Ye Olde Natural Philosophy Discussion Group

Reviews and comments on
Carl Sagan: "Billions and Billions" [1998]

Our group had a variety of opinions and ratings for this book. At the low end, Shel said that he was really disappointed with the book, and bored. He rated it only 3 (on a scale of 0-10). Most of us were more positive than negative, giving it ratings in the 5 to 7 range. Many of us thought it is an important book, but since the intended audience is so broad, it does not assume very much of the reader and repeats a lot of things our group already knew. Since the book is attempting to educate the public on important scientific issues it has a political flavor (which is not a criticism!). Rosie remarked that "it's not a science book; it's more of a political book."

Kirby and John were very enthusiastic about the book, both giving it 10's. Kirby gave it an empassioned defense, pointing out how important it is to educate large numbers of people in scientific matters. And all the more so when we realize how poorly educated in science most people are, and when we see things like the Kansas School Board denying basic science like evolution a place in the schools.

John Lewis wrote the following mini-review:

In short, I thought the book was great. The particular thing he did in the book that I liked the most was that he explained each of his concerns in good technical detail, kept the explanations simple and straight forward, and proposed solutions for them.

For instance, in his explanation of the ozone hole problem, he did a great job of not only detailing the causes of the problem, but also in linking this information with the facts that the ozone hole causes plankton to be more at risk and that plankton is at the base of one of our major food chains. On the solution side here, it was interesting to read about the conference in Montreal, and what actual steps are being taken to solve the problem. Even in our little group, I think if someone asked us what one of the risk factors about ozone depletion was, we might not be able to point out that microorganisms in the ocean were at risk and the effect this could have on human populations and what we are doing about it.

I think he did an equally good job in his talks on global warming, over population, and world war.

Other sections I really enjoyed were the article published in both the US and Soviet Union that was critical of both governments and the speech given at Gettysburg.

I was also very touched at the end of the book as he was dealing with being sick and facing the end of his life. He appears to have dealt with the situation with as much grace and dignity as anyone can under those circumstances.

I am in agreement with Kirby on this one. I am rating this book a 10. Sagan voices his concerns in a straight forward and entertaining way, and the information he gives out, is in my opinion valuable to anyone that reads the book.

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