You know, I’ve never been a Carl Sagan fan. Not that I’ve read a whole lot of his stuff outside of some opinion pieces that have shown up online after his death. I guess the reason I’ve never been a fan is because I’ve frequently run into people arguing against the legitimacy of neo-spiritual/Occult concepts who reference his book The Demon Haunted Universe, which I’ve admittedly never read. You know why I haven’t read it? Because I have no idea why I would read a book about spirituality or altered states of consciousness written by an astronomer. Not really his area of expertise now, is it? What I didn’t know until just recently is that Robert Anton Wilson not only thought he was an arrogant douchebag, but wrote an entire chapter about that very topic in his book Cosmic Trigger III: My Life After Death:
“If anybody possesses all the qualifications necessary for a fully ordained Expert in America today, Carl Sagan certainly has that dizzying eminence. Through frequent appearances on TV and in Parade (a news magazine circulated through hundreds of newspapers in their jumbo Sunday editions), Dr. Sagan has issued Expert verdicts on every possible controversial issue in science, and in politics, and even in theology, for three decades now. And, like the Experts who authenticated hundreds-to-thousands of Elmyrs, he has never once admitted he ever made a mistake.
You may wonder how a man who only has qualifications in astronomy can also function as an Expert on everything in general. Well, I think it requires Sagan to have a lot of raw courage, in the first place, and a strong, well-founded confidence that those who don’t believe his dogmas have much less access to the media than he does; if they answer him back, however effective their arguments, very few of his large, gullible audience will ever hear about it.”
The whole chapter, entitled The Astronomer who Abolished Gravity focuses largely on Sagan’s crusade to discredit the ideas of one Dr. Velikowsky and can be read here in its entirety (you have to scroll down a bit), and ends with this gem (quoting NASA’s Robert Jastrow):
“Professor Sagan’s calculations, in effect, ignore the law of gravity.
Here, Dr. Velikovsky was the better astronomer.
Robert Bass wrote, even more harshly,
This Sagan assumption [ignoring gravity] is so disingenuous that I do not hesitate to label it a deliberate fraud on the public or else a manifestation of unbelievable incompetence or hastiness combined with desperation (cited by Ginenthal.)
Well, I always had doubts about Sagan’s ability to pronounce verdicts outside astronomy. When he does calculations inside astronomy and then ignores or forgets gravity, I begin to wonder about his competence in general….”
Why do I mention this? Because just a few days back Disinfo ran a piece siting Carl Sagan’s wisdom as some amazing guide to help us sort out reality from fantasy and warning Disinfonauts to be weary of their sources. Clearly, the guy who wrote for that bastion of cutting edge science, Parade Magazine, for 30 years should be trusted blindly as an authority on these matters. Clearly.