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I read this book over two nights, couldn't put it down, and afterwards was eagerly searching for more of the same. Science at it's best-accurate, timely, well-argued, emotionally and mentally invigorating, spiritually uplifting; and filled with boundless enthusiasm and hope. Like the author, Carl Sagan himself.
This book describes the 'scientific journey'. Alternately curious, cautious, inquiring, uplifting, compassionate, humane, warning, discovering and fulfilling. Topics include UFOs, alien abductions, witches, religion-both good and bad, Roswell, frauds, scientific genuises, skeptical thinking, wishful thinking, deceptive thinking, balanced thinking, belief, superstition, astrology, ESP, myth, and the like; and the role and place of science and scientific inquiry in all of this. For those who think science "destroys" spirituality-does not scientific inquiry with its' abundant curiosity and courageous endeavour accurately describe a spiritual journey to find the truth? Sagan contends, with great clarity and enthusiasm, that it assuredly does. It's just that this scientific journey is not an easy one, neither for the individual, nor humanity, by any means. But when has the attempt to find "truth" and "light" in this complex world of ours, ever been easy? Sagan argues that science and the scientific method is a noble and enlightening endeavour, an unquenchable candle, lit by the human yearning for truth, and able to steer humanity towards truth and goodwill in a world of mists, shadowy truths, and darkness.
For those who wish to open their minds to science and what it has to say about much that goes in this beautiful, yet sometimes dark world of ours, this is the book for you.
This great book (Sagan's last) is a fitting testament to a great man of science. Sagan, who passed away recently, was one of the great communicators of science, and this book is considered by many to be his best.
Reading it was something I'll always cherish.
0Kommentar| 3 Personen fanden diese Informationen hilfreich. War diese Rezension für Sie hilfreich?JaNeinMissbrauch melden
am 6. Januar 1999
An emminently successful popularizer even if often a slightly fuzzy and stilted writer and thinker on the cutting edges of science, this book appears to represent something of an explanation of the underpinning philosophies present in much of Carl Sagan's work.
As with so much else that he has written, there are numerous high-points here. Unfortunately, there are also a plethora of low points, including an unwillingness to introduce empirical data and analyses that might make his task (berating "straw men") more formiddable -- and significantly more interesting.
Rather than providing us with a most pursuasive account of views contrary to his own, too often Sagan side-steps the messiness of science to present the enterprise as a unified front. As a rhetorical device, this is a fine mode of addressing "uncritical minds". Ultimately, however, it udnermines much of what he expounds, since a thoroughly critical mind will find much to quibble with and even more to question.
Ironically, Sagan suggests that what we (as "Americans") need to foster is more critical thinking. To have written the book without being willing to engage in the nuanced discussion of criticism against the propositions he makes -- which would be necessary to pursuasively argue many of his key points -- sets the work up for disaster. Applying the tools of critical thinking he proffers to his own work demonstrates two things:
1) These tools *are* useful (presenting them is one of the book's high points),
2) Many assertions and editorial choices in the direction of the book's discourse do not withstand the application of his tools.
To have in one place some basic factual research about where many mistaken notions in what he calls pseudo-science originated (the etymology -- even social history -- of "flying saucer," is one example) is both interesting and useful. Taken as a whole, however, the book falters as often as not.
For a useful contrast, review Gould's "Full House" (a five star book by this writer's estimation). He admits of every scrap of doubt, gives each full and complete airing, and drives his points home much more compellingly.
The difference, in essence, between Sagan and Gould rests in the belief one can infer from each's writings about who their readers are: Gould treats his readers as equals, who are able to critically and exactingly share in the messiness and detailed glory of his subjects. Sagan treats his readers as if they are not yet critical thinkers on the level of the author himself -- and that the readers must be catered to, accordingly.
0Kommentar| 3 Personen fanden diese Informationen hilfreich. War diese Rezension für Sie hilfreich?JaNeinMissbrauch melden
am 17. Juli 2000
It was because of my interest in what Sagan term's "Pseudoscience" that a die-hard skeptic suggested that I read SCIENCE AS A CANDLE IN THE DARK as a reality check. While I don't agree with 100% of Sagan's perspective, I respect the man and his work. This invaluable book should be a primer for Humanities and Science courses, especially in the context of the Post Cold War Era where the "Next" culture searches for direction and meaning. Sagan's work provides American Culture with a much needed historical context for growth, poking and prodding in the areas where he challenges the quality of our thinking and insists that we are offered the choice to take either the high road of critical thinking, or the low road of a "dumbed down" entertainment-obsessed brave new world.
