Steve (riverc0il) wrote in thebookreport,

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The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan

Author: Carl Sagan
Title: The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark
Paperback ISBN: 0345409469
Published: 1997 by Ballantine Books
Rating: 4.25 / 5.00

Sagan is extremely readable in this assertion of morally guided science in the modern world. Beginning by hacking to pieces various unproven phenomenon (including phenomenon such as extra terrestrial visitation that Sagan would love to see proof for), Sagan eventually boils down this very long read to two simple thoughts to be advocated for: Skepticism and Wonder. While normally very skeptical, I found Sagan's advocation for Wonder amongst scientists interesting. Sagan suggests, very profoundly, that scientific discoveries could never have occurred if scientists were merely Skeptical. A decent dose of Wonder accompanies every scientific breakthrough when a scientists observes something that was previously thought impossible.

Alien abduction, U.F.O's, Visions, Fortune Tellers, Psychics, Witchcraft, Faith Healing, and other such unproven reported phenomena are systematically debunked. Sagan generally begins each debunking by suggesting that such things might be possible before drudging through pages of scientific fact that suggests otherwise. At the core of Sagan's book is his Baloney Detector which he presents as a useful tool for everyone to use to weed out the bad information. The Baloney Detector is nothing more than an Introduction to Logic course boiled down to simple and easy to understand terminology. The entire book is easy to read despite some difficult scientific concepts due to Sagan's ability to make compelling and convincing argument about complex issues in layman terms. One of the most interesting passages from the book I have quoted below from page 335:

I hold that popularization of science is successful if, at first, it does no more than spark the sense of wonder. To do that, it is sufficient to provide a glimpse of the findings of science without thoroughly explaining how those findings were achieved. It is easier to portray the destination than the journey. But, where possible, popularizers should try to chronicle some of the mistakes, false starts, dead ends, and apparently hopeless confusion along the way. At Least every now and then, we should provide the evidence and let the reader draw his or her own conclusion. This converts obedient assimilation of new knowledge into personal discovery. When you make the finding yourself--even if you're the last person on Earth to see the light--you never forget.

Sagan warns of moral issues regarding science, technology, and government soon after providing important steps to solve the problem of science taking a back seat to entertainment and blind faith. Discovery instead or rote learning; Wonder and Skepticism instead of impartialness and head nodding. Highly recommended reading for any one interested in science. Even more highly recommended for those without any desire to study science at all.

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