Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark Paperback – Feb 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.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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.
Most recent customer reviews
Should be mandatory reading at school. And for all voters and politicians...Published 1 day ago by Glutier
No doubt a very good book. However, the major portion of the book is dedicated to questioning the myth of UFOs. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Shailesh Sharma
Great book that can open your eyes to the real world through sciencePublished 8 months ago by Juan Pablo
A fantastic book, well written but it might be a bit light for a dyed-in-the-wool sceptic, because most of it is a little obvious - such as ghosts and psychic powers aren't real... Read morePublished 12 months ago by The QueenBean
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