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“The Fine Art of Baloney Detection” by Carl Sagan

Carl Sagan writer of the article, “The Fine Art of Baloney Detection”, ponders on the idea of a supernatural reunion. Carl Sagan says that he can feel this connection he has with his deceased parents as if they are still with him and not dead. The one thing we say as the overpowering realization is trying to cope with one’s death especially loved ones. We, humans, make this mistake of not admitting we lost someone or that someone is gone and will not come back to us.

To emphasize more on his point, he makes Sagan introduces other scholar writers that share their point of view. Sagan in his article doesn’t willingly believe in mediums who claim to channel the spirits of the deceased. He is aware the practice is full of fraudulent mediums who prey on people wanting to believe their loved ones will speak to them from the afterlife. He uses an example of another scholar named, J. C. Knight, who supposedly channels a 35,000-year-old person named Rathma. He doesn’t believe anyone other than what Knight is speaking because he thinks knight must speaking the truth. His argument is that if we were truly speaking with the deceased, why wouldn’t they give us verifiable information? For example, why doesn’t Alexander the Great tell us the location of his tomb? John Wilkes Booth tell us about the Lincoln assassination conspiracy? He feels people want to believe the mediums because it would mean there is life after death, or life eternal.

The British scientist, J. B. S. Haldane, proposed a type of eternal life referred to as the “Consolation of Haldane” (pg 2). He imagined far into the future when the stars go dark and space is filled with a thin, cold gas that over a long period of time will fluctuate in density. Over “immense periods of time” the fluctuations will rebuild a universe much like our own (Haldane, pg2). If the Universe is infinitely old, there will be an infinite number of reconstitutions. This would mean there would be an infinite number of appearances of stars, planets, galaxies, and life, so an identical Earth must reappear on which we, and our deceased loved ones, will be reunited (Haldane, pg2). Sagan said if this were to happen, he would be able to see his parents again over and over but he feels it’s not as comforting as religion. But if we don’t remember our last life, how can we remember this life the next time? Sagan tells the reader that his parents are deceased and he wants to believe they are in some way still in existence, somewhere. He wonders how they are and sometimes dreams that they are still alive only to wake and grieve for their deaths again. He understands why someone would visit they’re departed at a cemetery and speak with them as if they were there.

Over a third of Americans feel they have contacted the deceased on some level. He states that scientists are given a “baloney detection kit” during training. If the new idea passes the baloney tests in the kit, it may be accepted, but not as a forever definite idea. Some of the tools are Independent confirmation of the facts. Encourage debate by knowledgeable proponents of the idea, don’t take the opinion of “authorities.” They may not be experts and even experts can be wrong. Come up with more than just one hypothesis because yours may be disproven or become stronger. Don’t get attached to a hypothesis because it is yours. Disprove it if you can because others will. Quantify what you can so it has a measure to compare & contrast to other hypotheses. If good evidence for life after death was presented, Sagan would be eager to examine it but it would have to be real scientific data, not data presented from a personal account or experience. Sagan tells us to think skeptically when we encounter information and not always what’s in front of your or the research behind it because sometimes sit can be fraud.

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