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The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark
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December 2018: Geek Reads > The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan - 5 stars

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Joy D | 3211 comments The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan - 5 stars

Carl Sagan takes on pseudoscience. This book extolls the value of skepticism, critical thinking, and the scientific method. It should be required reading in my opinion. Unfortunately, those that could benefit most from applying more rigor in deciding what to believe will likely never read it. Originally published in 1995, he has proven to be prescient, as pseudoscience is even more prevalent than ever in recent years. Witness the rise in the number of shows about ancient aliens and paranormal activity, not to mention fake news. Outrageous claims are made and spread from person to person, and people believe these claims without questioning or proof. Why does this happen and what can we do to prevent it? Sagan attempts to answer these important questions.

This book is very readable. It does not require a deep understanding of science. Sagan writes in a way that is easily understood, while not becoming overly simplistic. He does not use jargon and, not surprisingly, presents evidence in a logical manner. He provides helpful analogies and treats his audience as bright and capable of understanding. He shows how scientific advances are fueled not only by hypothesizing, rigorous testing, and analysis of results, but also by curiosity and imagination.

I was surprised by how many areas outside the specifics of scientific inquiry are covered in this book, including literature, history, politics, religion, communications, education, economics, ethics, social norms, culture, and more. Science touches on almost every aspect of our lives but is largely ignored by many. Sagan’s subject matter includes debunking of such issues as crop circles, alien abductions, ancient astronauts, ESP, UFO’s, astrology, New Age mysticism, and the like. He reminds us of the importance of not confusing cause and effect, questioning claims that cannot be tested, requiring evidence to support assertions, and remaining skeptical about authoritative statements, especially if monetary gain is involved.

We are bombarded daily with outrageous claims (click bait, anyone?) urging us to simply believe without scrutiny, so healthy skepticism is becoming increasingly more important in our inter-connected world. Carl Sagan died in 1996, when the world wide web was in its infancy. One can only wish he were around today to help refute today’s absurdities, which are so obviously spurious in origin. I know I am “preaching to the choir,” since avid readers regularly engage in evaluative thinking. Even though some of the references are dated, this book contains an important and still relevant message on the value of critical thinking skills. I found it fascinating. Highly recommended.

Link to my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...


AsimovsZeroth (asimovszerothlaw) | 436 comments Great review Joy! I haven't tracked this one down yet, but it sounds like it's absolutely up to the usual standards I've come to expect from Carl Sagan. Thank you for the thoughtful review and the reminder that I need to make this book a priority.


message 3: by Joanne (new)

Joanne (joabroda1) | 7248 comments Excellent review! I am so lost sometimes when it comes to science matters, and suppose that is the main reason I stay away from the
subject. I am so looking to forward to reviews like this during the month-Geek to Geek we can all teach each other something!


Joy D | 3211 comments Thanks, LiteraryMania and Joanne! It should be an interesting month seeing what everyone picks for "geek" reading.


message 5: by Nikki (new) - added it

Nikki | 661 comments Thanks for this, you've convinced me to add it to my to-read list.


Joy D | 3211 comments Nikki wrote: "Thanks for this, you've convinced me to add it to my to-read list."
Hope you enjoy it, Nikki!


message 7: by Amy N. (new) - added it

Amy N. | 256 comments This looks fascinating! I was considering going back to Cosmos for the tag, but I might track this down instead.


Joy D | 3211 comments Amy N. wrote: "This looks fascinating! I was considering going back to Cosmos for the tag, but I might track this down instead."

Cosmos is also very good!


message 9: by Dan (new)

Dan | 16 comments I remember reading THE DRAGONS OF EDEN back in the 80s, where Sagan examines the evolution of intelligence. Your review indicates a few years later Sagan was lamenting the misuse of our gift. I’ll have to give this a read. I’m afraid to revisit DRAGONS; probably dated after 40 plus years...


message 10: by [deleted user] (new)

Wonderful review! Our society is so susceptible to click bait! I'm always stunned by this as I will research the death out of something.


Joy D | 3211 comments Thanks for your comments, Dan & Rachel!


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