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

Carl Sagan , Ann Druyan
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (294 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 25 1997
"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

Frequently Bought Together

Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark + Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space + Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence
Price For All Three: CDN$ 39.49

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Product Description

From Amazon

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.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
As I got off the plane, he was waiting for me, holding up a scrap of cardboard with my name scribbled on it. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Astronomer or Sociologist? July 18 2004
By Valjean
Although Carl Sagan made a prominent name for himself as an Astronomer in the 1970's, his final contribution to the academic world was a piece that was very Sociological in nature. The thesis of the book is that America's obsession with science fiction and popular myth has curtailed the growth of the United States as a scientifically literate society. As such, Sagan's final work is laudable as one of the most poignant and effective commentaries on the Zeitgeist of American society at the turn of the 21st century.
At the beginning of "Demon-haunted", Sagan comes across as a "killjoy", who is bitter about the seemingly innocuous pleasures that many Americans indulge themselves in (Star Trek, Atlantis, Crystal Power, etc.). He points out that at the time of the book's release, "Dumb and Dumber" was the number one movie in the box office. He also spins a wonderful anecdote about his cab driver who, upon finding out that Sagan is an Astronomer, tries to demonstrate upon Sagan his scientific "fluency" through his knowledge of "Atlantis". It all seems quite funny, until Sagan points out that the cab driver got quite frustrated when Sagan challenged his belief systems about the mythical island continent. With this wonderfully concrete example, Sagan renders the reader aware of how dangerous popular myths about science can be.
As the book progresses, Sagan continually points out that a little diversion can be a dangerous thing. He points out that Americans in the 1990's would rather spend a day watching the X-files than studying real stellar constellations; or reading tripe about Atlantis, as opposed to reading scientific books about continnetal plate shift.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Widens your horizon of scientific thinking April 20 2004
I picked this one up after reading Sagan's "Billions & Billions..". I liked the main thrust of this book - scientic (skeptical) thinking. Sagan takes numerous 'case studies' to prove his point. But I think he came up short in describing cases where the ower of mind has been demonstrated time and again in spite of lack of scientific evidence. Cases like Greg Louganis winning Olympics show that not everything is within the realm of 'scientific thinking'. Sagan himself says that there are three things that are worth investigating (I'd be interested to know how far he was successful)..I can't find it now but I remember reading them in the book. I vaguely recall one being telepathy (?). The others sounded interesting too.
Also at one place(Ch 17 Page 303 in my edition) he says "Objections to pseudoscience on the grounds of unavailable mechanism can be mistaken..". I don't want to make the same mistake of Sagan's detractors namely, quoting out of context but what he intends is to not ignore ideas for want of proof. This to me seemed contradictory to what he proposes elsewhere (namely strong reliance on proofs).
In a different place(Ch 22 Page 373 in my edition) he seems to suggest that "many of our problems..only have solutions that involve a deep understanding of science and technology". While this may be true of "many" (though it's hard to quantify this) not "all" are solvable by Sci/Tech. What about emotional problems ? Problems involving mind have not yet been proven to be solved by Sci/Tech (medicines etc..)
In spite of minor deficiencies in explanation this is a powerful book if you want to hone your logical thinking (and so I set the subject of my reivew "Widening your horizon.." implying you need to have some basic scientific thinking to see points in Sagan's angle).
Worth reading definitely.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Light that candle, Carl Feb. 2 2004
Simon, the slight, fair-haired skeptic in "Lord of the Flies," told his peers "I don't believe in the beast." These peers, both friend and foe, did believe, or thought they might, or thought they should, or at least wondered what would happen if they didn't. In the story Simon, alone, confirms beyond doubt there is no beast. He runs to tell the others but is killed for his trouble, for the others want a beast, or think there should be a beast, or at least wonder if life on their island prison would be so stupidly fun if there were no beast.
Carl Sagan was a real-life Simon in many ventures, and never more so than in "The Demon-Haunted World." (The good news is Sagan was not murdered. The bad news is, with much left to do, he was done in by pathogens.) This book should be read by every teacher, every policy maker, and every member of a legislative body.
Throughout the pages Sagan methodically works the reader through the pseudosciences of our day - UFOs, alien abduction, recovered memories, channeling, etc. - and the witch hunts and demonic possessions of centuries past. He doesn't discount categorically, but instead insists that extraordinary claims require an equal level of evidence at any time in history. He illustrates that extraordinary claims in this pseudo realm rarely, if ever, have non-anecdotal evidence that can be corroborated by a third party.
It's not that Sagan wasn't interested in, and even desirous of, the fantastic - note his lifelong search for extraterrestrial life. But the last outcome he would have wanted was to be convinced of a far away intelligence that wasn't really there. He understood that to know what you don't know is just as important as knowing what is, in fact, true.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
I incredible book and a very good service!
Published 13 days ago by creaturre
5.0 out of 5 stars I do feel that my thinking has evolved a great deal from this book
I have read other reviews by people that said they put it down after reading a few pages - which I don't think should qualify them for giving an opinion. Read more
Published 1 month ago by amanda
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book.
Bought it for a reborn Christian friend of mine. Great book.
Published 1 month ago by Shafiqur Khan
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Read
One of the major ideas in this book is that science is a careful combination of wonder and skepticism. Read more
Published 3 months ago by John
5.0 out of 5 stars Good science book
This was the first book of Carl Sagan I read. Very good for a lay person. I recommend it and will read from this author again.
Published 8 months ago by Dom
5.0 out of 5 stars Review "Science hmm" from June 14, 2004 is really funny!
Firstly my take is that Carl Sagan was a brilliant man and a great author with an exceptional ability to concisely and clearly present rationality at its best. Read more
Published on July 11 2004 by "sarg187"
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. Read more
Published on July 2 2004 by CreepyT
4.0 out of 5 stars Great, with reservations
The Demon Haunted World is at its best when Sagan focuses on the virtues of Science, skepticism and their potential role in education. Read more
Published on June 25 2004 by "scottierobottie"
1.0 out of 5 stars Another one
I agree with the "Science, hmmm..." review, and will add the following quotes:
Vincent Cheung:
... Read more
Published on June 25 2004
1.0 out of 5 stars Science, hmmm....
Science and "intellectuals" think they are encouraging people to be more openminded, when actually they think there way is the only way, and that everyone must convert. Hypocrits! Read more
Published on June 14 2004
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