By Carl Sagan
I enjoy science, although I am the first to admit that I don’t know as much as I’d like to about it. I think I know a little tiny bit more than the average schoolchild, at least. So since I am in no way expert on the subject, I can only say that I truly enjoyed this book.
I thought Sagan did a good job discussing the subjects in layman’s terms without dumbing it down entirely, and without talking completely over my head. It took me longer to read this book than it normally would for one this size. It was a bare 400 pages, but there were a few places that I had to read a couple three times before I felt I had a real grasp of what he was saying, but I think I got a handle on it. Except the part with Maxwell and the equations. I tried. I really did. But about all I got out of that section is that 60 mph is not a vector, but 60 mph due north on highway 1 is, and I am relieved that there are plenty of others out there who understand the whole thing. I feel proud that I got that much about the vectors.
Sagan is skeptical and debunks a lot of common myths in this book, which I appreciate. But he is incredibly compassionate about it. He understands, even if he doesn’t necessarily agree with, the human need to believe in something, whether it is a religion or little green men. I tend to take a more hard nosed approach to faith, but Sagan has managed to find a very good balance between the world of science, skepticism, and real facts vs. the world of faith and belief. I really liked his section on logic and critical thinking, the section he labeled the art of baloney detection, or something to that effect.
I wish this was compulsory reading in high school. I agree that our school curricula have been dumbed down unforgivably and that entire generations not only do not know how to think, but they aren’t even aware that they don’t know how to think. I also wish for everyone who has faith in something, such as a religion, would read this and PAY ATTENTION to it. I read a review on Amazon of this book where the reviewer said he wished he could simultaneously give this book 5 stars and 0 stars–5 stars because it made him think and re-evaluate many things in his life, and 0 stars because it created in him a crisis of faith. I think that is perfect–if one’s beliefs do not hold up under actual scrutiny, where aspects are not adhered to simply because we *like* them, then those beliefs *need* to be re-evaluated. This book is an excellent starting point for that re-evaluation.