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 of law to be unreliable in finding the truth. In no instances of UFO abductions thus far have the arguments of the "victims" been supported by irrefutable evidence. It may seem that Sagan is unwilling to accept the possibility of extraterrestrial life. On the contrary, as an astronomer with a vast, working knowledge of the universe, Sagan says he would find it astonishing if there weren't extraterrestrial intelligence (Sagan 180). But he, and everyone else, needs proof.
According to the author, the trend with UFOlogists appears to indicate that the...