How Billions of Demons Haunted Baloney While Avoiding Detection

Fine, first and foremost I’ll explain the title:

Fine, first and foremost I’ll explain the title:
In this essay we will be making reference to Carl Sagan’s book, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, particularly chapter 12 which is entitled, The Fine Art of Baloney Detection[fn]Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark (New York Random House, 1995), all quotes above taken from pages 210 & 212[/fn]. Finally, we will make reference to Richard Lewontin’s Billions and Billions of Demons (the full text of which is found here and it is very, very worth reading in its entirety), which is a review of Sagan’s book.

The Fine Art of Baloney Detection begins with an odd admission, considering that Sagan was an atheist. He would be very pleased to learn that his deceased parents are enjoying an afterlife and that they will be reunited again. Yet, this is, of course, something he cannot accept based on his examples of new age spirit channeling and their fallacious claims and outcomes. Moreover, he offers some good common sense ways in which to “construct, and to understand, a reasoned argument and-especially important-to recognize a fallacious or fraudulent argument.”
He makes one particular point that his fellow scientist would be well advised to follow:
“Encourage substantive debate on the evidence by knowledgeable proponents of all points of view.”

Furthermore, he advises the avoidance of ad hominem arguments (to the man, attacking the arguer and not the argument). As an example of this logical fallacy he offers the following example:
“The Reverend Dr. Smith is a known Biblical fundamentalist, so her objections to evolution need not be taken seriously”

This advise if greatly needed in today’s climate in which scientists are considered benevolent, unbiased, truth seekers and religious people are backwards, superstitious, ignoramuses who believe by blind faith and are blind to the facts. Believers will also do well to follow Sagan’s advice and not automatically reject any idea that is related to the word “evolution.” See “Do You Believe In Evolution?”-Define Your Terms.

We are living in a time in which professional scientists such as Scott C. Todd of the Department of Biology-Kansas State University have made what is supposed to be science into a system that purposefully rejects and ignores evidence in order to protect a world-view-philosophy:
“Even if all the data pointed to an intelligent designer, such an hypothesis is excluded from science because it is not naturalistic.”[fn] Scott C. Todd, “A View from Kansas on that Evolution Debate,” Nature Vol. 401, Sep. 30, 1999, p. 423[/fn] In the below provided book review Richard Lewontin makes a very strong and revealing statement about how “science” has been used as a premise upon which to build a system of support for materialism:
“we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism…we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations…for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.”

Some scientists go beyond a prior commitment to their particular world view philosophy and attempt to answer philosophical question terms of science. Consider the following words of Harvard paleontologist, Stephen Jay Gould, as he answers the question why is your work so popular? He states that certain subjects are “immensely intriguing to people”:
“Evolution is one of those subjects. It attempts, insofar as science can, to answer the questions of what our life means, and why we are here, and where we came from, and who we are related to, and what has happened through time, and what has been the history of this planet. These are questions that all thinking people have to ponder.”[fn] Special Collector’s Edition, TIME-Great Discoveries, An Amazing Journey Through Space & Time (2001), p. 15[/fn] Is this really the purpose of science, to function as a faith that answers the question regarding the ultimate meaning of life? Is this the function of a scientist, to guide and shape our soul and life? Scientists ought to be like journalism. Journalists are not supposed to use news stories in order to express their political or social biases. They are supposed to go to places that we did not, or could not, go to and simply tell us what happened there. A scientist is supposed to look into a telescope and a microscope and tell us that is there.

Sagan offers more good advice in the following form:
“Arguments from authority carry little weight-‘authorities’ have made mistakes in the past. They will do so again in the future. Perhaps a better way to say it is that in science there are no authorities; at most, there are experts”

Lewontin makes it clear that ideal and practice tend to be very different things:
“…scientists transgress the bounds of their own specialty they have no choice but to accept the claims of authority, even though they do not know how solid the grounds of those claims may be. Who am I to believe about quantum physics if not Steven Weinberg, or about the solar system if not Carl Sagan? What worries me is that they may believe what Dawkins and Wilson tell them about evolution…In the end we must trust the experts and they, in turn, exploit their authority as experts and their rhetorical skills to secure our attention and our belief in things that we do not really understand.”
Sagan also offers a piece of advice that he himself would have done well to follow:
“Try not to get overly attached to a hypothesis just because it’s yours. It’s only a way station in the pursuit of knowledge. Ask yourself why you like the idea. Compare it fairly with the alternatives. See if you can find reasons for rejecting it. If you don’t, others will”
Carl Sagan used to host a television show called Cosmos. His motto, the way that he began each show, was, “The cosmos is all there is or ever was or ever will be.” It is interesting to note that a show about science, presented by scientists begins with a statement that is a hypothesis to which Sagan had become attached. How does he know that the cosmos is all there is or ever was or ever will be? He does not. What is the evidence that the cosmos is all there is or ever was or ever will be? There is none. Note that while Cosmos covered various topics in its various episodes, the idea that was driven home again and again was that the cosmos is all there is or ever was or ever will be. This appears to have been driven by Sagan’s atheistic-materialistic worldview and not by science.

Before ending this succinct essay that merely sought to point out some interesting and or contradictory remarks by Sagan, we will point out one final comment by Lewontin:
“What seems absurd depends on one’s prejudice. Carl Sagan accepts, as I do, the duality of light, which is at the same time wave and particle, but he thinks that the consubstantiality of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost puts the mystery of the Holy Trinity ‘in deep trouble.’ Two’s company, but three’s a crowd.”

Apparently, according to Sagan’s view an argument is good for materialism but bad for theology.

2 thoughts on “How Billions of Demons Haunted Baloney While Avoiding Detection”

  1. “Cosmos” by definition
    Just a correction: I believe that at the beginning of the television series “Cosmos”, Sagan is DEFINING what the word cosmos means. That is: “Everything that exists or ever will exist.” That’s the context in which he’s using the word.
    He’s not saying that the word “Cosmos” necessarily only subsumes physical phenomena.
    It’s not a claim about the universe, it’s a definition of a word.

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