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on 28 September 2010
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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on 14 February 2008
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. He discusses the tentative nature of Science and he questions of some of bad aspects that have manifested from a usage of it. Atomic and Hydrogen bombs, two obvious examples.

Sagan explores the inescapable reality that Science has failed to capture the masses. Why is it only 75% of American don't know antibiotics kill bacteria not viruses? He explores some of the reasons for this as well as different ways of teaching Science and critical thinking.

He is only too gracious and bashful to recommend everyone should read this book, but I would have no problem doing that!
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on 18 June 2012
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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on 10 January 2015
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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on 29 April 2014
This book sets out why we should all be sceptical of almost any claim, whether from authority or not, but not to let our scepticism drown out our wonder of the natural world. A healthy balance of the two is needed to ensure that, on the one hand we don't become gullible fools, credulous of everything without thinking, but on the other hand, don't become bitter old sceptics who won't take a risk and look into matters personally.

I have to say, Carl Sagan does a great job of ensuring nobody is condescended or humiliated in his critique of common "baloney" (alien abductions seem to be his main gripe throughout the book), and tries to convey real world reasons why "baloney" may nestle in the minds of the afflicted.

The book is mainly geared towards encouraging the reader to critically think about everthing they see, hear and touch and logically work out what is and isn't true - and to question everything.

This book should be given to teenagers and young adults for free, so that they can use the tools described to help them understand the pressures they face in making sense of competing claims, and understanding that only evidence and critical thinking should be used to determine the truth of most claims.

Mr Sagan's "baloney detection kit" is essential in this day and age...
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on 23 June 2018
the tone of the book is very anti religion or anything un scientific. I personally dont believe in God but hate people who take great pleasure in pulling apart peoples faith. my niece loves unicorns and dont understand why conceited people such the carl sagans, ricky gervais' and stephen fry's of this world would want to take that away from her
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on 21 May 2011
Everyone should read this book ; for its insight, of course, and limpid prose which constitute an ideal preface to Richard Dawkins' God Delusion. Our society, still torn by contradictary illusory superstitions, must move forward through progressive thinking. This book is intrumental to re-evaluation. It also provides an interesting window through which to see the sources of Professor Brian Cox's writings which dig their roots deep into Carl Sagan's haunted world. An excellent read, beautifully dispatched by Amazon!
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on 11 April 2018
Arrived very quickly. Enjoyed very much. Its a book I need to read several times as there is a lot to take in.
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on 2 December 2013
Although slightly dated now, this book was an enjoyable and quite illuminating read as to the ridiculous and hideously ignorant thought that went on through the ages throughout Europe and in N.America right through to the time of this writing. It was quite telling to find such a high level of scientific ignorance in the USA.
Carl Sagan was rightly, and not surprisingly, critical of this lowering of education standards, and an avid promoter of sceptical, questioning thought; the solution to a lot of these woes.

In summary this book could be described as both a passionate defence of the scientific way of thinking and as a crying out to not let society slip back into the darkness of our past.

It's almost 20 years later and yet sadly there is still much scientific ignorance in this world.
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on 28 January 2015
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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