This is actually a series of his lectures on natural theology, hence the title, but do not be fooled - iOne of my all-time favorites. Love Carl Sagan.
This is actually a series of his lectures on natural theology, hence the title, but do not be fooled - it is all scientific inquiry and little to no metaphysics or religion. For such a lengthy lecture series, it is quite logical and really does read like a book. It even includes visual charts, photographs, etc. It really put very basic concepts of the universe and astrophysics that I've always struggled with fully understanding into perspective for me, offering comparisons and breaking down large numbers into comprehensible analogies, and he does an excellent job of painting a picture of our place in the cosmos.
In the end he examines our personal responsibility as intelligent beings for self- and world-preservation. He addresses some of the nuclear arms race(s) and offers some frightening and disgusting statistics on just how much capacity we as a human race have to annihilate the world and how many times over with what has already been produced and is being hoarded. His message in the end, though, is beautifully positive and realistically optimistic, just as he has so long been beloved for being....more
Sagan makes an elaborate case for the tendency of culture (particularly American) away from science with pseudoscience and articles of faith without eSagan makes an elaborate case for the tendency of culture (particularly American) away from science with pseudoscience and articles of faith without evidence filling the role instead. He argues that this is ultimately destructive and that we especially must be concerned about those in positions of power who lack an adherence to the truth and facts. Perhaps, when reading between the lines, he makes a case for cultural de-evolution and the apparent diminishing of intelligence and inquiry with each generation. It's certainly something to consider at length, but he is almost (dare I say it of Sagan!) too long-winded with this pursuit.
He addresses the ridiculousness of the average conception of extra-terrestrial life, and the mutually parasitic relationship between the treating therapist and the supposed victim in encouraging delusion. The ubiquitous description of "little green men" visiting us here and taking sexual advantage, he argues, is cause for skepticism, so he examines other possible explanations such as a means to cope with an abusive parent whom the victim has developed trust, or a combination of dreams and hallucinations. He gives a historical account of superstition through the ages and the associated propensity for heinous acts against humanity that it has inspired, citing the witch trials, auspiciously regarded visions, dogmatic lies that have come to be regarded as truths, &c.
All in all, Sagan inspires us to engage in skeptical inquiry and to question any explanation delivered from authority. He makes a compelling case against ignorance and relays anecdotal accounts of his childhood, crediting both teachers and his non-scientist parents for inspiring his methodical and scientific approach to understanding the universe.