Rob's Reviews > The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark

The Demon-Haunted World by Carl Sagan
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Oct 26, 08

bookshelves: general-nonfiction, skepticism, 2008
Recommended for: Everyone
Read in September, 2008, read count: 1

Dr. Sagan joins here an eloquent and carefully constructed plea for embracing reason as the bedrock principle in modern society, with an ominous warning about the consequences of abandoning reason and skepticism for superstition and pseudoscience. Central to the book, both thematically and positionally, is Dr. Sagan's Baloney Detection Kit, a compendium of "tools for critical thinking"—an invaluable resource in itself.

While making his case for skepticism, Dr. Sagan maintains respect for religious viewpoints, insofar as they address higher truths and do not attempt to supplant science with mythology. He is careful, moreover, not to dismiss strange beliefs, such as UFO abduction and Satanic cults, as mere lunacy, but rather takes the time to explain how otherwise sane and rational persons can convince themselves—or be convinced by others—of such bizarre, fanciful ideas. (In fact, it sometimes seems that Dr. Sagan treats pseudoscientific nonsense with too much respect, although he can't stop his tongue from wandering cheekward on occasion.) On the other side of the coin, he sagely warns us that science isn't infallible, either.

Whereas you may find reading The Demon-haunted World makes you rather pessimistic about the fate of American society, particularly in light of the past seven years, Dr. Sagan also offers a ray of hope: "Education on the value of free speech and the other freedoms reserved by the Bill of Rights, about what happens when you don't have them, and about how to exercise and protect them, should be an essential prerequisite for bing an American citizen—or indeed a citizen of any nation, the more so to the degree that such rights remain unprotected. If we can't think for ouselves, if we're unwilling to question authority, then we're just putty in the hands of those in power. But if the citizens are educated and form their own opinions, then those in power work for us. In every country, we should be teaching our children the scientific method and the reasons for a Bill of Rights. With it comes a certain decency, humility and community spirit."


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Quotes Rob Liked

Carl Sagan
“Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality. When we recognize our place in an immensity of light‐years and in the passage of ages, when we grasp the intricacy, beauty, and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual. So are our emotions in the presence of great art or music or literature, or acts of exemplary selfless courage such as those of Mohandas Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr. The notion that science and spirituality are somehow mutually exclusive does a disservice to both.”
Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark

Carl Sagan
“Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality.”
Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark


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