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The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark (1995)

de Carl Sagan

Altres autors: Ann Druyan (Col·laborador)

Altres autors: Mira la secció altres autors.

MembresRessenyesPopularitatValoració mitjanaMencions
7,0181041,293 (4.28)109
Science. Nonfiction. HTML:A prescient warning of a future we now inhabit, where fake news stories and Internet conspiracy theories play to a disaffected American populace
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

How can we make intelligent decisions about our increasingly technology-driven lives if we dont 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.
Praise for The Demon-Haunted World
Powerful . . . A stirring defense of informed rationality. . . Rich in surprising information and beautiful writing.The Washington Post Book World
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.
… (més)
  1. 40
    Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds de Charles Mackay (Usuari anònim)
    Usuari anònim: Carl Sagan references this book several times in "Demon-Haunted World"; its full title is "Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds", and it was authored by Charles Mackay in 1841.
  2. 30
    Anti-Intellectualism in American Life de Richard Hofstadter (Cecrow)
  3. 20
    The Mask of Nostradamus: The Prophecies of the World's Most Famous Seer de James Randi (sgerbic)
    sgerbic: This book may help you understand how/why people can continue to believe in seerers like Nostradamus even when faced with the facts.
  4. 20
    Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science de Martin Gardner (Cecrow)
  5. 10
    Calling Bullshit: The Art of Skepticism in a Data-Driven World de Carl T. Bergstrom (thebookpile)
  6. 10
    Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time de Michael Shermer (Cecrow)
  7. 00
    Death from the Skies!: These Are the Ways the World Will End . . . de Philip Plait (foxjwill)
  8. 00
    A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom de Andrew Dickson White (myshelves)
  9. 00
    The Tenacity of Unreasonable Beliefs: fundamentalism and the fear of truth de Solomon Schimmel (bertilak)
  10. 01
    Starry Messenger: Cosmic Perspectives on Civilization de Neil deGrasse Tyson (yarmando)
    yarmando: Both books explore how a scientific mindset reframes one's perspective on a variety of political and social topics.
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» Mira també 109 mencions

This is a tribute to clear thinking – to using the tools of scientific reasoning and plain old skepticism to pick out what's real from the hoaxes, scams, and pseudoscience around us. Since it was written almost thirty years ago the examples used in the first part of the book are dated – faces on Mars, crop circles, alien abductions – but the methods it promotes are as relevant today as they were then. Where it hits its stride is in the latter chapters that describe how intellectual curiosity and scientific research have historically built on each other to create applications that were initially unimaginable. In the acknowledgments section Sagan explains how this was written over the course of nearly a decade. As a result it’s not a book to rush through, in fact it’s one worth rereading. ( )
  wandaly | Feb 9, 2024 |
In a world of ungrounded thought, I feel comforted by Sagan's sagely, skeptical words. "Skepticism doesn't sell newspapers," he explains. He was heavily pro-science and upset about America's scientific illiteracy which fawns over fables and eschews facts. In this book, he takes no prisions from Atlantis and Lemuria, New Age pseudoscience, religious doctrinaire that attempts to validate themselves through prophecy, weeping paintings of the Madonna, Jesus' face on tortillas, fortune tellers (that btw target young women), psychics and channels including Ramtha, amulets, exorcisms, psychic surgery, witches, ghosts, flying saucers, astrology, reliance on prayer and miraculous healing, contradictory platitudes, and spiritual justifications for nearly any action.

"Some portion of the decision-making that influences the future of our civilization is plainly in the hands of charlantans," Sagan writes. "When we are self indulgent and uncritical, when we confuse hopes and facts, we slide into pseudoscience and superstition."

Carl Sagan's question for a possible extraterrestrial was, "Please provide a short proof of Fermat's Last Theorem."

"How is it, I ask myself, that UFO occupants are so bound to fashionable or urgent concerns on this planet? Why not even an incidental warning about CFCs and oxone depletion in the 1950s, or about the AHIV virus in the 1979s, when it might have really done some good?"