The sections on Edward Teller and Frederick Douglas were especially illuminating. Don't miss out on finding out more about them as Sagan presents biographical data that will blow your mind.
Where I disagree with Sagan is his thesis at the beginning of the book; the generalization, "Occasionally we hallucinate. We are error-prone" hardly accounts for ALL phenomena, but then Sagan is quick to respond, "But of course I might be wrong," modeling the kind of good scientist he advocates others explore becoming. And while I find his explanation of the UFO phenomena of the 1940s through the present to be the most cogent arguement against the reality of "alien abductions," I don't find Sagan advocating the study of other phenomena, like evidential mediumship. There doesn't appear to be any room for study, he's summed up the likely origins for all pseudoscience: "Miracles are attested, but what if they're instead some mix of charlatanry, unfamiliar states of consciousness, misapprehensions of natural phenomena, and mental illness?"
The beauty of this book is that Sagan posits more than he seeks to have the last word, and that should engender the respect of skeptic and pseudoscientist alike.
I loved this book, and Sagan's wonderful, subtle humor -- don't miss this rare and informative treat.
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am 20. April 2014
Definitely one of two absolute musts in the area, "The God Delusion" being the other, slightly more radical one.
Not only a great summary of "interesting" beliefs in (mainly) the US, but great sociological and political insights.
Very well written and not at all tendentious.
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am 7. Juni 2000
This book is Carl Sagans' review of part of his life and his passionate love of science, and his plea for a more rational society. However, as per other reviews here, the people most in need of reading this book are precisely the ones who are'nt reading it, and others may read it with a closed mind to begin with. The book is a call for people to think for themselves, using the scientific method, in their everday lives, and give religion (esp. fundamentalists) and many other things, the critical examinations they most desperately deserve. But alas, social inertia is very strong, and the changes envisioned in this book may take a century or longer.
We live in a very credulous age, where healthy skepticism (coupled with a sense of enquiring wonder) is nearly non-existent. I see this all around me and find it very depressing. This volume documents all of this well, and in chapter 12 even supplies tools for a baloney detection kit. Sagan does call for sensitivity and compassion when dealing with peoples' irrational beliefs.
In later chapters, Sagan laments the illiteracy in science and math in this country, a very big problem, and the inability for a large percentage of our population, adults and children alike, to think for themselves, and possible solutions. We should all be concerned about this. Many more issues are discussed by Sagan in the ensuing chapters.
I quote Carl Sagan here (not included in this book). "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence". If more people would understand and believe this, the world would be a more rational and better place. Carl Sagan, my mentor, is dead now, but his works live on to inspire future generations.
0Kommentar| 2 Personen fanden diese Informationen hilfreich. War diese Rezension für Sie hilfreich?JaNeinMissbrauch melden
am 22. Juni 2000
Another excellent piece of work by Carl Sagan. This book is a must read for everyone.
Dr. Sagan has done a marvelous job examining how pseudo-science works and what are it's effects. At times he seems irritated due to the fact that scientists of the past have not worked towards popularizing science and I think he is totally justified for that. Today, a lot of problems which scientists and scientific organizations face are due to the indifferent and elitist behavior of scientists of the past.
On the whole as good a book as any other by Carl Sagan.
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am 14. Juni 2000
demon haunted world is a very thought-provoking book. i've read all of sagan's books, and this is a great reason why. one of the more notable parts in the book is when he compares the "witches" of the middle ages to "UFOs" of this century. lucid writing and logical arguments that give new perspectives to old things make this book one of sagan's best.
