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Carl Sagan’s The Demon-Haunted World as Social Commentary

Carl Sagan’s The Demon-Haunted World as Social Commentary

Carl Sagan sums up his view of the basic flaw of man in one phrase: “history reveals that we humans have a sad tendency to make the same mistakes again and again” (Sagan 424). Humans today have an understanding of the world around them that is vastly superior to that of their ancestors. In spite of this, a growing number of people perpetually fail to scrutinize to the degree necessary for the evolution of the self. According to Sagan, failure to think scientifically seems to be the reason why most people get caught up in investing all their faith in as-yet-unproved phenomena such as UFOs and even religion. By investigating globally relevant topics like these, Sagan attempts to ward off the demons of ignorance (Nickell 110).

One of the strongest cases made by Sagan is the examination of professed UFO “abductees.” According to the author, the biggest problem in cases of UFO abductions is the fact that proof is neither sought nor accepted by the subject. The faintest glimmer of the possibility of having been abducted almost always snowballs into the firmest belief that one indeed has been abducted. Even the strongest “evidence” often can be explained as something much more rational than it seems to the “abductee.” For example, scarring attributed to alien experiments could quite possibly be due to any manner of unconscious self-mutilating acts. Sagan contends that even claims of seeing extraterrestrials can be attributed to the brain’s possible retention, and subsequent projection, of dreams. People have occasionally recalled events of contact with alien life while under hypnosis. But Sagan contends that hypnosis is shoddy enough that it’s recognized in courts…

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…nd the Sun and takes a year to do it (324). These facts aren’t mentioned in the hopes of instigating despair concerning the apparent lack of fundamental knowledge across America. Rather, Sagan’s purpose is to emphasize the need for a scientifically literate public (324).

In summary, Sagan relates that the mistake that man continuously makes is being led down stray courses. He believes that “[w]hat [many people] wish to be true, they believe is true” (325). A dangerous number of people fail to doubt and question both themselves and their surroundings. The acceptance of miscellaneous ideas without the demand of proof can only threaten to retard the progress of the human race.

Work Cited

Nickell, Joe. Looking for a Miracle. New York: Prometheus Books, 1998.

Sagan, Carl. The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark. New York: Random, 1996.

Under the Gaslight: The Character of Laura Courtland

Under the Gaslight: The Character of Laura Courtland

Under the Gaslight does indeed “acknowledge ‘luck’ or ‘chance’ or ‘fate,’ but it reinforces the importance of individual character at the same time that it suggests that integrity is not an absolute stay against the vicissitudes of circumstance” (159). This idea is mainly supported through the character of Laura Courtland–a symbol of both sides of the nature versus nurture debate.

Laura was born into a prominent, upper class family, the Courtlands. Her mother, Mary, in particular is a kind and generous woman who instinctively knows when she has “a duty to perform” and acts on it (164). Laura seems to have inherited this determined and honorable manner. She has higher standards than the society she lives in. Regarding love, she realizes that true love is about loving what is on the inside and is not based on looks, class, or wealth. She says, “How happy must those women be who are poor and friendless, and plain, when some true heart comes and says ‘I wish to marry you!”’ (165). Laura is, as the saying goes, “…

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