Demon Haunted

Richard Lewontin, on his friend Carl Sagan and how to think about pseudoscience, from a 1997 review of Sagan’s Demon Haunted World:

[Carl] Sagan and I drew different conclusions from our experience [debating creationists]. For me the confrontation between creationism and the science of evolution was an example of historical, regional, and class differences in culture that could only be understood in the context of American social history. For Carl it was a struggle between ignorance and knowledge.

Conscientious and wholly admirable popularizers of science like Carl Sagan use both rhetoric and expertise to form the mind of masses because they believe, like the Evangelist John, that the truth shall make you free. But they are wrong. It is not the truth that makes you free. It is your possession of the power to discover the truth. Our dilemma is that we do not know how to provide that power.

I am (finally) starting to think about my cranks book again.


  1. Dean Yeager: Doctor… Venkman. The purpose of science is to serve mankind. You seem to regard science as some kind of dodge… or hustle. Your theories are the worst kind of popular tripe, your methods are sloppy, and your conclusions are highly questionable! You are a poor scientist, Dr. Venkman!

    Dr. Peter Venkman: But the kids love us!

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