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Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark Paperback – Feb 25 1997

4.4 out of 5 stars 310 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; Reprint edition (Feb. 25 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345409469
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345409461
  • Product Dimensions: 13.9 x 2 x 20.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 159 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars 310 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #12,256 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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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.

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Sagan had a talent in explaining scientific concepts and ideas in a manner that made the everyday person not only understand but also want to learn more. This was the first Sagan work I have read and I really enjoyed it. This book explains a lot of basic scientific concepts and applies it to human life. This book is very useful to atheists and the non-religious in general , as it gives some " meaning" to a lot of things that help confirm the beliefs of the religious and superstitious For example, religious people seeing Jesus in a taco gives them evidence of their faith whereas science proves that humans are geared to see patterns in everything so they see Jesus because they want to.
Sagan had a gentler but frame preach to science. Unlike many other public scientists and atheists, he was not mean spirited or vicious towards his opponents. He works to teach the reader how the beauty and truth of science as an alternative to superstition.
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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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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