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

The Demon-Haunted World by Carl Sagan
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's review
Sep 13, 2010

it was ok
Read in August, 2010

I was on a Sagan bender after reading Cosmos for the 3rd time and loving it. I started Contact but didn't finish it. This book left me similar sort of feeling. It is an excellent dissertation and defense of the scientific method. It presents science as a tool, that while imperfect is always improving in its discovery of the truth. Compared to other routes to knowledge, mainly philosophy and religion, it offers empirical data and refuses arguments from authority, which gives it a leg up over many other routes towards the truth. Science lets the imagination soar, and is fueled by bold new ideas, but these ideas are then subsequently researched. It also gives the smack down pretty heavily to many so called miracles and con artists over the ages, from religious people to UFO hoax folk. If you’re not a big believer in science, this is an important book to read. If you put too much faith in the human mind, and do not properly understand the complexity of delusions and hallucinations, you should read this book. If you are interested in myths that a psychologist and patient can create together, you should read this book. If you already think science kicks ass, and you understand its basic structure (propose theory, collect data, invite others to critique your argument, evolve) you don’t really need to read this book.

All science, measured against reality, is primitive and childlike – and yet it is the most precious thing we have. – Einstein
Fear of things invisible is the natural seed of that which every one in himself calleth religion. – Thomas Hobbes
When you’re in love, you want to tell the world. This book is a personal statement, reflecting my lifelong love affair with science. 25
Science is more than a body of knowledge, it’s a way of thinking. is far from a perfect instrument of knowledge. It’s just the best we have. In this respect, as in many others, it’s like democracy. 27
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. 29
The whole idea of a democratic application of skepticism is that everyone should have the essential tools to effectively and constructively evaluate claims to knowledge. 76
Talking about the period when “witches” were rounded up and killed by the thousands in the late 1400s “Legions of women were burnt to death. And the most horrendous tortures were routinely applied to every defendant, young or old, after the instruments of torture were first blessed by the priests. Innocent himself died in 1942, following unsuccessful attempts to keep him alive by transfusion (which resulted in the death of three boys) and by suckling at the breast of a nursing mother. He was mourned by his mistress and their children. 120
Keeping an open mind is a virtue – but, as the space engineer James Oberg once said, not so open that your brains fall out. Of course we must be willing to change our minds when warranted by new evidence. But the evidence must be strong. 187
The odds of a miraculous cure at Lourdes, then, are about one in a million you are roughly as likely to recover after visiting Lourdes as you are to win the lottery, or die in the crash of a regularly scheduled airplane flight – including the one you take to Lourdes. 233

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