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The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark from Carl Sagan

A statement: children who watch violent TV programmes tend to be more violent when they grow up. But did the TV cause the violence, or do violent children preferentially enjoy watching violent programmes? Very likely both are true. Commercial defenders of TV violence argue that anyone can distinguish between television and reality. But Saturday morning children’s programmes now average 25 acts of violence per hour. At the very least this desensitizes young children to aggression and random cruelty. And if impressionable adults can have false memories implanted in their brains, what are we implanting in our children when we expose them to some 100,000 acts of violence before they graduate from elementary school?

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Gullibility kills.

Carl Sagan in The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark (1995)Report problemRelated quotes
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Pseudoscience is embraced, it might be argued, in exact proportion as real science is misunderstood.

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Our perceptions are fallible. We sometimes see what isn't there. We are prey to optical illusions. Occasionally we hallucinate. We are error-prone.

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Nearly everyone in ancient Egypt exhorted the gods to let the Pharaoh live forever. These collective prayers failed. Their failure constitutes data.

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Pseudoscience speaks to powerful emotional needs that science often leaves unfulfilled. It caters to fantasies about personal powers we lack and long for.

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The ancient Ionians were the first we know of to argue systematically that laws and forces of Nature, rather than gods, are responsible for the order and even the existence of the world.

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Science is a way to call the bluff of those who only pretend to knowledge. It is a bulwark against mysticism, against superstition, against religion misapplied to where it has no business being.

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There are naive questions, tedious questions, ill-phrased questions, questions put after inadequate self-criticism. But every question is a cry to understand the world. There is no such thing as a dumb question.

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There is much that science doesn't understand, many mysteries still to be resolved. In a Universe tens of billions of light-years across and some ten or fifteen billion years old, this may be the case forever. We are constantly stumbling on new surprises.

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