John Strubhart's Reviews > The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark
The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark
John Strubhart's review
Sep 08, 2010
Recommended to John by: no one
Recommended for: everyone
Read 3 times. Last read February 5, 2012 to May 16, 2015.
This is positively one of the most important books ever written. If people are to ensure that their rights remain protected and their freedoms respected, each and every one of us must be critical thinkers who are unafraid to ask the tough questions, to constantly criticize authority and to accept that no idea should be free from critical examination. I have read no one who makes these points more clear than Carl Sagan. This is not a pleasant read. It points out much of what is wrong about our society and government. Though dated in some areas, the general arguments that Sagan makes are just as valid today as they were 20 years ago. You can't read this book and come away unchanged.
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Quotes John Liked
“For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.”
“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.”
“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.”
“If you’re only sceptical, then no new ideas make it through to you. You never learn anything. You become a crochety misanthrope convinced that nonsense is ruling the world. (There is, of course, much data to support you.) Since major discoveries in the borderlines of science are rare, experience will tend to confirm your grumpiness. But every now and then a new idea turns out to be on the mark, valid and wonderful. If you’re too resolutely and uncompromisingly sceptical, you’re going to miss (or resent) the transforming discoveries in science, and either way you will be obstructing understanding and progress. Mere scepticism is not enough.”
“The business of scepticism is to be dangerous. Scepticism challenges established institutions. If we teach everybody, including, say, high school students, habits of sceptical thought, they will probably not restrict their scepticism to UFOs, aspirin commercials and 35,000-year-old channellees. Maybe they’ll start asking awkward questions about economic, or social, or political, or religious institutions. Perhaps they’ll challenge the opinions of those in power. Then where would we be?”
“It is not the function of our government to keep the citizen from falling into error; it is the function of the citizen to keep the government from falling into error. U.S. SUPREME COURT JUSTICE ROBERT H. JACKSON, 1950”
“In every such society, there is a cherished world of myth and metaphor which co-exists with the workaday world. Efforts to reconcile the two are made, and any rough edges at the joints tend to be off-limits and ignored. We compartmentalize. Some scientists do this too, effortlessly stepping between the skeptical world of science and the credulous world of religious belief without skipping a beat. Of course, the greater the mismatch between these two worlds, the more difficult it is to be comfortable, with untroubled conscience, with both.”
September 8, 2010 – Shelved
February 5, 2012 – Started Reading
December 9, 2014 –60.0% "Antiscience will be the death of hundreds of millions."
April 1, 2015 –64.0% "I must disagree with Carl on this one. Science and religion are irreconcilably incompatible, because they don't play by the same rules."
April 8, 2015 –65.0% "" It is the particular task of scientists, I believe, to alert the public to possible dangers, especially those emanating from science or foreseeable through the use of science." - Carl Sagan"
April 14, 2015 –67.0% "If a given phenomenon can already be plausibly understood in terms of matter and energy, why should we hypothesize that something else—something for which there is as yet no other good evidence—is responsible?"
April 19, 2015 –71.0% "Science works, bitches!"
April 22, 2015 –75.0% "Science, I maintain, is an absolutely essential tool for any society with a hope of surviving well into the next century with its fundamental values intact—not just science as engaged in by its practitioners, but science understood and embraced by the entire human community. And if the scientists will not bring this about, who will?"
May 3, 2015 –79.0% "...and scientifically for all."
May 6, 2015 –81.0% "The gears of poverty, ignorance, hopelessness, and low self-esteem mesh to create a kind of perpetual failure machine that grinds down dreams from generation to generation. We all bear the cost of keeping it running. Illiteracy is its linchpin"
May 6, 2015 –84.0% "The idea that Mr. Spock could be a cross between a human being and a life-form independently evolved on the planet Vulcan is genetically far less probable than a successful cross of a man and an artichoke"
May 12, 2015 –89.0% "To take one symbolic example, is it really true that we can’t afford one attack helicopter’s worth of seed corn to listen to the stars?"
May 13, 2015 –92.0% "Critical thinking leads to awkward questions. That's a good thing."
May 15, 2015 –93.0% "I would add that free thought is a necessary, but not a sufficient, condition for democracy."
May 16, 2015 –100.0% "Indispensable advice!"
May 16, 2015 – Finished Reading