Monday, October 29, 2018

Can We Please Free Our Minds of Magical Thinking?

It was over 20 years ago that Carl Sagan wrote, "The Demon-Haunted World." I've only just started reading but I'm already finding it delightful. There's something comforting in his observations and it's always good to come across corroborative beliefs from someone of Sagan's stature.

Here's a passage from the first chapter I'd like to share:

I don't know to what extent ignorance of science and mathematics contributed to the decline of ancient Athens, but I know that the consequences of scientific illiteracy are far more dangerous in our time than in any that has come before.

It's perilous and foolhardy for the average citizen to remain ignorant about global warming, say, or ozone depletion, air pollution, toxic and radioactive wastes, acid rain, topsoil erosion, tropical deforestation, exponential population growth. ...Consider the social ramifications of fission and fusion power, supercomputers, data "highways," abortion, radon, massive reductions in strategic weapons, addiction, government eavesdropping on the lives of its citizens, high-resolution TV, airline and airport safety, fetal tissue transplants, health costs, food additives, drugs to ameliorate mania or depression or schizophrenia, animal rights, superconductivity, morning-after pills, alleged hereditary antisocial predispositions, space stations, going to Mrs, finding cures for AIDS and cancer.
Sagan is plainly right and yet we live in a world where, even in the advanced societies, people are succumbing to conspiracy theories and magical thinking, sometimes angrily rejecting knowledge, logic and observable fact. With powerful change overtaking us rapidly, we could pay dearly for ignoring this failing in ourselves and in our leaders.

1 comment:

Jay Farquharson said...

I like majickal thinking, but I reserve it for escapist novels, not life.