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The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark Paperback – February 25, 1997
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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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
Because it was written more than 20 years ago, the book has lost some of the power it had in the mid-90s. Sagan never mentions the internet or social networks. The rise of Islamic terrorism is still a thing of the future. Though apposite in the mid-90s, some of his examples are less relevant today. This is the only reason I can't give this book 5-stars.
He avoids name-calling and strident rhetoric. He focuses more on pseudo-science rather than religion. The book is largely apolitical but the concluding two chapters are, he acknowledges, intentionally more political than the rest of the book. And these last two chapters are just as pertinent today as they were 20 years ago. (In fact, they have a prescient quality to them.) I highly recommend you read them.
Sagan would be 82 were he still alive. It's a pity he's not around to provide commentary. Recommended.
He does drop in a few really technical matters, as when he discourses on Maxwell's equations in a chapter titled "Maxwell and the Nerds," but in doing so argues for the importance of science journalism and popularization. Fortunately, in our modern world, even past 1996, it has become increasingly possible to present scientific facts in a way that those of us without a specialized education can understand. At the very least, we owe it to our democracy to understand as much as necessary to make informed decisions about the major issues of the day.
I've always loved Carl Sagan ever since I first saw the Cosmos TV series, and this is one of his very best books. I recommend it to every reasonably literate person.
A little preachy in places, and told in a folksy voice so it can take its time getting to the point in places, but the lessons the essays teach are worth reading if only to illuminate the way scientists think.
And it shows people why "it's only a theory" is a crock of something unpleasant, a linguistic trick, used mendaciously in most cases and parroted back by those who could genuinely benefit from reading this book.
Everyone should be taught the lessons in this book on how to approach life's questions. Then they could form their own opinions from an informed perspective without the help of demagogues on either side.
Most recent customer reviews
Easy read, good thought process.Read more