The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark

( 68 )

Overview

"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 ...

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Demon-Haunted World

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Overview

"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

Are we on the brink of a new Dark Age of irrationality and superstition? In this stirring, brilliantly argued book, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Dragons of Eden and Cosmos shows how scientific thinking can cut through prejudice and hysteria and uncover the truth, and how it is necessary to safeguard our democratic institutions and our technical civilization.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's 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. Feb.
Library Journal
A Pulitzer Prize-winning astronomer argues that scientific illiteracy and our new-found suspicion of the rational threatens democratic institutions.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345409461
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 2/28/1997
  • Edition description: REPRINT
  • Pages: 480
  • Sales rank: 47,963
  • Product dimensions: 5.48 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.86 (d)

Meet the Author

Carl Sagan, perhaps the best known scientist of our time, is the author of Cosmos, the bestselling science book ever and the basis for his award winning television series. A Pulitzer Prize winner, he received the highest award of the National Academy of Sciences. Pale Blue Dot and The Demon-Haunted World are available from Brilliance Audio.

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Table of Contents

Preface: My Teachers xi
1. The Most Precious Thing 1
2. Science and Hope 23
3. The Man in the Moon and the Face on Mars 41
4. Aliens 61
5. Spoofing and Secrecy 79
6. Hallucinations 97
7. The Demon-Haunted World 113
8. On the Distinction Between True and False Visions 135
9. Therapy 151
10. The Dragon in My Garage 169
11. The City of Grief 189
12. The Fine Art of Baloney Detection 201
13. Obsessed with Reality 219
14. Antiscience 245
15. Newton's Sleep 265
16. When Scientists Know Sin 281
17. The Marriage of Skepticism and Wonder 293
18. The Wind Makes Dust 307
19. No Such Thing as a Dumb Question 319
20. House on Fire 337
21. The Path to Freedom 353
22. Significance Junkies 367
23. Maxwell and the Nerds 379
24. Science and Witchcraft 401
25. Real Patriots Ask Questions 421
Acknowledgments 435
References 439
Index 449
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 68 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(45)

4 Star

(17)

3 Star

(3)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(3)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 68 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 17, 2007

    I keep extra copies of this for gifts

    This is absolutely one of the finest works demonstrating the difference between the process of science and the body of knowledge we have gained through its use. Sagan uses the phrase 'baloney detection toolkit' several times in this book, and it applies wonderfully across the spectrum of experience in our lives. When applied to the claims of various types of cultural environment, the practices he points out can easily help individuals see through the fraudulent claims of those who would pretend to use 'science' to 'prove' their pet theory. As a walk through history, this book also shows how people have been misled terribly by persons whose vested interest lies in such deception. For this reason alone it is worth reading, as the similarities between many of those past situations and those occurring today do show that history certainly does have a habit of repeating itself. This book is a wonderful tool for developing the one thing that will help you throughout your entire life: a skeptical mind. Not a cynical one, a skeptical one. I can't give this book higher ratings - or I would. I try to always keep two extra copies around to give to friends who might appreciate it. Do yourself a favor, and pick it up.

    20 out of 20 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2007

    A must read for everyone!

    One of my favorite books. This is truly a manifesto on clear thinking. A book which clearly explains what science is truly about. Something people are very confused about especially when they are constantly being bombarded by unreliable information through the media and when new age and irrational thinking continue to thrive and even be 'trendy'. As Einstein said (and Sagan quoted): Science as child-like and primitive as it may be, is the most precious thing we have...

    13 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 4, 2006

    An absolutely awful brainwashing about ignorance.

    I understand that there is a large population of 'Scientifically Illiterate' people in this world, and Sagan does a good job of pointing out who these people and groups are. However, the method used to get his point across goes absolutely against what he preaches is wrong in this book. First, he uses blatant fallacies to scare the reader into accepting his claim. For instance, saying that we would be dead without advances in Science. (Not an actual quote, but the message is sent across through 5 pages, even about being dead.) He gives an example of Pseudoscience and bashes it horribly, especially religious beliefs. Second, he often uses statistics of an un-cited origin. One survey he discussed is taken at a dinner table with family and friends. Do you rely on your best friend to explain the universe? Probably not. He criticizes seers and fortunetellers for having no concrete proof of their claims. Where's his? He emphasizes the sharp and meticulous criticism of claims made by pseudo-scientists so that people do not just willingly accept claims of knowledge without rational reasoning. Why should you not also criticize his claims? Especially since he seems to use every trick in the book to make you accept his claims. If you read this book, please do not give in to his claims to knowledge just because he seems to have authority in the matter. This man is not enlightened simply intelligent, crafty and fed up with blind ignorance. Please be skeptic of this book as you trudge through his jargon-filled arguments of grandeur.

