Sagan's Warning

What follows is an excerpt from Carl Sagan's The Demon-Haunted World. When I first read it, years ago, I thought he was just speculating a worst-case scenario. I was wrong. He was all too accurate.
Not explaining science seems to me perverse. When you're in love, you want to tell the world. This book is a personal statement, reflecting my lifelong love affair with science. But there's another reason: science is more than a body of knowledge; it is a way of thinking.

I have a foreboding of an America in my children's or grandchildren's time - when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what's true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness.

The dumbing down of America is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30-second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance. As I write, the number one video cassette rental in America is the movie Dumb and Dumber. Beavis and Butthead remains popular (and influential) with young TV viewers.

The plain lesson is that study and learning - not just of science, but of anything - are avoidable, even undesirable.

We've arranged a global civilization in which most crucial elements - transportation, communications, and all other industries; agriculture, medicine, education, entertainment, protecting the environment; and even the key democratic institution of voting - 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.
                Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World

You can see it today in the GOP's war on women, and their overt racism. You can see it in their disdain and suspicion of science and education.

When those who would hold the highest public office in America refer to colleges as "indoctrination mills", something is seriously wrong. When they confuse quantifiable, observable fact as mere opinion, it is dangerous.

They would casually discard everything we, as a people, have venerated for centuries, in favor of some twisted, corporate theocracy.

If they succeed, it won't end well for any of us. But make no mistake, it will end.

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