Sagan thoroughly elucidates the most common strategies used to defend perilous fallacies of logic and rhetoric.

In this book, he includes some history of the founding father's of the U.S. who were "realistic and practical, wrote their own speeches, and were motivated by high principles." He also uses examples of leaders and events in Europe, Russia, and China, and how they thought in ways that were superior to the dreck we have spiraled down to. He admires Jefferson's response to the Sedition Act and Linus Pauling's stance against nuclear weapons and involvement in the Limited Test Ban Treaty of 1963. Sagan himself took an anti-nuclear stance.

Carl Sagan wisely implores us to question everything our leaders tell us.

"One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back."

As far as Sagan's brief mention of drugs used for certain DSM diagnosis, the expert I defer to in that realm is Robert Whitaker and his book "Mad in America: Bad Science, Bad Medicine, and the Enduring Mistreatment of the Mentally Ill."

I read portions of Sagan's book over again, and skimmed a few parts that seemed a bit repetitive. Overall, a very worthy read that I give a strong five stars. ( )
  Sasha_Lauren | Aug 7, 2023 |
A well-written reflection on the role of science in lighting our way through the darkness of religiosity, politics, and human folly. ( )
  erkldrkl | Jul 1, 2023 |
I'm a skeptic by nature, and one who objects to anyone's claiming that I must have a 'spiritual side'. A Myers-Briggs test identifies me as INTJ, meaning that I prefer people (and everything else) to make plain sense. Thus, in my perfect world everyone would simply nod their heads in agreement all the way through this book. That, of course, is a completely unrealistic wish. Sagan's introduction does not do a strong job of setting up his conclusion and consequently creates some vagueness around who his target audience is. A few chapters in, you may think it was only aimed at people who need reassurance that the aliens aren't going to get them. Or more generally, at people like the cab driver from his introduction who have the will to think critically but lack the tools. What are those tools, and how should they be applied?

I will only summarize briefly what I think are his most telling points in the main body: that science demonstrably works, evolves in response to new information, is self-policing for being testable and verifiable, and presents no authority figures. He contrasts this with the warning sings of pseudoscience that evades testing, demands belief, claims authority and suppresses dissent. I thought his most wonderful and least offensive comparison was with used car shopping. You would be a fool to take everything the salesperson tells you at face value. You have to apply some basic logic and skepticism to the situation or you're going to buy a lemon. Nobody likes being scammed. The same principle applies when assessing others' claims about how the world and the universe works. Sagan then concludes with a strong argument that the better these principles are preserved by the general population, the stronger a democracy. He should have also led with that.

It's too easy to like a book when I already share virtually all of its opinions at the start. None of this content challenged me, so I tried to be wary of flaws or drawbacks for other readers. Most of these I found in Sagan's adamant atheist stance, with which he acknowledges he's sometimes prone to taking things too far. Suggesting that prayer subjects religion to scientific analysis, where we could run a study on how often it is successful and rate its efficacy, is an example. I'm no believer, but even I know gods wouldn't oblige themselves to meet our service standards. He cannot summon a better word for established religions that have been with us for centuries than 'respectable', but I feel he demonstrates little respect for them even while arguing that science and belief in a god are compatible. I agree fully when he says it would be cruelty to assault the beliefs of people who depend upon those beliefs to see them through the day. I would not agree that he takes measures here to avoid doing so. His straight-ahead approach is not well designed to win new converts to his side.

That, unfortunately, is what I was half hoping for. Some kind of guide to help me to help others. That's silly, wishful thinking that I shouldn't have expected to find by looking in this direction, so I'm satisfied to say I was disappointed in that regard. Of course I'm still going to say it's a fantastically well-argued book by a fantastic author, aged statistics notwithstanding. Opening chapters on the essence of science's importance and the closing chapters on the ties between science and democracy are especially noteworthy and quotable, they just ought to have been paired up a little better. ( )
  Cecrow | Mar 6, 2023 |
Carl Sagan takes on pseudoscience. This book extolls the value of skepticism, critical thinking, and the scientific method. It should be required reading in my opinion. Unfortunately, those that could benefit most from applying more rigor in deciding what to believe will likely never read it. Originally published in 1995, he has proven to be prescient, as pseudoscience is even more prevalent than ever in recent years. Witness the rise in the number of shows about ancient aliens and paranormal activity, not to mention fake news. Outrageous claims are made and spread from person to person, and people believe these claims without questioning or proof. Why does this happen and what can we do to prevent it? Sagan attempts to answer these important questions.

