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454 of 471 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Candle in the Dark
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...
Published on July 2, 2004 by CreepyT

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99 of 120 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not a review, but an endorsement; a (personal) reply to the (few) poor reviews of this book.
The majority of the negative/1-star reviews here......are the VERY REASON for this book being written, as well as the motivation for the first "review" I have ever contributed to Amazon. I found it to be quite readable, definitely pertinent & prescient (17 years later?), and, sadly, disturbing. Not too much in the way of surprises, but a rather a frustrated and...
Published 7 months ago by Daniel Morrow


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454 of 471 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Candle in the Dark, July 2, 2004
By 
This review is from: The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark (Paperback)
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. People are still trying to completely understand viruses and the molecular building blocks in gas in space, and if people were equally as drawn to understand real phenomena as they are fallacious theories, then more people would be working to unravel the true mysteries that are much more worthy of our efforts.
I truly feel that this is a book everyone should read. Not only does Sagan do an excellent job of attempting to popularize science, but he also tries to teach people how to think for themselves rather than to be force-fed information from less-than-trustworthy sources. The demons in this demon haunted world are both those who perpetuate such celebrated fallacies, as well as those who believe them without question. Sagan attempts to teach, in this book, how to distinguish "real science from the cheap imitation." Indeed, he does just that.
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278 of 291 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sagan took the road less travelled......, April 1, 2000
This review is from: The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark (Paperback)
One word: OUTSTANDING.
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.
This great book (Sagan's last) is a fitting testament to a great man of science. Sagan, who passed away recently, was one of the great communicators of science, and this book is considered by many to be his best.
Reading it was something I'll always cherish.
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92 of 95 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Spent $14.95 In My Life, February 14, 2005
By 
This review is from: The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark (Paperback)
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 considereds 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 sophmore in college. In a reflection to 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 sketicism.
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 compell 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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45 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The final statement of a great man, December 29, 1999
This review is from: The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark (Paperback)
In an age where we are surrounded by psychic hotlines and alien abduction stories, the vast majority of the population is consistently fooled into believing the most absurd of notions. As Sagan beautifully demonstrates, this is not because of our collective intelligence, but a part of human nature. _The Demon-Haunted World_ is easily one of the most important books of this century. High school students should read this book to graduate, at least a little exposure to sense will be advantageous to our growing society. Faces on Mars, aliens, faith healers, and various other practitioners of pseudoscience swirl around us in a pool of credulism and blind faith in the most absurd of Golden Calves. Sagan brings the razor of reason to the face of fallacy and superstition and cuts off delusion and myopic belief. There is perhaps no other person who could have exposed this seldom seen part of the human being. Carl Sagan, the man who loved science so much that he felt in his heart the desire to sing it to the rest of the world, deserves the highest recognition for his accomplishments. I can think of no better than to have _The Demon-Haunted World_ shown to the whole of the world.
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43 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Required Reading for School Boards, March 28, 2002
By 
James D. DeWitt "Alaska Fan" (Fairbanks, AK United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark (Paperback)
This was one of the late Carl Sagan's last books, and it is certainly one his most important. We live in a credulous society, a culture that seems to be incapable of critical thinking. That's an extremely dangerous situation. When a majority of U.S. citizens believe in astrology; when a voter can read a newspaper expose' on dial up fortune-telling scams and then dial a 900 number in order to decide what to do; well, it doesn't bode well for our country.
To some extent, Sagan oversold himself in the late 1980's and early 1990's. His eager sincerity was even parodied - "billyuns and billyuns - but he was an engaging science writer and popularizer. In this book he stepped a bit outside of that usual role, and made some critical and important points about our culture. No thoughtful citizen can read this book, look around and fail to be concerned.
I'd make this book required reading, not for students, but for school board members and teachers. If the average citizen is credulous to the point of embarrassment - and that's pretty clearly the case - the solution has to involve the educational system, and especially those in charge. We are not teaching our citizens and future citizens to think critically. In Sagan's phrase, "Extravagant claims require extravagant evidence." For better or worse, the life of the world is logic, and the ability to reason is as important as the ability to read and the ability to do arithmetic. And if you think it's not a problem, you need to read this book, or just attend the public comments portion of a school board meeting, or read the letters to the editor in your newspaper.
You should read this book. You should act on the message of this book. Not just because it is a thoughtful, entertaining treatment of an important issue. But because that issue hasn't gone away; and it seems to be getting worse.
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60 of 67 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life changing book, January 24, 2000
This review is from: The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark (Paperback)
Many are turned off by science since they find it to be cold, desenchanting or even a bit nihilistic. With a clever sense of humor and easy-to read writting style, Sagan proves that science can be an awe-inspiring spiritual experience, when we are confronted with the immense complexity of nature and our universe. He reminds us how to be a good skeptic: one who is open minded to new information, but will only believe after receiving proof. (Which consists of much more than anecdotal evidence )As Sagan states "I believe that the extraordinary should be pursued. But extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." He urges everyone to think skeptically and to express our opinions while being respectfull of others' beliefs. Unfortunately those who would benefit from more skepticism are the ones less likely to pick up this book. It takes courage to abandon the comforts of an "all-loving" ever present god, immortality, and belief in psychic powers in exchange for the truth. However, Sagan shows us how science has greatly improved the quality of life throughout history, and how the systematic search for truth can be more rewarding than blinded-faith. We should be open minded("Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence") without being gullible. And we must remember how "wishfull thinking" does not make something true.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A MUST READ, January 1, 2004
