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Customer Review

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Baloney merchants beware...!, 7 Jun. 2003
This review is from: The Demon-haunted World (Paperback)
Thank goodness for people like Carl Sagan. This book is a series of cautionary tales about how the seemingly inexplicable can (and should) be quite easily explained, but there are some people in this world who don't want you to question what they are doing. Covering a vast array of interesting topics, the central theme runs through the whole book like a spine, and is simple to follow and comprehend.
The 'scientific method' involves experiment, observation, scrutiny and analysis, yet never really sets out to 'prove' anything. Science merely sets out to 'disprove' a theory or hypothesis, and then refines that theory until something resembling reality is explained. All of these things follow the simple tests of logic and reason, and when applied with perserverance, diligence, objectiveness and hard work, you end up with something that is worth telling people. The issues that Carl Sagan discusses in this book are examples of things that go against the grain of everything that science is all about. Deception, subjectivity, ignorance, abuse of power and usually taking the easy way out in order to make money or gain in some other way that is ultimately unfair and unjust. One chapter is Sagan's brilliant 'Baloney Detection Kit', which is some simple questions designed to root out the BS.
Characters like James Van Praagh and John Edward both get short shrift, both of them being so-called psychics who have made fortunes portending to be able to communicate with your dead relatives on prime time TV. Other voices of sceptical reason like James Randi are welcome allies, whose voices are all too quiet against the babbling backdrop of baloney merchants the world over. Suffice it to say, there are alot of people making alot of money by telling people stuff that they already know, and then charging them a fortune for the pleasure. The sad fact is that usually the people who get stung the hardest are not seeking pleasure, but are usually vunerable, lonely, bereaved, desperate or in some other sort of tremendous emotional pain, and all that the baloney merchants want to do is take their money from them as well.
We need more people like Sagan and Randi in this world, and fewer Van Praaghs and John Edwards. You will find yourself referring to this book time and time again, and can be read as stand-alone chapters that are simultaneously interesting and informative, and written with humility and humour. There will be many people who will want to tell Sagan to keep his big mouth shut and stop making sense, but hopefully after reading this, you will be armed with the ammunition to stop them in their tracks and allow reason to prevail.
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Location: London, UK

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