Erik Graff'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
Jan 23, 12

bookshelves: sciences
Recommended to Erik by: Jim DeVoto
Recommended for: Sagan fans
Read in October, 2005 — I own a copy, read count: 1

I believe I first read a copy of this book loaned to me by Jim DeVoto, a professor friend from Loyola University Chicago whose academic background is in classics and astronomy. The fact that I read many books about UFOs, parapsychology and the like disturbed his Jesuitical atheism and this he thought might be an antidote. Later I purchased my own copy.

A book written with a wide audience in mind, this is an entertaining overview of pseudosciences, popular delusions and confusions, including, but not restricted to "ufology". (Interestingly, though he makes no mention of it herein, the young Sagan had himself been concerned enough about UFO reports to write to the government about it in the fifties--a letter which appeared as a result of a Freedom of Information request). On whole, it's a fun read. The ever-charming Sagan writes well.

Of course, so far as UFOs are concerned, I find Sagan off the mark. Given his background and generation it isn't surprising that he tends to think of UFO claims as pertaining to extraterrestrials visiting Earth in spacecraft, but that presupposition as regards their nature is easy to refute and after the refutation one is still left with countless inexplicable "sightings". How, if the extraterrestrial hypothesis is weak, is one to account for them otherwise? I'd agree with him that the scientific approach is preferable--testable hypotheses and the rest, but he just leaves the reader at a dead end.

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