Carl Sagan and the Demon(s) of Pseudo-science

Science is a pretty big thing for folks these days. It’s the new religion, right? I guess between educated empiricists and uneducated creationists, I know who I’m going to side with — although any kind of fundamentalist/evangelism is just spiritually filthy. The problem is just that, most people aren’t smart. And most people aren’t predisposed to study science. And science doesn’t necessarily solve people’s varying emotional or existential problems. People need something to attach to, a fantasy. That’s how they keep it together. Give us a fantasy, scientists!

People with an ethnocentric or “racial” agenda often claim logical means to stage their arguments, much like satanists/black magicians, businessmen or politicians: They pitch their argument as being the result of an empirical investigation of reason or logic when of course, the real underlying message is their emotional disposition and unbalanced attachment to negative views. It’s what Carl Sagan would call, “pseudo-science”. In other words, presenting only certain facts under a pretext of science in order to obscure the bigger picture from casual observers.

From the man hisself, in The Demon-Haunted World (via Wiki):

“We’ve arranged a global civilization in which most crucial elements profoundly depend on science and technology. We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces… I worry that, especially as the Millennium edges nearer, pseudoscience and superstition will seem year by year more tempting, the siren song of unreason more sonorous and attractive. Where have we heard it before? Whenever our ethnic or national prejudices are aroused, in times of scarcity, during challenges to national self-esteem or nerve, when we agonize about our diminished cosmic place and purpose, or when fanaticism is bubbling up around us – then, habits of thought familiar from ages past reach for the controls. The candle flame gutters. Its little pool of light trembles. Darkness gathers. The demons begin to stir.”

Carl Sagan was cool, but his technological idealism reflects the liberal urban attitude of his generation. The belief that science is this great illuminating torch that will save us savages from our ignorant beliefs. Whatevas. More like, divine providence will save us, Carl! Presuming we get saved or even need saving…

I presume what Carl Sagan is predicting here is not necessarily (or not only?) a ethnicially driven war or terrorism, but maybe the technological lockdown of the lower classes by the uber-elite. You know, the stasis of society and freedoms of a civilization dependent upon technology which only an elite number of operatives have the experience to control.

7 Responses to “Carl Sagan and the Demon(s) of Pseudo-science”

  1. Good post. And let’s not forget it’s our wonderful use of technology that has damaged the planet to point that it is. Granted, I think technology will also be our ticket out of the mess (i.e. renewable resources etc) but technology can’t address the fundamental issues of human nature that got us there in the first place.

    I am personally a little skeptical of all claims that we need “saving”. Often I think the narrative of salvation itself creates many of the situations it claims to liberate us from…

  2. You have very interesting writings… and a wonderful ability to express yourself…

  3. Techno-utopianism is the term. It is the utopianism with the most tangible results to show for, but still a means with an uncertain end.

  4. Hey thanks, Gwen! I’m always pleased when people don’t think my writing is totally bonkers. :)

    Re: techno-utopianism — is this completely separate from the post-humanism movement/beliefs? I just get confused how intelligent people like Carl Sagan could actually put faith in one particular thing and think it’s possibly our salvation, as opposed to being the thing that he finds the most interesting. Or I could be misinterpreting the guy entirely.

  5. Human nature: it’s a motherfucker. Mircea Eliade called man Homo Religiosus and it applies even to atheists. Living without faith is perfectly logical, but logic as applied to the human condition is suicide. If we don’t choose suicide, some leap of faith is necessary. You choose your heaven, I choose my utopia, you put it after death, I put it in the distant future. One must get out of bed somehow.

  6. I think I agree with the general thrust of Ben’s comments. But most transhumanists or techno-utopianists (or whatever you want to call them) deny the religious impulse, even as their ideology of choice embraces it. Christianity has left a nigh indelible stamp upon Western thought, and virtually every attempt to throw it off winds up embracing it. Transhumanism is no different, it has the same linear narrative, a transcendent means of salvation (technology, human ingenuity, artificial intelligence, etc), and an apocalyptic event followed by a heaven (the “singularity”). Or as one commentator put it, transhumanism is “the Rapture for nerds.”

    What I wonder, however, is whether it is possible to get out bed without this leap of faith, without this utopia in the future. Is it not possible to live in the present, and to find one’s eternity [i]right here[/i]? I’d suggest that at least some traditions have this goal-less goal and manage to sidestep apocalyptic utopianism. Here perhaps the point of life is not to achieve some transcendence but simply to [i]see[/i].

  7. Aye, some might call religion “obsolete” or foolish, but religion is simply a governed or systemic faith. As you point out, E-Hermit, the transhumanists have their own object of salvation or pre-determined purpose. The new-agers who trust in the 2012 prophecies or theories do as well (which crosses over with the transhumanists at some point — surprise!).

    I generally agree with the notion that there is not an isolated divine purpose, event or answer that achieves or bequeathes bliss or heaven or whatever. That belief is simply more suffering. The fear of realizing this is much like the fear of realizing the impermanence and transient nature of the self. Once it is finally realized, it is total freedom, total bliss.

    The difference between my view and those held by materialists or “atheists” or Brights or whomever, is the simple fact that I believe there is a possible pure awareness of reality — a total stillness. Anybody can acquire it, since it comes from intuitive perception, or the ultimate imagination. But like Cayce says, “you don’t go to heaven, you grow into it.”

    So yeah, I’d agree with you, E-Hermit, that… to some degree the ultimate realization is simply ultimate awareness, ultimate insight as the eye of the cosmos.

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