Cover image for The demon-haunted world : science as a candle in the dark
The demon-haunted world : science as a candle in the dark
Sagan, Carl, 1934-1996.
Personal Author:
1st Ballantine Books ed.
Publication Information:
New York : Ballantine Books, 1997.

Physical Description:
xviii, 457 pages ; 21 cm
"Are we on the brink of a new Dark Age of irrationality and superstition? In this stirring, brilliantly argued book, internationally respected scientist Carl Sagan shows how scientific thinking is necessary to safeguard our democratic institutions and our technical civilization." "The Demon-Haunted World is more personal and richer in moving and revealing human stories than anything Sagan has previously written. With illustrations from his own childhood experience as well as engrossing tales of discovery, Sagan shows how the method of scientific thought can cut through prejudice and hysteria to uncover the often surprising truth." "He convincingly debunks "alien abduction, " "channelers, " faith-healer fraud, the "face" on Mars, and much else. Along the way, he refutes the arguments that science destroys spirituality or is just another arbitrary belief system, asks why scientific study is often stigmatized, discusses the dangers of the misuse of science, and provides a "baloney detection kit" for thinking through political, social, religious, and other issues."--Jacket.
General Note:
"March 1997."
The most precious thing -- Science and hope -- The man in the moon and the face on Mars -- Aliens -- Spoofing and secrecy -- Hallucinations -- The demon-haunted world -- On the distinction between true and false visions -- Therapy -- The dragon in my garage -- The city of grief -- The fine art of baloney detection -- Obsessed with reality -- Antiscience -- Newton's sleep -- When scientists know sin -- The marriage of skepticism and wonder -- The wind makes dust -- No such thing as a dumb question -- House on fire -- The path to freedom -- Significance junkies -- Maxwell and the nerds -- Science and witchcraft -- Real patriots ask questions.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library Q175 .S215 1996 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



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 don't 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

Author Notes

A respected planetary scientist best known outside the field for his popularizations of astronomy, Carl Sagan was born in New York City on November 9, 1934. He attended the University of Chicago, where he received a B.A. in 1954, a B.S. in 1955, and a M.S. in 1956 in physics as well as a Ph.D. in 1960 in astronomy and astrophysics. He has several early scholarly achievements including the experimental demonstration of the synthesis of the energy-carrying molecule ATP (adenosine triphosphate) in primitive-earth experiments. Another was the proposal that the greenhouse effect explained the high temperature of the surface of Venus. He was also one of the driving forces behind the mission of the U.S. satellite Viking to the surface of Mars. He was part of a team that investigated the effects of nuclear war on the earth's climate - the "nuclear winter" scenario.

Sagan's role in developing the "Cosmos" series, one of the most successful series of any kind to be broadcast on the Public Broadcasting System, and his book The Dragons of Eden (1977) won the Pulitzer Prize in 1978. He also wrote the novel Contact, which was made into a movie starring Jodie Foster. He died from pneumonia on December 20, 1996.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Table of Contents

Preface: My Teachersp. xi
1. The Most Precious Thingp. 1
2. Science and Hopep. 23
3. The Man in the Moon and the Face on Marsp. 41
4. Aliensp. 61
5. Spoofing and Secrecyp. 79
6. Hallucinationsp. 97
7. The Demon-Haunted Worldp. 113
8. On the Distinction Between True and False Visionsp. 135
9. Therapyp. 151
10. The Dragon in My Garagep. 169
11. The City of Griefp. 189
12. The Fine Art of Baloney Detectionp. 201
13. Obsessed with Realityp. 219
14. Antisciencep. 245
15. Newton's Sleepp. 265
16. When Scientists Know Sinp. 281
17. The Marriage of Skepticism and Wonderp. 293
18. The Wind Makes Dustp. 307
19. No Such Thing as a Dumb Questionp. 319
20. House on Firep. 337
21. The Path to Freedomp. 353
22. Significance Junkiesp. 367
23. Maxwell and the Nerdsp. 379
24. Science and Witchcraftp. 401
25. Real Patriots Ask Questionsp. 421
Acknowledgmentsp. 435
Referencesp. 439
Indexp. 449

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