Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 368
Carl Sagan's The Demon-Haunted World, which was published in 1996, mostly consists of essays originally written for Parade magazine in the 1990s. Sagan addresses such fascinating topics as alien abduction, the history of the Constitution of the United States, and the Reagans' use of an astrologer during their years in the White House. According to Sagan, one of the biggest problems in America is the "dumbing-down effect." Sagan contends that the media is in large part culpable for this:
It is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30-second soundbites (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.
Sagan has such a passion for science and wants everyone embrace it. He understands that scientific jargon can sometimes be intimidating, however, so although he writes about some very heady topics, he does so in a relatable way. He encourages his readers to ask questions and reminds them that a scientific claim alone is meaningless unless it's supported by conclusive evidence. Sagan further states that it is always wise to be wary when considering new scientific assertions. He says that Thomas Jefferson believed
that the habit of skepticism is an essential prerequisite for responsible citizenship. He argued that the cost of education is trivial compared to the cost of ignorance, of leaving government to the wolves.
Again and again, Sagan attacks the media and the part it plays in helping to cause and sustain public ignorance:
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 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.