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The Demon-haunted World Hardcover – 11 Jan 1996

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Hardcover, 11 Jan 1996
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Headline Book Publishing (11 Jan. 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747215545
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747215547
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.4 x 4.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,767,532 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sagan was Dir. of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies & David Duncan Prof. of Astronomy & Space Sciences at Cornell University.He played a leading role in the Mariner, Viking & Voyage expeditions to the planets & was a recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for literature. He died in 1996.

Product Description

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Carl Sagan muses on the current state of scientific thought, which offers him marvellous opportunities to entertain us with his own childhood experiences, the newspaper morgues, UFO stories and the assorted flotsam and jetsam of pseudoscience. Along the way he debunks alien abduction, faith-healing and channelling, refutes the arguments that science destroys spirituality, and provides a "baloney detection kit" for thinking through political, social, religious and other issues.

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As I got off the plane, he was waiting for me, holding up a scrap of cardboard with my name scribbled on it. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

51 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Sir Barnabas VINE VOICE on 15 Jun. 2007
Format: Paperback
The blurb on the back cover says; "...Sagan examines and authoritatively debunks...witchcraft, faith healing and UFOs" - this he does but it is not really the main point of the book.

Sagan never sets out to trash some compendium of "new age" beliefs or all the paranormal and paraphyschological bunk that is currently doing the rounds. Instead, he uses examples such as UFOs, alien abductions and faith healing to instruct the reader in how such myths and pseudoscience can become so believable to so many. Helpfully he also equips the reader with the mental tools necessary to examine such claims for themselves in a sceptical and rational manner, his so called "baloney detection kit". This kit includes various tools for sceptical and scientific reasoning as well as how to recognise common fallacies of logic and rhetoric.

If you read this book expecting to be spoon fed arguments against various pseudoscientific, quasi-religious (or just plain-religious) and other paranormal beliefs then you are going to be disappointed. If, on the other hand, you want to be able to critically analyse theories and ideas (scientific or otherwise), if you want to be able to think for yourself and if you want to be able to recognise when you are being fed fallacious and fraudulent arguments then you can't go far wrong with this book.

Please read this book if you get the chance, it is marvellous piece of work, erudite and compassionate without ever being patronising and should be compulsory reading in every school, for pupils, teachers and parents.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By GJ_Reading on 11 Nov. 2010
Format: Paperback
One of the observations I have of reviews of books such as these is to note how many of the negative reviews contain anguished accusations of the author's arrogance or sneering and, with apparently no sense of irony, how 'closed-minded' the author must be.

Sagan however avoids sneering and avoids high handed righteousness too. Instead we get an impassioned and intelligent call for a very human rationality and 'common sense'. He points out the inherent flaws in thinking that people often make, especially in ascribing inconsistent and unnecessary meaning to things that can be explained in much more eloquent and interesting ways. he also highlights the corresponding, baffling, disregard some people have for the beauty and wonder that is available through knowledge obtained with human intelligence and confirmed by scientific rigor.

You can sense Sagan's bewilderment, sadness and fears regarding the surprisingly large mass of people who casually subscribe to ideas that are either demonstrably false or unfalsifiable and yet are suspicious of things that can be demonstrated and are falsifiable and therefore subject to rigorous tests.

In the end the fact that this book was written, the fact that it was a best seller, gives hope.

If you want to read an intelligent book that explores these ideas in a way that is both very insightful and contains a very human wisdom, free of sneering and arrogance, then Sagan is your ideal guide.
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72 of 75 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 2 Jun. 1999
Format: Paperback
Carl Sagan's book makes clear that human ignorance can lead to some pretty weird, and potentially dangerous, belief systems, such as the belief in alien abductions, or the belief in witches. What is actually frightening is that people hold on to some of these beliefs, despite the overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary. The book contains some sobering examples of human ignorance, plus some of its causes. The book also contains a sample of some remarkable letters Sagan has received in the past few years, and a D.I.Y. baloney detection kit.
I found the book a highly accessible and passionate defence of scientific thinking. Sagan's take home message is that science does not necessarily rid the world of its beauty. On the contrary, a scientific perspective can reveal some truly amazing things that we can not perceive with our senses, such as the structure of the atom. I can recommend the book to everyone; I actually read it twice.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Alex Ireland on 14 Feb. 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Do you like to question things? Well you should like this book.

There are two keys aspects to this book:
1. A detailed analysis of unsubstantiated beliefs
2. An exploration of critical thinking

Sagan describes all sorts of unusual beliefs such as demons and witches which were once held with absolute certitude by the masses. He details outrageous claims of alien abductions and all sorts of unusual apparitions. This is all sprinkled with all sorts of interesting facts and anecdotes. Whether it's the story of innocent people being found guilty for child abuse by using confession under hypnosis as evidence or the fact that there have been over a million UFO sightings since 1947, the reader is kept in engaged along the way.

Inevitably Religion gets a mention. Sagan points out how scripture was used to justify some inhuman activities such slavery and racism
However Sagan is fair here. He points out that mainstream Religions accepts mainstream Science, such as Darwinian evolution and it is really only the fundamentalists who cannot deal with Scientific findings.

He also describes the story of the Jesuit priest, Friedrich von Spee, who turned whistle blower, detailing the abject fallacy and idiocy of witchcraft trials.

Of course no book on critical thinking would be complete without a discussion on what constitutes critical thinking. Sagan is is succinct in his explanations. He details scientific and evidence based methodologies. He explains various logical fallacies which consistently make humans think something is true when it is actually not.

Sagan is not also to afraid to point out the imperfections of Science.
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