This book is very readable. It does not require a deep understanding of science. Sagan writes in a way that is easily understood, while not becoming overly simplistic. He does not use jargon and, not surprisingly, presents evidence in a logical manner. He provides helpful analogies and treats his audience as bright and capable of understanding. He shows how scientific advances are fueled not only by hypothesizing, rigorous testing, and analysis of results, but also by curiosity and imagination.

I was surprised by how many areas outside the specifics of scientific inquiry are covered in this book, including literature, history, politics, religion, communications, education, economics, ethics, social norms, culture, and more. Science touches on almost every aspect of our lives but is largely ignored by many. Sagan’s subject matter includes debunking of such issues as crop circles, alien abductions, ancient astronauts, ESP, UFO’s, astrology, New Age mysticism, and the like. He reminds us of the importance of not confusing cause and effect, questioning claims that cannot be tested, requiring evidence to support assertions, and remaining skeptical about authoritative statements, especially if monetary gain is involved.

We are bombarded daily with outrageous claims (click bait, anyone?) urging us to simply believe without scrutiny, so healthy skepticism is becoming increasingly more important in our inter-connected world. Carl Sagan died in 1996, when the world wide web was in its infancy. One can only wish he were around today to help refute today’s absurdities, which are so obviously spurious in origin. I know I am “preaching to the choir,” since avid readers regularly engage in evaluative thinking. Even though some of the references are dated, this book contains an important and still relevant message on the value of critical thinking skills. I found it fascinating. Highly recommended. ( )
1 vota Castlelass | Oct 30, 2022 |
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Nom de l'autorCàrrecTipus d'autorObra?Estat
Sagan, CarlAutorautor primaritotes les edicionsconfirmat
Druyan, AnnCol·laboradorautor secundaritotes les edicionsconfirmat
Carpenter, AndyDissenyador de la cobertaautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Elwes, CaryNarradorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Lambert, J. K.Dissenyadorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
MacFarlane, SethNarradorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
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Si et cal més ajuda, mira la pàgina d'ajuda del coneixement compartit.
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We wait for light, but behold darkness.
ISAIAH 59:9

It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.
ADAGE
Dedicatòria
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TO TONIO,
MY GRANDSON.

I WISH YOU A WORLD
FREE OF DEMONS
AND FULL OF LIGHT
Primeres paraules
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It was a blustery fall day in 1939.
--Preface

As I got off the plane, he was waiting for me, holding up a scrap of cardboard with my name scribbled on it.
--Body text
Citacions
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Mr. Buckley - well-spoken, intelligent, curious - had heard virtually nothing of modern science. He had a natural appetite for the wonders of the Universe. He wanted to know about science. It's just that all the science had gotten filtered out before it reached him. Our cultural motifs, our educational system, our communications media had failed this man. What the society permitted to trickle through was mainly pretense and confusion. It had never taught him how to distinguish real science from the cheap imitation. He knew nothing about how science works.
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(Clica-hi per mostrar-ho. Compte: pot anticipar-te quin és el desenllaç de l'obra.)
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Science. Nonfiction. HTML:A prescient warning of a future we now inhabit, where fake news stories and Internet conspiracy theories play to a disaffected American populace
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

How can we make intelligent decisions about our increasingly technology-driven lives if we dont 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.
Praise for The Demon-Haunted World
Powerful . . . A stirring defense of informed rationality. . . Rich in surprising information and beautiful writing.The Washington Post Book World
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.

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