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This review is from: The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark (Paperback)
As a science student at university I bought this book expecting it to confirm and perhaps broaden my understanding of sceptical thinking, and how too many people do not employ it. Something that I have found frustrating on many an occasion. I was delighted to find that this book was gave me a terrific insight into why sceptical thinking and science should be employed in every possible way. And how failing to do so can result in the direst consequences.
Sagan devotes much of the first part of the book to the current fad of alien abduction. This is something that becomes a bit drawn out and boring and in my opinion the only flaw of this book. He does so comparing the many similarities to the role of demons in centuries past. He describes one example of how when scepticism is not used people will devise the most wild and unjust thinking which leads such ordeals as witch hunts.
He makes the case that in today's increasingly scientifically dependant western society, people, especially Americans, are abandoning scepticism. Few politicians understand science, and the applicability of it's philosophies. Furthermore the general public is becoming increasingly scientifically illiterate. If this trend continues we could easily slip into another `dark age' of witch hunts.
This book is one of those rare books that I would insist that everyone reads. Far too few people understand that to abandon scepticism, relying upon blind faith and assertions, is to close ones eyes, and abandon all hope of understanding the truth. Demon haunted world is truly a masterpiece. I found it completely engaging, and full of most valuable insights. Demon Haunted world will light the darkness for anyone that reads it.
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43 of 47 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Skeptic's Bible, November 16, 2001
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This review is from: The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark (Paperback)
Surely no semi-aware person in this unfortunate age of television dumbing down, condescending school textbooks, and widespread ignorance and gullibility fails to note the danger that is inherent in society due to a lack of rational thinking, healthy skepticism, and application of the scientific method among the common folk. This book is a plea to those people, and a "how-to" educate guide to those who do realize and want to do something about it. Perhaps the most interesting chapter in this well-rounded book is "The Fine Art of Baloney Detection" in which Sagan demonstrates a "Baloney Detection Kit" listing the checklist for determining whether or not a particular assertion (whether scientific or not) is Gospel. Conversely, he also wisely offers the companion kit, what NOT to do. Among the other interesting things in this book are convincingly argued debunkings of such annoying to rationalist topics as UFO abductions, astrology, faith healing, chanelling, and their indiscernable ilk. Sagan consistently brings up parallel cases from olden times, i.e. witchcraft mania and demo xenophobia, that show that such fears and paranoia have always been around in different forms. This goes a long way towards exposing them for being fraudelent. Sagan also expounds here his views on such subjects as religion (a very rational argument on their scientific insignifigance, while also pointing out its virtues: a balanced view that should open many eyes, without, perhaps, offending the faithful), public education (corollaried with an abundance of letters Sagan has received from readers on the subject, many of them eye-opening), and politics; many of which I agree with, all of which I can respect. This is a very enlightening and useful book, and an elegant manifesto for the useful application of the scientific method and skeptical and rational thinking in our modern world. It's a shame that Sagan is no longer around to parlay such truth to our all-too-ignorant public. Still, the incredible works that he left behind, including this indispensable book, can still enligten us and perhaps make our world that much better for whatever dose of rationality it can inject into our "demon-haunted", close-minded society: science as a "candle in the dark" indeed.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sagan Sounds a Warning, November 27, 2001
This review is from: The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark (Paperback)
The underlying message of Carl Sagan's "The Demon Haunted World" is twofold. First, that we are becoming an increasingly scientifically illeterate society, and second, that our ignorance of science is a threat not only to the security of our future, but to the freedoms we all enjoy. Sagan spends much of the book debunking so-called psuedo-science (alien abductions, psycotherapy, astrology, etc). He also makes the point that America is doing a very poor job educating its young about the wonders of science. Sagan also castigates the media for not exercising more scepticism in scientific reporting, and, indeed, mostly ignoring hard science altogether.
The book itself is a bit disjointed, with several chapters deriving from expanded magazine articles. Additionally, Sagan pontificates about political issues, and reveals a leftist political bent. He also has a tendancy at times to overemphasize his point. Nevertheless, he has some important points to make, and as a society we would be better off if we paid close attention to many of the issues he raises.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't believe Fundamentalist Propaganda!, November 3, 2008
This review is from: The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark (Paperback)
Reading Sagan's book made me realize the loss I'd suffered in not exploring it sooner. When I was a fundamental Christian (for far too long), Sagan was called "Carl SATAN" in our churches and we were gleefully told from the pulpit how he's writhing in Hell right now. Of course, this is nonsense; may rest in peace while the treasure of reason he left endure the test of time.

When one actually reads the book, you find that Sagan has respect and understanding for religious beliefs...he simply lets the facts fall where they may and that makes fervent believers uneasy. One must ask himself why the truth would not be welcome in a belief system? Sagan, as the book title declares, merely uses sound thinking to illuminate ignorance, but he does not do it from a "high and mighty" viewpoint. Science has made mistakes as well, and he readily confesses this. But science improves with time while religion, and other mystic beliefs such as astrology, are hopelessly locked in the past.

The most liberating principle I take away from the read is that science, indeed, is not "God". It is a METHOD for determining truth and learning from the discovery process. He actually acknowledges how wonderful Heaven would be and that it may in fact exist...only that it's not provable and given observation, the odds of it are very low.

Sagan also touches upon other odd beliefs such as psychics, etc. as example of surrendering to illogical thought processes. This is a great tutorial on rational thinking and I strongly encourage everyone from teens on up to read it!
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The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark
The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan (Paperback - February 25, 1997)
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