    12 out of 64 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 9, 2005

    Wow, read objectively, can transform your perspective

    This is one of the most refreshing and interesting books I've read. Throughout the entire book Sagan eloquently explains away many ideas that run our lives. The massive amount of rhetorical questions are the icing on the cake. Sagan's skepticism and ability to 'detect baloney' are qualities that are greatly needed in our society. Sagan is MY candle in the dark.

    9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 3, 2000

    The best book I have ever read

    I must say that this book changed my views more than any other book. There is a noticeable rise in irrationalism and pseudo-science in our times, largely promoted by the media (esp the TV). This phenonmenon, if unchecked will totally destroy the younger generations' ability to solve their problems using a rational, logical and scientific means. Instead, they will view mystical, religious, ritualistic means as effective means to solve human problems. The rise of such irrational views will undo human progress and civilization. Making Carl Sagan's book, esp. the Demon Haunted World a required reading in schools, will counter this current rise of irrationalism. If you are a media personnel and if you care about the human race, you should stop promoting stupidity and instead promote a scientific view and propounded by Carl Sagan in this book.

    8 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 30, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    A strong defense of the skeptical paradigm.

    Sagan is a generally good writer, and in this now-classic book he penned a strong and usually compelling defense of the skeptical paradigm. The book is replete with good examples, and has several chapters well worth reading for those who are either budding skeptics, or are interested in learning about how to think critically and scientifically. The man, to be sure, understood science and was a solid critical thinker.

    Unfortunately, the organization of the book is somewhat lacking. Sagan touches many of the classic pseudoscientific bugbears like alien abductions, UFOs, hypnotic regression, and prophetic visions, but he bounces from one to the other, never really spending enough time on one topic in concert to make it feel as though he has thoroughly covered the material. Make no mistake, by the end much of it has been thoroughly covered -- especially UFOs and abductions -- but the coverage is disjointed. He seems to have done this to show the reader the common threads to many of these concepts, but the effect is to produce a lack of organization in the narrative. He would have been better, I think, with a more classical organization, covering each topic in a single, coherent chapter.

    The book is well worth a read and has kept me interested throughout, even though I have read or heard most of these ideas from skeptics in the recent past (many, I realize now, borrowed in whole or in part from this book, which came out almost 15 years ago). And some of Sagan's quotes are priceless. It just lacks a little in organization.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2000

    A painfully honest insight into the state of our population's collective intelligence

    Whenever I am asked that impossible question 'What is your favorite book?' This is THE book that I have settled upon as my answer. It is a sorely needed dose of medicine for our collective minds. The one unfortunate thing is that those people who might benefit most by its reading, are the ones who will likely be busy reading exactly something else instead. Excellent Job Carl...we miss you.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2010

    A Review of The Demon Haunted World by Carl Sagan

    One often finds themselves asking the questions that plague the minds of people both educated and uneducated. These are the questions of pseudoscience and mysticism. Carl Sagan, one of the premier scientific writers of the 20th century analyzes the world of pseudoscience and why people believe these ideas. One of the main "phenomenon" that Sagan analyzes is that of extra-terrestrials including UFO's. This is because this is one of the most widely believed and reported pseudoscientific phenomenon. He discounts the experience of alien abduction as a sleeping disorder known as sleep paralysis, discounts UFO's as hundreds of other logical explanations ranging from hoaxes to photographic anomalies that occur naturally due to reflection of light inside the lens. Also he reinforces the government explanation that the Roswell incident was caused by a weather balloon, which were widely used in the day to spy on the Soviets. The underlying theme of Sagan's novel is his powerful love of science, it is his religion and what he considers to be the only hope for the future. The fact that the common person knows more about the world of pseudoscience than that of actual science which relates to every facet of their life. He warns against a future in which all other countries of the world have surpassed America in science and technology and we become too far behind to catch up. This novel is an excellent look at science from the inside, and from common culture from the outside. Sagan also criticizes the scientific community for its wasted energy on military and destructive sciences such as the hydrogen bomb and chemicals like Agent Orange. Sagan expalins how the gulibility of the masses plays an important role in how these phenomenon have become so widespread. In all of this Sagan maintains his fluid and comprehensive style. This is such an important quality in a scientific book because the people he wants to read this novel are the ones who do not usually understand scientific material. These are the people who embrace pseudoscience as fact and spread it to others to distract them from the real world, who flock to the people who claim to have mystical powers of premonition, or those who can heal with a touch. The problem is that people find these things which are probably not real more interesting than the real scientific advanvcements that are made every day. The Demon Haunted World is an excellent book that looks at the scientific world in a different light and discounts many of the pseudoscientific phenomenon in our world.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 20, 2010

    This is, essentially, my Bible

    This was the first book I checked out from my college library. I absolutely devoured it within a few days. The illuminating essays, observations, analogies, and experiences Sagan offered would influence the way I viewed the universe, the preciousness of life, and the importance of being a skeptic and critically thinking.

