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Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark [Kindle Edition]

Carl Sagan
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (734 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $17.00
Kindle Price: $10.36
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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

"A glorious book . . . A spirited defense of science . . . From the first page to the last, this book is a manifesto for clear thought."

*Los Angeles Times

"POWERFUL . . . A stirring defense of informed rationality. . . Rich in surprising information and beautiful writing."

*The Washington Post Book World

How can we make intelligent decisions about our increasingly technology-driven lives if we don't understand the difference between the myths of pseudoscience and the testable hypotheses of science? Pulitzer Prize-winning author and distinguished astronomer Carl Sagan argues that scientific thinking is critical not only to the pursuit of truth but to the very well-being of our democratic institutions.

Casting a wide net through history and culture, Sagan examines and authoritatively debunks such celebrated fallacies of the past as witchcraft, faith healing, demons, and UFOs. And yet, disturbingly, in today's so-called information age, pseudoscience is burgeoning with stories of alien abduction, channeling past lives, and communal hallucinations commanding growing attention and respect. As Sagan demonstrates with lucid eloquence, the siren song of unreason is not just a cultural wrong turn but a dangerous plunge into darkness that threatens our most basic freedoms.


*USA Today

"A clear vision of what good science means and why it makes a difference. . . . A testimonial to the power of science and a warning of the dangers of unrestrained credulity."

*The Sciences


*San Francisco Examiner-Chronicle

Editorial Reviews Review

Carl Sagan muses on the current state of scientific thought, which offers him marvelous opportunities to entertain us with his own childhood experiences, the newspaper morgues, UFO stories, and the assorted flotsam and jetsam of pseudoscience. Along the way he debunks alien abduction, faith-healing, and channeling; refutes the arguments that science destroys spirituality, and provides a "baloney detection kit" for thinking through political, social, religious, and other issues.

From Publishers Weekly

Eminent Cornell astronomer and bestselling author Sagan debunks the paranormal and the unexplained in a study that will reassure hardcore skeptics but may leave others unsatisfied. To him, purported UFO encounters and alien abductions are products of gullibility, hallucination, misidentification, hoax and therapists' pressure; some alleged encounters, he suggests, may screen memories of sexual abuse. He labels as hoaxes the crop circles, complex pictograms that appear in southern England's wheat and barley fields, and he dismisses as a natural formation the Sphinx-like humanoid face incised on a mesa on Mars, first photographed by a Viking orbiter spacecraft in 1976 and considered by some scientists to be the engineered artifact of an alien civilization. In a passionate plea for scientific literacy, Sagan deftly debunks the myth of Atlantis, Filipino psychic surgeons and mediums such as J.Z. Knight, who claims to be in touch with a 35,000-year-old entity called Ramtha. He also brands as superstition ghosts, angels, fairies, demons, astrology, Bigfoot, the Loch Ness monster and religious apparitions.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1539 KB
  • Print Length: 457 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; Reprint edition (July 6, 2011)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004W0I00Q
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #24,153 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
475 of 493 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Candle in the Dark July 2, 2004
By CreepyT
Demons, UFO's, the Loch Ness Monster, Big Foot, fairies and the like are all investigated in this incredible non-fiction book by the late Carl Sagan. Pseudoscience, and those who perpetuate it, find their place in today's society among those who want to believe in the impossible. In fact, Sagan too admits that he would love to find life on other planets, among other things (he was, after all, an advocate of SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence). However, science today has not been able to prove that such things exist. As the book states, "the siren song of unreason is not just a cultural wrong but a dangerous plunge into darkness that threatens our most basic freedoms."
This book challenges the reader to critically scrutinize information professed by supposed experts, and be more of a skeptic. Sagan states early on in the book that "some 95 percent of Americans are scientifically illiterate." By using the scientific method combined with a little bit of logic and common sense, one should find that it is much more difficult to be mentally taken advantage of by pseudoscience "experts." Intelligent inquiry and analysis of information presented, and those presenting it, proves to be an invaluable tool.
Nonetheless, stories regarding crop circles, area 51, and other such nonsense still abound. Sagan runs through various examples and places them under the hypothetical microscope. Once examined more closely, most of these theories and fallacious postulations crumble quite easily. What some people don't realize, and what Sagan points out, is that things just as mysterious and awe-inspiring can be found all around us, and they are indeed factual and are being investigated by those in science fields. We need not look elsewhere to find mysticism and intrigue.
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289 of 302 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sagan took the road less travelled...... April 1, 2000
I read this book over two nights, couldn't put it down, and afterwards was eagerly searching for more of the same. Science at it's best-accurate, timely, well-argued, emotionally and mentally invigorating, spiritually uplifting; and filled with boundless enthusiasm and hope. Like the author, Carl Sagan himself.
This book describes the 'scientific journey'. Alternately curious, cautious, inquiring, uplifting, compassionate, humane, warning, discovering and fulfilling. Topics include UFOs, alien abductions, witches, religion-both good and bad, Roswell, frauds, scientific genuises, skeptical thinking, wishful thinking, deceptive thinking, balanced thinking, belief, superstition, astrology, ESP, myth, and the like; and the role and place of science and scientific inquiry in all of this. For those who think science "destroys" spirituality-does not scientific inquiry with its' abundant curiosity and courageous endeavour accurately describe a spiritual journey to find the truth? Sagan contends, with great clarity and enthusiasm, that it assuredly does. It's just that this scientific journey is not an easy one, neither for the individual, nor humanity, by any means. But when has the attempt to find "truth" and "light" in this complex world of ours, ever been easy? Sagan argues that science and the scientific method is a noble and enlightening endeavour, an unquenchable candle, lit by the human yearning for truth, and able to steer humanity towards truth and goodwill in a world of mists, shadowy truths, and darkness.
For those who wish to open their minds to science and what it has to say about much that goes in this beautiful, yet sometimes dark world of ours, this is the book for you.
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115 of 120 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Spent $14.95 In My Life February 14, 2005
Ok. To keep this as short and simple as I can:
My buddy kept ranting and raving about this book almost in the same way that I am about to convey in this brief recommendation. For months he told me I should pick it up. He's been pedaling it to everyone he considers close to him, or merely to those who have even a vague interest in science or comprehension of the world around them.
I'm 20 years old. A sophomore in college. In a reflection toward how much I THINK I know, or knew rather, I have come to discover just how insignificant my "knowledge" is.

