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43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars At night a candle's brighter than the sun...
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...
Published on 15 Jun 2007 by Sir Barnabas

versus
2.0 out of 5 stars The demon-haunted World. Science as a candle in the dark
This book is badly printed and in fact I have given it up as the print face is too light and almost unreadable.
Published 3 months ago by Agnes Knight


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43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars At night a candle's brighter than the sun..., 15 Jun 2007
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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69 of 72 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why science is essential, 2 Jun 1999
By A Customer
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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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an impassioned and intelligent call, 11 Nov 2010
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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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb read, 22 Sep 2000
By A Customer
I view this book as Sagan's "Last will and testament". Its a superb collection of essays, challenging the pseudo-science and superstitious nonsense of today. If you want to find out why scientific thinking and rational thought are so important to our civilisation and liberties, then you must read this book. Awe-inspiring, and extremely thought provoking. Carl - we'll miss you...
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50 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Message of Rational Hope and Despair at Mysticism, 2 Aug 2004
By A Customer
This book, more than any other on this theme, subjects many of the popular delusions and superstitions that hold back and threaten the very existence of human society, against the "gold standard" of rational, scientific thought and method.
According to Sagan, our heads are full of confusion and misinformation and there are forces that wish to keep it that way. Unfortunately, the status quo is dangerous.
To wake from a slumber of indoctrination, media propaganda and self-delusion, read this book, in one sitting, as the perfect antidote.
I enjoyed this book so much that I have read and re-read it many times over. I've given copies to my dearest friends. This is an intellectual tour-de-force of a book. With every reading, I muse on how preciuous and rare clear and incisive thinkers with a voice that can reach everyone are. Carl Sagan is sorely missed.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books I have ever read, 11 Dec 2010
I have just finished reading this book. I read an extract from it in Richard Dawkinss' "The Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing" (itself a splendid uplifting read) and immediately bought it. I can understand the reviewer who said this book changed their life. There are a few works every now and again that have such a profound message, such precision and clarity, such moral persuasiveness that they are able to give the reader a fresh pair of eyes on the world. This is such a book. Without getting too personal, it is interesting that a reviewer who gave it the lowest grade appeared (perhaps by refusing to take Sagan's advice of using Critical Thinking) to miss the point completely. I can appreciate that not everybody would share my view or get from this book what I and the others who gave it top marks did, but those who appear unwilling to listen at all simply make Sagan's point for him. Although an atheist myself, I know many intelligent kindly religious people who are far from dogmatic or dictatorial in their belief. The problem Sagan so clearly points out is that even very intelligent human beings are highly susceptible to delusion of all kinds and when they achieve a critical mass (no pun intended) are capable of committing monstrous crimes against their fellow citizens. Take a look at some of the present day's theocratic states for clear proof of how dogma can lead to barbarity. We were once little different in The West and there are those in our part of the world whose rhetoric makes some of us fearful they would send us straight back there. We all have to guard against wishful thinking and self-delusion no matter what our standpoint. Sagan's humane rationalism has an even greater need to take centre stage in the light of everything that has happened since this book was written. A great man and a sad loss to the human race.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A manifesto for clear thinking, 9 Aug 2005
This is a fascinating book, which argues clearly and passionately in favour of critical thinking, not just in science but in every area of our lives.
Sagan persuasively demolishes ideas such as alien abduction, channeling, witchcraft and satanic abuse scares, and then teaches us how to do the same. He attacks the misuse of religion but doesn't simply dismiss religion itself; instead he demands that it be intellectually honest.
This is not a 'science versus religion' book - Sagan was a skeptic in the true sense of the word, more critical and open-minded than someone like Richard Dawkins. There are several things on which he avoids giving his opinion, telling us not to trust people like himself, but instead to put his 'baloney detection kit' into action. I recommend this book to everyone.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars TOOLKIT FOR AN OPEN MIND, 25 Jan 2005
My view is that this book should be compulsory reading for the entire world. Why? Because essentially it provides the reader with a toolkit for separating what might be true from the absolute rubbish. Essential reading for this age of what Richard Dawkins terms "the new ignorance" . BUY BUY BUY. and give as gifts.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rational and humane antidote to superstition., 17 Nov 2001
This is an intelligent, sympathetic book that encourages readers to see life and the universe for the wonderful thing it is, without recourse to superstitious belief or a fondness for unlikely mysteries. Sagan demonstrates that there is more than enough to wonder at in the cosmos quite apart from the ever-multiplying stories of alien abduction, miraculous watch-stopping by tv personalities etc. Sagan is never facetious or condescending in his viewpoint, as some other science writers can be. He has a great deal of empathy for the human desire to search for something greater outside themselves, and dismantles illogical thinking with humour and kindness rather than harsh condemnation. I found this a very engaging and eye-opening book, which has changed the way I perceive a whole range of things - for the better. There are other books that also offer an apology for science, such as Richard Dawkin's 'Unweaving the Rainbow', or Lewis Wolpert's 'The Unnatural Nature of Science' but 'The Demon-Haunted World' outclasses them in almost every respect.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The late, great Sagan's best book., 28 Sep 2010
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Great man. Great book. Let's get the minor criticisms out of the way first. Carl can ramble slightly at times. His points are valid and thought provoking. However, I felt that a little editing was required. That aside...wonderful. Clear, balanced, unbiased and honest. He takes a look at all the key areas of science - from his own interest as a child to a closing chapter on how the essential promotion of the critical thinking protects us from fundementalists, crackpots, psuedoscience, political manipulators and those who profit from obscuring the truth. His tone isn't hectoring and less likely to discourage some. My favourite moment (and one I've re-read) is the chapter 'Obsessed with Reality' in which he takes a look how media can be fooled - and therefore fool us - with unsubstantiated claims. He tells the story of how the great Randi fools the Australian press with 'Carlos' - a kind of channeling version of Chopra/Tolle - which should act as a warning to all and is also (I found at least!) quite funny. Worth publishing in every school is his 'baloney detection kit'. It might help us spot some of our errors and not be taken in by some of the less honest, sincere or otherwise, in our society. Thank-you Carl. You're sorely missed.
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The Demon-haunted World: Science As a Candle in the Dark
The Demon-haunted World: Science As a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan (Library Binding - 26 Jun 2008)
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