Didn't really care for this book... I hoped for something better, but ended up just waiting to finish it and to move on. Books like these make me hate science - I really don't know why, I love science. I guess it's the high and mighty, us vs. them tone of the book. Also, I read this in Croatian, and the translation way awful, without attention for the details. Either way, it's just a hotchpotch of a book. Here's some of my thoughts:
Sagan gives so many interesting facts, but not a lot of references. Why? Why couldn't popular science be informative in the right way, not just giving you the numbers, but also the source for them?
The idea I found important was that society should aim at creating a scientifically literate public, not a new generation of geniuses. Next comes: "It [science teaching] has to be done right, though, and in the schools especially it generally isn't. There, as the philosopher John Passmore comments, "science is often presented as a matter of learning principles and applying them by routine procedures. It is learned from textbooks, not by reading the works of great scientists or even the day-to-day contributions to the scientific literature ... The beginning scientist, unlike the beginning humanist, does not have an immediate contact with genius. Indeed ... school courses can attract quite the wrong sort of person into science - unimaginative boys and girls who like routine."" First part I can relate to, because I really like reading the original literature, and knowing how the discovery was made, but I don't like the conclusion. Wrong sort of person??! I think I can safely say I was a kid without imagination, and I did like the routine in science. But that doesn't make a conformist - which is something Sagan really dislikes and I agree it is undesirable in a scientist (a citizen as well). Along the way I learned how to use what little imagination I have and to employ it in science. Anyway, science isn't only driven by geniuses with wild imagination - it requires one to endure (even enjoy?) everyday routine work. So excuse me Mr. Passmore and Mr. Sagan. (Although my failure might back up your wrong sort of people hypothesis :) )
What irritates me as well is when he's trying to evoke emotions (wonder) in the reader by pointing out the majestic discoveries that the humanity has made, all about how we must still improve our knowledge and aspire to new intellectual and emotional heights, but the next sentence he wishes we were more in touch with out animal heritage. Make up your mind. Or just be more coherent.
And I guess he was afraid of the dark when he was a kid. Which I don't have a problem with, only I didn't want to read a book about how barbaric our society is not letting children sleep with their parents.