The Demon-Haunted World

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The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark
Demon-Haunted World.jpg
Author Carl Sagan (with Ann Druyan)
Language English
Publisher Random House, Ballantine Books
Publication date
1995/1997
Media type Hardcover, paperback
ISBN ISBN 0-394-53512-X / ISBN 0-345-40946-9
OCLC 32855551
001.9 20
LC Class Q175 .S215 1995
Preceded by Pale Blue Dot
Followed by Billions and Billions

The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark is a book by astrophysicist Carl Sagan, which was first published in 1995.

Sagan's book aims to explain the scientific method to laypeople, and to encourage people to learn critical or skeptical thinking. It explains methods to help distinguish between ideas that are considered valid science, and ideas that can be considered pseudoscience. Sagan states that when new ideas are offered for consideration, they should be tested by means of skeptical thinking, and should stand up to rigorous questioning.

Themes[edit]

Science to Sagan is not just a body of knowledge, but a way of thinking. The scientific way of thinking is both imaginative and disciplined bringing humans to an understanding how the world is rather than they wish to see it. Science works better than any other systems because it has a "built-in error-correcting machine". Superstition and pseudoscience get in the way of many laypeople to appreciate the beauty and benefits of science. Skeptical thinking allows to construct, understand, reason, and recognize valid and invalid arguments. Wherever possible, there must be independent validation of the concepts whose truth should be proved. He states that reason and logic would succeed once the truth is known. Conclusions emerge from premises, and the acceptability of the premises should not be discounted or accepted because of bias.

dragon in the garage[edit]

As an example, Sagan relates the story from the chapter "The Dragon in My Garage" (which he notes follows a group therapy approach by the psychologist Richard L. Franklin[1]) of the invisible fire-breathing dragon living in his garage. He asks, "what's the difference between an invisible, incorporeal, floating dragon who spits heatless fire and no dragon at all? If there's no way to disprove my contention, no conceivable experiment that would count against it, what does it mean to say that my dragon exists? Your inability to invalidate my hypothesis is not at all the same thing as proving it true."

baloney detection kit[edit]

Sagan presents a set of tools for skeptical thinking which he calls the "baloney detection kit".(page 210f) Skeptical thinking consists both of constructing a reasoned argument and recognizing a fallacious or fraudulent one. In order to identify a fallacious argument, Sagan suggests the employment of such tools as independent confirmation of facts, debate, development of different hypotheses, quantification, the use of Occam's razor, and the possibility of falsification. Sagan's "baloney detection kit" also provides tools for detecting "the most common fallacies of logic and rhetoric", such as argument from authority and statistics of small numbers. Through these tools, Sagan argues the benefits of a critical mind and the self-correcting nature of science can take place.

Sagan provides a skeptical analysis of several examples of what he refers to as superstition, fraud, and pseudoscience such as witches, UFOs, ESP, and faith healing. He is critical of organized religion.

misuse of science[edit]

Sagan indicates that science can be misused. Thus, he is highly critical of Edward Teller, the "father of the hydrogen bomb", and his influence on politics and contrasts his stance to that of Linus Pauling and other scientists who took moral positions.

Contents[edit]

The book's contents are:[2][3]

  • Preface: My Teachers
  1. The most precious thing
  2. Science and hope
  3. The man in the moon and the face on Mars
  4. Aliens
  5. Spoofing and secrecy
  6. Hallucinations
  7. The demon-haunted world
  8. On the distinction between true and false visions
  9. Therapy
  10. The dragon in my garage
  11. The city of grief
  12. The fine art of baloney detection
  13. Obsessed with reality
  14. Antiscience
  15. Newton's sleep
  16. When scientists know sin
  17. The marriage of skepticism and wonder
  18. The wind makes dust
  19. No such things as a dumb question
  20. House on fire
  21. The path to freedom
  22. Significance junkies
  23. Maxwell and the nerds
  24. Science and witchcraft
  25. Real patriots ask questions
  • Acknowledgments.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Footnotes[edit]