To be blunt: This book is as much an exceptionally incredible gift as it is a curse to self reflection, rational thought, and skepticism.
I've been tortured by the countless internal monologues, views, and arguments spawning from numerous points the author presents in this text. You can't help but think about how it pertains to YOU. What do you think? What do I think?
I think where I am now, or where I was more specifically, is nowhere near where I want to be.

I'm not even into science. I'm a history major. It doesn't matter. You cannot read this book from cover to cover, without getting caught up in Sagan's passion. It's not just about science. It's not just about philosophy. Or knowledge. Or history.

His opinion may vary from yours. In fact, it probably will. He may present views or arguments you choose not to acknowledge or agree with. Once again, it doesn't matter. It is precisely these elements that continually compel me to learn more about who I am and what I think of the world around me.

If I had to choose one book for any of my friends to read from start to finish, this would be the one. So I guess now it's my turn to start pedaling this book to others who might want to enlighten themselves.
And I guess this is my way of doing it.
You're already here. What more do you need to know?
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Makes you want to read everything else that Sagan has written.
Carl Sagan writes in a way that makes it completely apparent how passionate he is about the topics that he is writing about and science as a whole. Read more
Published 1 day ago by David Peterson
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
I wish more people would read this one. A decent approach to dealing with conspiracy theorists.
Published 1 day ago by David A Priest
4.0 out of 5 stars Timeless in a broad sense, a bit outdated in some particulars
Sagan's "Cosmos" series and book were deeply moving, even life-changing for me. By the time I got around to reading this, I was already on board with what it says. Read more
Published 5 days ago by Gerald P. Petersen
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
World would be a better place if this book were read by everyone.
Published 8 days ago by RachelAL
4.0 out of 5 stars An Attempt to Reach the World
The Los Angeles Times called this book "A manifesto for clear thought." I agree. Sagan, one of the great science popularizers of his time, makes the case for why science is... Read more
Published 9 days ago by JayElkes
5.0 out of 5 stars Read him.
There is no way to get enough of Carl Sagan.
Published 12 days ago by Mary Louise Austin
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
One of the best books!
Published 17 days ago by Manuel Castellanos Nash
5.0 out of 5 stars Sagan at His Best
This book is a game changer to anyone who's new to sociology. A must-read!
Published 18 days ago by Stephen L.
5.0 out of 5 stars He was a poet and a scholar as well as a great scientist.
A monument to critical thinking and the fallibility of the human mind. The book is worth owning especially for Sagans baloney detection kit. Read more
Published 21 days ago by Samuel M. Deane
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
still reading it but so far really enjoy it i can almost hear him talking
Published 23 days ago by david burke
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More About the Author

Carl Sagan was Professor of Astronomy and Space Sciences and Director of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies at Cornell University. He played a leading role in the Mariner, Viking, and Voyager spacecraft expeditions to the planets, for which he received the NASA medals for Exceptional Scientific Achievement. Dr. Sagan received the Pulitzer Prize and the highest awards of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Science Foundation, and many other awards, for his contributions to science, literature, education, and the preservation of the environment. His book Cosmos (accompanying his Emmy- and Peabody Award-winning television series of the same name) was the bestselling science book ever published in the English language, and his bestselling novel, Contact, was turned into a major motion picture.

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