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

4.29 of 5 stars 4.29  ·  rating details  ·  25,170 ratings  ·  1,081 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 January 1st 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 686 books — 1,724 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 256 books — 663 voters


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Steve Sckenda
Science is not just for scientists. The methods of science can be used to improve social, political, and economic systems. Carl Sagan exhorts us to embrace science and the scientific method as a way of life for all people and to understand how curiosity, skepticism, and intellectual freedom are essential to the survival of democracy.

Sagan partly blames a simplistic media and a popular culture marketed to gullible consumers because skepticism does not sell as well as credulity. “Those who have s...more
Dan
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...more
Chris
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...more
Lightreads
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...more
Trevor
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...more
David
Apr 04, 2012 David rated it 1 of 5 stars 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
Brad
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...more
Tyler
Apr 19, 2008 Tyler rated it 5 of 5 stars 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...more
John
Jan 23, 2008 John rated it 5 of 5 stars 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...more
Arthur
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
Mitch
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 '...more
melydia
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...more
Daniel Bastian
“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 practitioner...more
Brooke
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...more
Erin
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mark
Every human should read this book.
Veronica Bolts
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
Darrell
The Demon-Haunted World by Carl Sagan is the perfect book to start with for anyone interested in skepticism. He explains the difference between science and psuedoscience and why science is a good thing. While some may point out that science brings unprecedented destruction in the form of ever more powerful weapons, Sagan reminds us that “advances in medicine and agriculture have saved vastly more lives than have been lost in all the wars in history.” (11)

He brings up an interesting concept I’ve...more
Lou
Sep 06, 2007 Lou rated it 5 of 5 stars 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.

--Wag--
Daniella
Dec 14, 2008 Daniella rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  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...more
Thomas Sheridan
Well intentioned but ultimately half assed research from someone who was too 'rational' to bother understanding the amazing psychological and cultural impact of this field. The chapter on crop circles actually states that a pair of English drunken country bumpkins made them all. If this was a real scientific study he would of explored the world of underground crop circle artists who make these incredible artworks and not shrugged the whole thing off. What they are getting from it and why they re...more
Erin
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...more
Kurt
Oct 29, 2009 Kurt rated it 4 of 5 stars Recommends it for: EVERYONE
I really miss Carl Sagan. He was such an interesting and eloquent spokesman for the importance of science and education in our country and in the world. We desperately need another Carl Sagan (or better yet, 100 of him) today as science is being attacked by persuasive ideologues who prefer comfortable delusions over inconvenient truths.

One of my favorite quotes from the book is this: "Part of the duty of citizenship is not to be intimidated into conformity."

The Demon Haunted World is really fant...more
Chad Kettner
A friend recently asked me to recommend only ONE book that would provide a foundation for my views regarding religion. It's nearly impossible to limit it to one book, but nonetheless I chose this book even though Carl Sagan wasn't necessarily intending to address religion head-on.

In "The Demon-Haunted World", Sagan explains the power of science and its role in skeptical, evidence-based reasoning. Topics include UFOs, alien abductions, witches, religion-both good and bad, Roswell, frauds, scienti...more
Kristi Thielen
The late Carl Sagan, in a book written in 1995, takes aim at scientific illiteracy, the witch hunts through history and obsessions with astrology, UFOs and extraterrestrials who supposedly have captured people and taken them to flying saucers to do . . . . whatever. (An interesting point: why is it that people don't see witches everywhere now? Why didn't people in the Middle Ages see flying saucers? If both exist, they surely should have been an issue with humans throughout time.)

Sagan is stron...more
Chris Friend
Fantastically well-written. Sagan has the gift of explanations that illuminate in terms perfectly appropriate for his audience. I believe this is because he has never lost the childish sense of wonder over science. Any work he does, he is convinced it is fantastically interesting, not just good science.

In this brief book, Sagan explains several aspects of how science influences everyday life, calling us all to become more involved... including a call to his fellow scientists to get them to share...more
May
Un libro magnífico que nos abre las puertas a la ciencia. Nos explica los mitos que propagan la pseudocencia y las religiones y por qué las personas prefieren creer esos mitos que las explicaciones reales y comprobables que da la ciencia. Nos da datos y estadísticas muy impresionantes sobre el analfabetismo que existe respecto a la ciencia, los prototipos y prejuicios sobre los científicos y lo poco qué hace el gobierno para acercar a las personas comunes a dicho rubro. Un libro a favor de la li...more
Chris
Sagan's final work is even more relevant today than it was when I first read it upon publication nearly twenty years ago. This is one of the best books ever written on science and its practice as well as offering deep reflections on the state of intellectualism and the future of liberal culture. There is no need for me to summarize Sagan's arguments: whose mind would I be changing? Everyone in America has already chose their sides — it yet remains to be seen which will win, and I'm not at all op...more
Krishan
Jul 01, 2008 Krishan rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Skeptics, believers
Magnificent. Carl Sagan takes us on a mind-expanding tour of the landscape of scientific knowledge and the oceans of human ignorance. This deeply skeptical look at our ideas is more than expose of superstition, but an exercise in constructive criticism.
Sagan shows us that science and reason are our greatest tools for understanding and moral judgment.

An excellent companion to the recent 'new atheism' books by Harris, Hitchens, Dawkins, Dennet etc...
Daniel
This is a book that I think should become textbook in schools across the world. Sure it could use some editing and Sagan really used a lot of the book to discredit UFO's, and that's just fine, I just wish he would have done it in a manner more cohesive with the rest of the book.

Other than that I really liked it. It helped shape the way I think and examine my own beliefs. Everyone should read this at least once.
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  • Origins: Fourteen Billion Years of Cosmic Evolution
  • A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather Than Nothing
  • Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading Atheists
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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
More about Carl Sagan...
Contact Cosmos Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence Billions & Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium

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“Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality.” 1224 likes
“For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.” 718 likes
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