The X-Files and Carl Sagan's Demon-Haunted World

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EXCERPT: The X-Files shared with Carl Sagan a kind of cosmic loneliness — an ache for beings from elsewhere to materialize from the sky, to reveal their secret knowledge, so long obscured from us, of how to snatch meaning back from the void. In one episode, our hero, FBI agent Fox Mulder, watches footage of Sagan stating at a NASA symposium that “by finding out whether there are civilizations on planets of other stars, we reestablish a meaningful context for ourselves.” Mulder and the protagonist of Sagan’s novel Contact both turn the search for little green men into a personal and professional obsession, to the jeering of their colleagues and the derailing of their careers.

But whatever affection for Sagan was built into The X-Files went unrequited. In 1996, when the show was near the apex of its cultural influence, Sagan griped in his book The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark:

Quote:A series called The X Files, which pays lip service to skeptical examination of the paranormal, is skewed heavily towards the reality of alien abductions, strange powers and government complicity in covering up just about everything interesting. Almost never does the paranormal claim turn out to be a hoax or a psychological aberration or a misunderstanding of the natural world.

Sagan goes on to complain about the implausibility of the interspecies breeding depicted in Star Trek, missing how powerfully it symbolized his own cosmopolitan politics, or willing to ignore it for the sake of pedantry. For the science evangelist, like certain other flavors of moralist, there must be no art in art, only lessons. Even the most passing inaccuracies are direct threats to science, and so to civilization itself. As if in heartsick reply, the X-Files episode with the Sagan footage aired a few months after his death, with a teary-eyed Mulder watching it to nurse his despair over the revelation that an apparent alien body he’d recovered was an elaborate hoax.

So maybe Sagan didn’t quite grasp the fictional part of fiction — but just the same, he might have had a point about The X-Files....
elte Offline
It appears that Carl Sagan had a feeling about artistic license in science being more of a hindrance than a benefit.  One view is that such license misinforms the observer while the other is that it helps keep people interested in science.  One could see it as quite a dilemma.

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