they had been making crop figures for 15 years. They flattened the wheat with a heavy steel bar. Later on they used planks and ropes, but the media paid brief attention to the confession of these hoaxers. Why? Sagan concludes, ‘Demons sell; hoaxers are boring and in bad taste’ (p. 76).
Christians must admire Sagan’s commitment to critical thinking, logic, and freedom of thought. He takes on many subjects in this book, and the vast majority of his analysis is exceptional. However, his opinions on religious matters are affected by his devotion to scientism. Sagan believes only that which can be proved by science is true. He disputes psychologist Charles Tart’s assertion that scientism is ‘dehumanizing, despiritualizing’ (p. 267). Sagan comments, ‘There is very little doubt that, in the everyday world, matter (and energy) exist. The evidence is all around us. In contrast, as I’ve mentioned earlier the evidence for something non-material called `spirit’ or `soul’ is very much in doubt’ (p. 267).
Science can only prove things about the physical world, and it cannot prove anything about the spiritual world. Does that mean that the mind and soul don’t exist? Of course not! First, we must realize that science is not the only way to truth. Even Sagan must admit that he must justify values like ‘be objective’ or ‘report data honestly’. Where do those values come from? They came from outside science, but they must be in place for science to work.
Sagan gives an illustration that contrasts physics and metaphysics. He shows that the physicist’s idea will have to be discarded if tests fail in the laboratory. Therefore, the main difference between physics and metaphysics is that the metaphysicist has no laboratory. This is a cute story, but can science answer the basic questions that underline all knowledge? Metaphysics is necessary for science to take place. It is not true that science is superior to metaphysics like Sagan would have us believe. The presuppositions of science can only be validated by philosophy. J. P. Moreland has correctly said, ‘The validation of science is a philosophical issue, not a scientific one, and any claim to the contrary will be a self-refuting philosophical claim’ (Scaling the Secular City, p. 197).
Second, the absence of scientific evidence for the soul does not mean the soul does not exist. Sagan himself states,’Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence’ (p. 213).
I was impressed with the way Sagan put his inner thoughts on the table. For instance, he comments, ‘Plainly, there’s something within me that’s ready to believe in life after death…If some good evidence for life after death was announced, I’d be eager to examine it; but it would have to be real scientific data, not mere anecdote’ (pp. 203-204). What kind of evidence is Sagan looking for? It certainly is not vague prophecies. He states, ‘Think of how many religions attempt to validate themselves with prophecy…Think of how many people rely on these prophecies, however vague, however unfulfilled, to support or prop up their beliefs…Yet has there ever been a religion with the prophetic accuracy and reliability of science? (p. 30). The answer to that question is yes. Christianity can point to very clear passages such as Isaiah 53 and Daniel 11 written hundreds of years before the events occurred.
While comparing science to religion, Sagan comments, ‘Science is far from a perfect instrument of knowledge. It’s just the best we have (pp. 27-28). Here Sagan is only half right. Science is imperfect, but it is not better than the Bible.’
The Demon-Haunted Worldis a thought-provoking book that I thoroughly enjoyed. Some of Sagan’s anti-Christian views come through, but on the whole, this book uses critical thinking and logic and applies them to the claims of the paranormal and fringe-science of our day.
Reviewed by Everette Hatcher III, P.O. Box 23416, Little Rock, AR 72221.

Other posts that relate to Carl Sagan:

Atheist says “It’s not about having a purpose in life..” (Arkansas Atheist, Part 1)

The Bible and Archaeology (1/5) The Bible maintains several characteristics that prove it is from God. One of those is the fact that the Bible is accurate in every one of its details. The field of archaeology brings to light this amazing accuracy. _________________________- I want to make two points today. 1. There is no […]

Ancient Sea Monsters (A Creationist point of view Part 3)

Leviathan: the Fire-Breathing Dragon: Kent Hovind [6 of 7] Everybody is trying to get info on this subject. Here is what the Bible has to say about it. Mace Baker wrote the aritcle, “Sea Dragons – The Institute for Creation Research,” and here is the third portion of that article:  Pterosaurs were the flying reptiles of the ancient world. Why […]

By Everette Hatcher III | Posted in Current Events | Edit | Comments (0)Other posts concerning Carl Sagan:

Atheists confronted: How I confronted Carl Sagan the year before he died

In today’s news you will read about Kirk Cameron taking on the atheist Stephen Hawking over some recent assertions he made concerning the existence of heaven. Back in December of 1995 I had the opportunity to correspond with Carl Sagan about a year before his untimely death. Sarah Anne Hughes in her article,”Kirk Cameron criticizes […]

Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: