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

4.26  ·  Rating Details  ·  37,989 Ratings  ·  1,515 Reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 457 pages
Published February 25th 1997 by Ballantine Books (first published 1995)
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A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill BrysonA Brief History of Time by Stephen HawkingCosmos by Carl SaganThe Selfish Gene by Richard DawkinsGuns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
Best Science Books - Non-Fiction Only
6th out of 1,023 books — 2,481 voters
The God Delusion by Richard DawkinsGod Is Not Great by Christopher HitchensThe End of Faith by Sam HarrisThe Demon-Haunted World by Carl SaganLetter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris
Notable Atheist Books
4th out of 343 books — 829 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Ahmad  Ebaid
المراجعة عصية على التلخيص بنفس قدر أهمية الكتاب للمهتمين بالعلوم

"المنهج العلمي على ما يبدو عليه من الغلظة والسماجة لهو أهم إلى حد بعيد من مكتشفات العلم."

ذُهلت عندما وجدت الكاتب يَسْتَهِل الكتاب بالحديث بجدية لتفنيد مزاعم الأطباق الطائرة؛ فالكاتب -أي كارل ساجان- هو أحد أشهر العلماء في التاريخ, ليس فقط لإنجازاته العلمية, بل لدوره الأدبي في نشر العلم للعامة, حيث يعد أكبر نقطة تحول حدثت في هذا المجال, وبأسلوبه الأدبي الشيق استطاع أن يسجل رقم قياسي كأعلى نسبة مشاهدة في التاريخ لعرض تلفزيوني عن بر
Nov 04, 2012 Dan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I sit before my computer, typing out a review of what is my favorite book. I’m daunted by the magnitude of this task, having just finished the book for the fourth or maybe fifth time. I wish I could remember when I bought this book, likely close to a decade ago, but I’m sure that I must have been awestruck to discover a book written by a man who has influenced my life and my interests to such a great extent.

One of the great memories of my early life was that of waiting to plop down in front of t
Sep 19, 2008 Chris rated it really liked it
Shelves: science, society
I miss Carl Sagan.

Ever since I was a kid, Carl Sagan has been the face of science for me. I would watch Cosmos and feel a sense of amazement that the universe was as wonderful as it was. He'd be there in his turtleneck and his blazer, smiling as though he'd just heard the coolest secret and he wanted to share it with you. And he did, except that it wasn't his secret. Hell, it wasn't a secret at all - it was the combined results of thousands of years of thoughts, deductions, mistakes, missteps, e
May 03, 2014 David rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
This is a marvelous book about the consequences of a population being scientifically illiterate. There are numerous consequences, all of them bad. Most notably, the growth of superstitious beliefs can lead to terrifying witch hunts that grow and grow, leaving a broad trail of torture, execution, mass hysteria and paranoia. Interestingly, Carl Sagan holds up science and democracy as mutually supporting concepts. He cites Frederick Douglass, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson as examples of l ...more
Jan 13, 2009 Lightreads rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction, gave-up
Hey, so, guess what? People who read the Weekly World News are stupid, but scientists are awesome! Did you know that?

I just put this book down, 175 pages in. It's not that I disagree with the thesis, because I actually don't at all. Sagan uses the widespread belief in alien abductions to talk about the need for more critical thinking in this world. And I'm totally there -- yes, for the love of God, teach people to distinguish between fact and what they want to be fact. But Sagan goes on -- and o
Apr 04, 2012 David rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: The choir that he is already preaching to
Full disclosure here, I did not finish this book; I made the decision to stop reading it after around 100 pages. I kept expecting the science to start at any page, but I got tired of reading accusations that the Weekly World News and Beavis and Butt-Head are sources of ignorance and misunderstanding. I won't argue that either of these are intellectual, but at best these are forms of entertainment and that is largely a product of taste, not intellect. I couldn't risk wasting my time reading anoth ...more
Dec 05, 2011 Brad rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion is a nuclear bomb in the atheist arsenal, Carl Sagan's The Demon-haunted World is an anti-personnel mine.

Where Dawkins goes for maximum destruction, piling the misery and mockery on those he's battling, Sagan doesn't even acknowledge his enemy. The Demon-haunted World poses, instead (and very effectively), as a book in defense of skepticism, a book persuading the unskeptical to embrace reason in the form of open-mindedness, the pursuit of evidence, and a thir
Dec 08, 2007 Trevor rated it really liked it
Sagan has been a hero of mine since I saw Cosmos years and years ago. Now that was one of the truly great science documentaries and one that, on the subject of physics, has rarely been bettered.

This is a supurb book. Many people say things like, "I've no idea how people without a belief in the supernatural can bare to live in this world". Well, Sagan gives a powerful answer here.

Sagan understood the infinite joy that comes from understanding something about the world - something that is real. H
Daniel Bastian
Jan 13, 2016 Daniel Bastian rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
“We’ve arranged a global civilization in which most crucial elements profoundly depend on science and technology. We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces.” (p. 26)

The omen above was put to print in 1995 and echoed throughout Carl Sagan’s prolific career as both practitione
Apr 19, 2008 Tyler rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: _People who want to think straight
Recommended to Tyler by: _A book review
Shelves: non-fiction
Sagan shows why learning to think in a contingent universe is ... well ... absolutely necessary. My reaction first reading the book was, "I've known for a long time that something's wrong. Now I know what." The discussions the author engages in in the book are eye-openers.

I cannot recommend this book to those who are highly sensitive about their credos, but on other hand, I don't think more open-minded religious people will at all see this as the scathing attack many opinion-makers have attribut
Apr 22, 2016 Imane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: علم
انتشار الدجل و الخرافة من اختصاص الجهل واكتشاف قوانين الكون و الطبيعة من اختصاص العلم. الكتاب رائع قام باعطاء تفسيرات علمية لظواهر نظن انها خارقة مثلا ظهور الوجه البشري على القمر او على المريخ اختطاف البعض من طرف الكائنات الفضائية استخدام السحر امتلاك البعض لقدرات لعلاج المرضى رؤية او سماع اشياء غريبة...يدعو الكاتب الى استخدام الشك و المنهج العلمي لشرح مختلف الظواهر ومن اجل ذلك يجب نشر التعليم و القراءة حتى لا يتم خداع الاخرين و استغلال سذاجتهم كما يجب على العلماء تبسيط العلوم لعامة الناس و بدون ...more
Jan 23, 2008 John rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Terry

My first Sagan book was Cosmos, which led me to this one. While Cosmos was good, this was great. It really opened my eyes to how important science is, and the underlying principles of science, and simultaneously how organized religion is virtually 100% philosophically opposed to science.

Religion: Don't think, don't reason, don't use logic. We'll (religious leaders) tell you what to think, what our god(s) wants you to think/do. Our holy book written centuries ago by primitive tribes with no knowl
Mar 23, 2011 Mitch rated it did not like it
I was very disappointed in this book. I serously don't understand why people consistantly rated this book so highly. I'm really out of synch on this one...and here's why:

Carl obviously had an ongoing religious relationship with science and boy, is he ever tiresome about it. What a reckless evangelist! He condemns everything that does not stand up to science's demonstrable standards (whether such application is appropriate or not) and then....he violates the same standards time and again in his '
Oct 02, 2015 Jason rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2015
If Carl Sagan was alive today I think he would probably cry if he saw the state of the world. He wrote this book as a kind of wake up call to the people and the government, he pointed out how bad the education system is, he tries to get people to understand how important science is, he warns us not to watch so much crap on TV, go out and get some real-life experiences and he warns us about the government abusing the bill of rights.

Well it looks like everybody has ignored him, if fact to me thing
Sayed Baqer
Apr 23, 2016 Sayed Baqer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Since ancient times, people believed in demons. Beings of supreme powers and mysterious existence, dwelling within the minds of humankind since eternity. They were feared, for they could curse man and give birth to a wicked breed. Those who were in league with demons, accused of witchcraft and heresy, were hunted and burnt. For a long time, humans were chasing out the wrong demons. The real demons, engulfing us with darkness, are in fact none other than the manifestation of ignorance and blindne ...more
✾ بسام ✾ RIHANI ✾
وتتضافر تروس الفقر والجهل واليأس وانخفاض تقدير الذات من أجل خلق نوع من آلات الفشل دائمة الحركة التي تسحق الأحلام من جيل إلى جيل وكلنا ندفع ثمن استمرارها في الدوران، والأمية مسمار عجلتها


إن كنت من المهتمين أو "الفانز" المتابعين لكارل ساجان وتريد أن تتعرف على أفكاره وآرائه فبإمكاني ببساطة أن أرشِّح لك هذا الكتاب .. الكتاب الخلاصة ،،كتاب ثري أو قل "فاحش الثراء" ...ـ

الكتاب في غاية الأهمية،، رغم وجود بعض الأفكار التي لا أستسيغها وأعني بذلك الأفكار ذات التوجه الديني،، -كمسلم- أجدها
Sep 29, 2011 Mark rated it it was amazing
Every human should read this book.
Mar 10, 2015 Lotz rated it really liked it
I’m not sure what potential audience Sagan had in mind for this book, and I’m doubly unsure if I’m in it. I doubt you will be sure, either; and this tension is one that runs through the whole of the book. Perhaps this is unavoidable. For, when a popular scientist writes a book, his readership is more than likely to consist, in the main, of reasonable and skeptical people; thus, when he spends the entirety of the work attempting to inculcate the scientific attitude, he is in the position of a mus ...more
Feb 21, 2008 Arthur rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
I wish I could give 6 stars to this book (but I guess that just indicates that I give 5 stars too easily). Carl Sagan covers a lot of ground in this book. One of his most important themes is that the scientific method is the best tool we have for separating fact from fantasy. He laments that a general lack of skepticism leads many people to believe in superstitions that can be easily explained. He devotes several chapters to the widespread belief in UFOs and a government conspiracy to hide the " ...more
Nov 14, 2008 melydia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Have you ever read something that filled you with such furvor that you wanted to write your own thoughts along those same lines, but whenever you tried you found you did nothing but repeat the original article?

That's been me all over the place with The Demon-Haunted World. I want to ramble about the wonder of science, the importance of skepticism, the fact that school all but completely robbed me of any desire to learn, the dangers of pseudoscience, the intrinsic value of basic research even if
May 31, 2015 Ryan rated it really liked it
I might well be a fan of everything Carl Sagan ever wrote or said. His ability to effortlessly move and inform never ceases to amaze me. If Carl Sagans were more common and not just someone who turned up once in a generation the ignorance and scientific illiteracy that forms the basis for this book may hardly exist at all.

This one gets 4 stars and not the full 5. Not because Sagan's thoughts and writing isn't as great at ever but because Sagan is far too capable at slaying the beliefs and practi
Jul 21, 2014 Kathy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: math-science
I've been reading this book for a few months now. It is broken up nicely that taking a break from the book from time to time does not distract from the reading experience; in my case it actually makes the experience more enjoyable.

In the chapter on Antiscience, I readily agree with this paragraph. I taught high school mathematics for many years and saw too many students want to give up when they could not get the "right answer" immediately.

"It might be useful for scientists now and again to li
Jul 11, 2012 Erin rated it did not like it
I hesitated to mark this as "Read" because I couldn't actually get through the whole thing. I was SO excited to read this book: I was under the impression that Sagan systematically explained in reasonable and scientific terms some of the myths and phenomena present in Western culture, and I thought it would be interesting to see how these things came about.
That's not what it is. From the first about 100 pages, I gather that a) Sagan is reeeaaallly in love with science, b) he's not unconvinced th
Veronica Bolts
Oct 08, 2013 Veronica Bolts rated it it was amazing
As an ordinary non-scientific person, it is common to perceive information through a two dimension. The Demon – Haunted World on the contrary, leads the non – scientific reader to filter information through a three dimensional viewpoint. To mistake false information as valid without questioning the sources or claims being made is quite prevalent, thanks to social media. For example why do people believe in memes that circulate on the web at face value? Or another example is why do people believe ...more
Aug 13, 2009 Brooke rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2009
For a while now, I've been saying that I need to start reading some non-fiction. For all the time I spend reading, some of that time should be spent learning about things that are new to me. But then I'd groan and say that I'm not yet far enough removed from being a student to be able to do that for fun.

A GoodReads friend recommended this one during a discussion of sleep paralysis and aliens, and I decided that I should approach this like ripping off a band-aid - I grabbed it off the library she
Feb 17, 2008 Erin rated it did not like it
Shelves: nonfiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Greg Brozeit
Apr 07, 2016 Greg Brozeit rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: science
I consider this book to be among the most important in my library. Carl Sagan wrote it when he knew he was dying of cancer. He had an unmatched gift of conveying and explaining science to make it understandable and relevant to non-scientists. For that reason alone, it is not far-fetched to list him among the great scientific minds of the 20th century.

In this valedictory statement of scientific philosophy, Sagan elevates the idea and relevance of the scientific method in our daily and public live
Sep 06, 2007 Lou rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: religion
If you think you're open minded, you are not, until you've read this book. Give it a try. I dare you.

Ivonne Rovira
May 25, 2014 Ivonne Rovira rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“All science asks is to employ the same levels of skepticism we use in buying a used car or in judging the quality of analgesics or beer from their television commercials.”
Carl Sagan in The Demon-Haunted World

The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark will turn 20 years old next year, but it’s just as relevant as when Carl Sagan first wrote it.

Actually, more relevant. While Sagan had to deal with cigarette manufacturers pooh-poohing the tobacco-cancer connection, the war on scien
Dec 14, 2008 Daniella rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Angela; Aunt Gail; anyone interested in honing a healthy sense of skepticism
The Demon-Haunted World should be, in my opinion, required reading for any literate human being with a modicum of intelligence and the responsibility of being a contributing member of society, especially a society as awash in fantastic claims, pseudoscience, misinformation, and an overwhelming tendency toward credulity as ours.

"Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence."

Thus spake Dr. Sagan. Accordingly, he applies this and other tools of critical thinking at the heart of the scientifi
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  • Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time
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  • Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder
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  • Bad Astronomy: Misconceptions and Misuses Revealed, from Astrology to the Moon Landing "Hoax"
  • The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning: Why the Universe Is Not Designed for Us
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  • Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science
  • The Meaning of It All: Thoughts of a Citizen-Scientist
  • Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body
  • The Skeptic's Dictionary: A Collection of Strange Beliefs, Amusing Deceptions, and Dangerous Delusions
  • The Panda's Thumb: More Reflections in Natural History
  • Doubt: A History: The Great Doubters and Their Legacy of Innovation from Socrates and Jesus to Thomas Jefferson and Emily Dickinson
in 1934, scientist Carl Sagan was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. After earning bachelor and master's degrees at Cornell, Sagan earned a double doctorate at the University of Chicago in 1960. He became professor of astronomy and space science and director of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies at Cornell University, and co-founder of the Planetary Society. A great popularizer of science, Sagan produced th ...more
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“Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality.” 1697 likes
“For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.” 1086 likes
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