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The Demon-haunted World Hardcover – 11 Jan 1996

4.5 out of 5 stars 73 customer reviews

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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
  • Package Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.4 x 4.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,244,986 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Amazon Review

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.

From the Inside Flap

"A glorious book . . . A spirited defense of science . . . From the first page to the last, this book is a manifesto for clear thought."
*Los Angeles Times


"POWERFUL . . . A stirring defense of informed rationality. . . Rich in surprising information and beautiful writing."
*The Washington Post Book World


How can we make intelligent decisions about our increasingly technology-driven lives if we don't understand the difference between the myths of pseudoscience and the testable hypotheses of science? Pulitzer Prize-winning author and distinguished astronomer Carl Sagan argues that scientific thinking is critical not only to the pursuit of truth but to the very well-being of our democratic institutions.


Casting a wide net through history and culture, Sagan examines and authoritatively debunks such celebrated fallacies of the past as witchcraft, faith healing, demons, and UFOs. And yet, disturbingly, in today's so-called information age, pseudoscience is burgeoning with stories of alien abduction, channeling past lives, and communal hallucinations commanding growing attention and respect. As Sagan demonstrates with lucid eloquence, the siren song of unreason is not just a cultural wrong turn but a dangerous plunge into darkness that threatens our most basic freedoms.


"COMPELLING."
*USA Today


"A clear vision of what good science means and why it makes a difference. . . . A testimonial to the power of science and a warning of the dangers of unrestrained credulity."
*The Sciences


"PASSIONATE."
*San Francisco Examiner-Chronicle --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I think this is a 'must read' book ,Carl Sagan was a brilliant cosmologist and polymath . This is not necessary about science what we know about the world and the universe or chemistry , physics and biology, but about the objective way in which scientist think and how they come to their conclusions through experiment and reasoning and how this method of thought can be used in more or less any aspect which we encounter . We live in a world where people believe all sorts of strange and fantastical things from crystal healing , ufo's ,mediums, astrology, reflexology ,ghosts you name it people will believe it, where there is absolutely no scientific evidence to believe it, in a time when government money is limited on scientific research perhaps money donated any number of worthy scientific causes , would be more efficacious than having our palms read or our future predicted by a charlatan . A very liberating piece of literature . Science is important it cures illness , it improves the quality of our lives we all need to make the effort to take a bit of interest .
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The book to read as a great introduction to critical thinking. We tend to be susceptible to different kinds of magical thinking and this book aims to give you the tools to get away from that and look more at facts and evidence.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This should be compulsory reading in schools.

Imagine the increase in critical thinking, a world where people accept things on evidence rather than ideology
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
very good book
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Amazing book.
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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

1.
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.

2.
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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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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