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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 (290 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.



"COMPELLING."

*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



"PASSIONATE."

*San Francisco Examiner-Chronicle

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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
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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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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Astronomer or Sociologist? July 18 2004
By Valjean
Format:Paperback
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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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This book has become a cult classic in itself... but I feel part of the problem is that most of its readers are already in the "know", and that it won't provide a proper introduction to basic scientific practice.
Here's a few random thoughts on this book -
Subject Matter -
Some of the targets are pathetically soft, instead of going for lame cults and flat earthers, he should be tackling the bigger more dangerous ideas of society. In addition, Sagan only really deals with fundamentalists... he ignores that there are Christians who believe in evolution for example - this makes his thought too dualistic and not impartial, and he doesn't tackle the abuse of science, for example in the arms race. Or in fact latent fundamentalism amongst scientists in the past, such as the furore amongst certain physicists when quantum theory emerged.
Writing style -
The self-righteous tone of the book is ironically reminscent of a preacher who has "seen the light". This will irk both hardened sceptic, and potential "unconverts", who won't be attracted away from their demons. He's a terrible writer! But at least this isn't his fiction. It is just about readable, and will provide a few easy laughs if nothing else.
Practice and Tolerance -
Sagan didn't exactly apply his ideas in real life. For example, he frequently used emotional & mystical arguments to bolster his pet "SETI" program, as well as holding illogical preconceptions of how aliens would be or communicate. Also, and this is something often forgotten, Sagan penned a Von Daniken-esque piece or two about the possibility of ancient Close Contacts! Everyone, whether they admit it to themselves or not, is prey to illogical beliefs.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Wonder of Science, the Courage to Disbelieve June 11 2004
Format:Paperback
Carl Sagan wrote many fine things in his life. Cosmos, filled with his awe for the universe, was one of the first things I read as a child that got me excited about science. I also enjoyed his novel, Contact. As good as those things are, I predict that THE DEMON-HAUNTED WORLD will live on as a testimony to the wonder of the natural world, combined with the tools--and reasons--to question everything.
Sagan debunks myths regarding UFOs, alien abduction and other supernatural events. The mantra here is to believe nothing; instead, weigh evidence. Ask questions.
Chapter 12, "The Fine Art of Baloney Detection" should be required reading in logic, philosophy and introductory science courses. People could gain a lot by getting exposure to these thinking tools.
Sagan does an excellent job of combining historical accounts alongside the lessons in skepticism. His passion for science spills out of the page, showing that one does not need superstitions to make the world interesting and exciting.
Towards the last few chapters, politics become an increasing theme within his essays. Unfortunately, I think this distracts from the overall message of the book. Nevertheless, even this can not lessen its overall strength.
THE DEMON-HAUNTED WORLD is a wonderful, vibrant and hopeful giant of a book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Good science book Jan. 18 2014
By Dom
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My fav book ... and a response to it's critics June 5 2004
Format:Paperback
Yes, this is my absolute favorite book. But so what -- you'll have to decide for yourself. I would rather address the critics of this book rather than the proponents.
The critical reviews of this book complain that (a) it covers too much ground and therefore (b) only skims the surface when trying to debunk. One person even called it a lazy-skeptics book. Unfortunate.
Dr. Sagan's goal was to convert the believers -- the skeptics that don't need converting. You don't convert the believers by writing in-depth scientifically-dense tomes that take months to wade through. There are places for these books, but this is not what the good doctor was trying to do. Why are polical rallies and talk shows so useless? Because they are attended by and listened to by like minded people. How boring.
Why do you think he wrote for the Sunday paper supplement Parade? To reach as wide an audience as possible. What topics did he cover? The basics of course, and always in a non-threatening manner. The exact approach needed to convert the masses.
This is a fabulous book. Buy it now and treasure it.
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Most recent customer reviews
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
5.0 out of 5 stars My Favorite Book
I read a lot, and this is my favorite book of all time. This book is nearly perfect. Sagan truly holds science up as a "candle in the dark. Read more
Published on June 4 2004 by Michael Covelli
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book about science
I really enjoyed this book. Personally I enjoyed his discussion of the paranormal the best. I would love for some of my friends who believe in UFOs, Astrology or psychic ability to... Read more
Published on May 27 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
This book is brilliant. It shows through dozens of examples how scientific thinking is superior to magical-thinking. Read more
Published on May 3 2004 by J. McAndrew
4.0 out of 5 stars Widens your horizon of scientific thinking
I picked this one up after reading Sagan's "Billions & Billions..". I liked the main thrust of this book - scientic (skeptical) thinking. Read more
Published on April 20 2004 by V. Balasubrahmanyam
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