I picked up Carl Sagan’s The Demon-Haunted World last night and much like A Primate’s Memoir it instantly became one of my most favorite books. While I do enjoy the sometimes pedantic prose of Gould and the well-written treatments of science by other writers, there is simply something about Sagan’s writing that I find much more accessible and enjoyable. There is little that I can do other than simply endorse this book if you have not already read it, and please push it upon others who believe in UFO’s, psychic powers, etc.
The only major gripe I had was that Sagan does not give enough attention to biology when he considers the worthiness of science as away of knowing about the world. I feel that many of the issues that we face right now in terms of creationism and public misunderstanding of evolution are at least partially rooted in the fact that most people don’t see the study of evolution as important or valuable. While the discoveries of great physicists and chemists may have had implications in our lives like TV or synthetic materials, evolutionary biology is not given the same detailed treatment (although Sagan often acknowledges how important it is).
Being that I was in a rather irreverent mood this afternoon, my brain came up with summation;
Evolutionary biology may very well be the unloved stepchild of modern science; maligned, misunderstood, and suspected of carrying out odd activities featuring fire-crackers and hapless arthropods in the backyard.
This is not the most elegant way to put it, and those who lack my somewhat skewed sense of humor will probably not find it funny, but I am indeed very concerned that evolutionary biology is largely viewed by the public as an extravegance; why should we pay scientists to study how some obscure plant or insect evolved, especially when the demands of consumers worldwide (they feel) have little need for such studies. This is the battle that popularizers of science must fight if we’re to bring about understanding of evolution; for my own part, I can think of no other science that is more personal, relevant, and important than figuring out the history of life on earth. I hope I am up to the challenge.