    To say that Carl Sagan was one of the most important scientists and popularizers of science would be a gross understatement. What you should also know is that he is an excellent writer, able to weave complex science into entertaining and easy to read essays about the natural world, human psychology, and more. The Demon Haunted World offers both education and entertainment, insightful debunkings of pseudoscience, and reflections upon concepts such as faith and nationalism.

    I keep two copies of this book in my library at any time. One for my own re-readings. The second to gift to others that I think could use the illuminating essays to expand their horizons. If you haven't read this book, I suggest that you give it a serious consideration.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 3, 2010

    The Demon Haunted World

    Sagan's writing style can be appreciated throughout all sections of The Demon Haunted World. His unique flow of words helps you better understand the complex ideas he is trying to present, and he is able to make you fully understand many odd concepts that you have probably never thought of prior to reading this. Instead of criticizing the beliefs of others, Sagan simply states his ideas and presents solid theories without sounding biased or condescending to those who may feel differently.

    The point of this book is to inform readers about the many things they believe in without explanations. Sagan accomplishes this thoroughly without stepping on anyone's toes, and it is for this reason that this book is so well respected. Throughout it, Sagan brings light towards the many things people believe in without scientific proof or logical explanation. Reading this, one may think a lot about religion, where is comes from, and what its purpose is. Sagan's connection between pseudosciences and religion is excellent and very scholarly as well. Although many people say they do not believe in the unexplainable things mentioned in this book (such as UFO's and ghosts,) many believe in religion; something so common, yet lacking in scientific explanation and proof of existence.

    This book is an eye-opening piece of literature that will keep you thinking for days.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 29, 2010

    Pleasantly Surprising

    I was initially quite hesitant to read a book written by a scientist. I feared that it may be just like any other dry, lengthy textbook just spewing out facts and information. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Sagan is not only a highly intelligent and passionate scientist, but also a talented writer. He conveyed knowledge in an eloquent, clear way. He drew a distinct line between what science is real science, and that which is fostered by the media and mass culture. It was intriguing, if not gripping read, and I have a great respect for Sagan's point of view and his assertions of truth.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 16, 2010

    may never be topped

    Still one of the most important works describing a scientific world view to a general audience ever written. It is fascinating for both the novice and the expert, is never condescending or boring. I would recommend buying a few copies to give out as gifts.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 2004

    Not quite the whole story

    As someone who's investigated ESP and other psi phenomena, reading Sagan was enlightening. People can be very ignorant, but it's more to do with selective attention and other kinds of bias which creep into everyday events. However, it must be noted that this isn't the whole picture. Just run a search on 'precognitive habituation'. There is an anomaly which cannot be explained by current scientific understanding. Even Sagan admits that it requires further investigation. Psychologists and philosophers will have to do better if they want to debunk all cases of extrasensory perception in the lab.

    1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 19, 2003

    Rational thinking for irrational times

    I just read this book, and was astounded by the level of ignorance out there, and I was also hopeful, because every so often a person like him comes along and can debunk the myths without being insulting. Sould be read by everyone in power, along with billion and billions.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2014

    Kaittlin to karttiqna

    II HATE U Y WOULD U do this not cool ii dontt eever wantt to ttalk to uu agaien fuu..cck my dam nnook :( karrttiinna wee aree nnoo lonngeerr friiennds goodbyye thank u rose tthatt was ttooo close god bbless u rrose annd kartiina oi hoppee uu rrott in hell

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2014

    Ace

    "Its okeh Rose. I cheated to. Lets just go."

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2014

    Rose

    "Yeah....No prob. Just don't tell me I didn't tell you so ifshe hurts you.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 4, 2014

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 24, 2012

    Excellent and well argued

    Occasionally the book goes off on tangents, but it is largely on topic and when it is it is well argued and well researched. Sagan was a smart man and a good author.

    It is easily accessible regardless of the readers foreknowledge.

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  • Posted June 23, 2012

    A classic that should be in every skeptic and scientists' librar

    A classic that should be in every skeptic and scientists' library.

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