Monday, March 27, 2006

More Wisdom From Carl Sagan

I’m still reading Carl Sagan’s The Demon Haunted World, and every now and then I am struck by how accurate he was. Sagan died in 1996. However, in DHW on page 241, he had this to say:
Most of these figures [faith healers and other charlatans] are only after your money. That’s the good news. But what worries me is that a Carlos will come along with bigger fish to fry – attractive, commanding, patriotic, exuding leadership. All of us long for a competent, uncorrupt, charismatic leader. We will leap at the opportunity to support, to believe, to feel good. Most reporters, editors, and producers – swept up with the rest of us – will shy away from real skeptical scrutiny. He won’t be selling you prayers or crystals or tears. Perhaps he’ll be selling you a war, or a scapegoat, or a much more all-encompassing bundle of beliefs than Carlos’s. Whatever it is, it will be accompanied by warnings about the dangers of skepticism.
I wonder what he would have had to say about our current administration and its supporters. Would he have considered the President a “Carlos with bigger fish to fry”?

I think I do.

Think about it. It’s been asserted that he won, especially in 2004, because he was viewed as a good man, the kind of guy you would invite over for dinner. He’s certainly worked to develop that rough-and-tumble leader image. He wraps patriotism around his administration like a bath-towel. For years, the news establishment gave him a free ride, and only now are they starting to wake up to their responsibilities. And he has sold us a war – Iraq. He has sold us a scapegoat – Iraq.

And he is working hard to sell us his all-encompassing vision of America. He sees an America where “faith-based initiatives” are the best way to distribute government funds. He sees an America where “Intelligent Design” is good science. He sees an America where large corporations and other sources of pollution don’t spew toxins and greenhouse gasses into the environment, where the polar caps melting is a good thing, because it’ll boost the economy.

As to the warnings about skepticism, well, the millions of yellow “Support Our Troops” magnets sold in America during the 2004 election are evidence enough that skepticism about our President equates to a lack of love for this country in his eyes. Remember, this is the man who questioned a decorated war veteran’s patriotism, while trying to suppress the evidence of his own shenanigans back here in the States during the same war. Scientists who speak out about climate change are suppressed or ignored. Critics of the war are practically tarred, feathered and run out of town on a rail. If he had his way, skepticism, at least applied to what he wants, would be tossed out the window.

I imagine that Carl Sagan would agree with me. But like a good skeptic, I'll admit that I could be wrong.

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"Loyalty to petrified opinion never broke a chain or freed a human soul..." -- Mark Twain

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Fire does not wait for the sun to be hot,

Nor the wind for the moon, to be cool.

-- the Zenrin Kushu