--if you're looking for the mother of all sagan books to get you into his groove, Cosmos is the obvious one... if you liked the movie Contact (which was actually what inspired me to read all his books, which got me into environmentalism, and into all the physics and astronomy i study today), the book is actually much better.
quick note on Contact- though it's a novel, and "fictional", it has so many factual elements in it (things that he talks a lot about in his other books, like SETI and how ET would communicate -- through numbers and radio telescopes, etc.). i love reading non-fiction because it has that truth to it that, if it's interesting, gives it a much deeper and urgent meaning-- it actually happened, or is actually real. Contact represents the fictional novel that combines the best from fiction and non-fiction writing.
--but i digress.
demon-haunted world is an awesome piece. read it. love it. then buy another sagan book
0Kommentar| 4 Personen fanden diese Informationen hilfreich. War diese Rezension für Sie hilfreich?JaNeinMissbrauch melden
am 30. November 1999
I haven't a quibble with Dr. Sagan himself, or with skepticism as a vital tool of reason. I agree with most of the things he had to say, and I've always enjoyed "debunking". (Does anyone else remember Nova shredding Von Daniken's books on PBS several years ago?) However, as the book progressed, it began to seem less like a rational look at popular beliefs and more like a sermon on Scientific Doctrine. Perhaps it was simply that I found his tone increasingly grumpy -- he seemed deeply annoyed with those whose beliefs he was dissecting. Sagan was always the premier evangelist of Science, bringing the word and the scientific method to the common man. Never before has he seemed so fed-up with the ignorance of those he's trying to enlighten.
Much of the content can be found elsewhere, by Sagan and other authors. I read the book because I usually enjoy his work. Although the book is pretty solid and generally well-written (as always for Sagan), I was disappointed and a bit dismayed by it's tone.
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am 19. Februar 2000
I haven't read all of Sagan's books but out of the ones I have read, this is the one I enjoyed the most. As in his other works, Sagan comes off sounding more like a friend telling a story than an intellectual teaching science. In a very concise manner he deals with many of the nonsensical beliefs that permeate our society, such as alien abductions, the so-called face on Mars, demonology, etc. He even spends a whole chapter using the fantastic invisible dragon analogy which basically states that although you may not be able to disprove my claim that there is an invisible dragon in my garage, this does not prove that it does exist. This is a principle that should be taught in every school in America. Not being able to disprove something, whether it be the existence of Superman, Santa Claus or any one of numerous gods, does not prove that they do indeed exist. What comes through most in this book is Sagan's wonder of nature and cosmology, and his desire that the scientific method be applied to all subjects so that truth may come forward and so that ancient myths and fairy tales can be dispelled. As is evidenced by other reviews on this page, this book will cause some people great discomfort as they find their childhood beliefs obliterated with such clear and concise reasoning. Although it's interesting that Sagan's character gets criticized more so than his actual work, it's not unusual to see such knee jerk reactions occur. I'm often baffled to find that those who attack Sagan on a personal level are the same people who hold murderers like Moses, King David, and the prophet Elisha in high regard.
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am 3. August 1998
I have at times felt like a soul brother to Carl Sagan. I, too, am educated in science, and a skeptical and critical thinker - and a non-believer for fifteen years. However, I continue to challenge my assumptions, and I'm left concluding after reading this book that Carl Sagan stopped challenging himself.
The book is an exceedingly rigorous and disciplined application of empiricism and skepticism. Where appropriate, the book is outstanding - in this case, where he debunks UFOs and other paranormal claims. However, I think he is off the mark when he strays into his comments about belief in God. This book is not the final word about faith.
I take issue with Carl on a couple of his assumptions. First, he advocates without real justification that the only way to truth is through skepticism and the scientific method. Yes, science works, and he mentions that it has its limits, but he doesn't seriously consider those limits. Second, I wonder that his perception! of God is too narrow. Sure, skepticism is quite unforgiving of the simple faith of most people, but perhaps the concept may be both bigger and simpler than what he challenges. Is it really appropriate to apply skepticism to the simple question that existence may be about something, may have a grounding that gives us meaning?
I do recommend this book, but with a caveat: if you're really interested in finding truth, consider this book for what it is - an outstanding example of the application of skepticism. Carl Sagan was a wonderful popularizer of science and an uncompromising skeptic, and although clearly well read, he was not a philosopher or theologian. Keep challenging your assumptions - the bigger truths may be revealed to you, but only by reading many more authors.
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