Archive for January 11th, 2009
Provoked by a persistent fellow who has been haunting this site and who constantly downplays the scope, value and accuracy of science in his comments, some of us have been increasingly trying to express what it is, exactly, that makes science valuable and more “truthful” than pseudoscience. While considering this issue, I decided to reread Carl Sagan’s inspired book: The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark (1996). Sagan’s ideas reminded me of the value of Ann Druyan’s suggestion that we eliminate the term “supernatural” from our vocabulary and substitute “sub-natural.” I believe that this approach would quite often put things in better perspective.
I will quote here, at length, various passages from The Demon-Haunted World bearing on the definition and value of bona fide science. Sagan so often said it so very well:
Superstition and pseudoscience keep getting in the way, distracting [believers in pseudoscience], providing easy answers, dodging skeptical scrutiny, casually pressing our awe buttons and cheapening the experience, making us routine and comfortable practitioners as well as victims of credulity. Yes, the world would be a more interesting place if there were UFOs lurking in the deep waters off Bermuda and eating ships and planes, or if dead people could take control of our hands and writers messages. It would be fascinating if adolescents were able to make telephone handsets rocket off their cradles just by thinking at them or if our dreams could, more often than can be explained by chance and our knowledge of the world, actually foretell the future. These are all instances of pseudoscience. They purport to use the methods and findings of science, while in fact they are faithless to its nature-often because they are based on insufficient evidence or because they ignore clues that point the other way. They ripple with gullibility. (Page 13)
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Upbeat roundtable by Meet the Press, featuring comedian/author Bill Cosby, Congresswoman Maxine Watters, Adrian Fenty (Mayor of Washington D.C.) and Alvin F. Poussaint. Cosby and Poussaint have co-authored a book entitled Come On, People: on the Path from Victims to Victors (2007). The main theme of this roundtable is what Obama’s election means for America.