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Summary

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

©1996 Carl Sagan (P)2017 Brilliance Audio, all rights reserved.

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Arguments remain as valid as ever

The arguments in the book remain completely valid and even more so in today’s strange political climate.
Unfortunately the reading performance, is rather poor - the reader often speaks by, phrases rather than sentences, which renders it often painful, to listen to, and loses the passion that we know Sagan, was able to convey with his own voice. (Commas for effect of the voice...)

16 people found this helpful

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Poorly read classic

One of my fave books. However, I have no idea how this was authorised. The reading style is awful and makes it very difficult to follow. Suggest you look for the older recordings!

16 people found this helpful

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Utterly brilliant and timeless! Read it now!

Every chapter deals with an area of human vulnerability and highlights the villans and heros who have advocated or fought against ignorance and stupidity. I thought the subject might be dated but it is more relevant now in 2018 than before. Sagan would not want to be compared to the likes of Nostradamus but his writing has an eerie sense of the doom many of us feel today. Have we gone past the tipping point or can we somehow find a candle in the dark!

4 people found this helpful

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Clear writing expressing powerful ideas

A delightful celebration of intelligence, liberal values, humanity, tolerance and understanding. It reads as a contemporary text in its relevance to ignorance, brutality and lies.

3 people found this helpful

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Classic Sagan... And a classic from Sagan...

This excellent book from Carl Sagan is very much still relevant today as it was when he wrote the book 25 or so years ago...

The book is well thought out and the arguments so finely tuned that I find it hard to critique... The world is so much worse for the loss of the intellect and passion of Sagan...

Stupidity and moronic beliefs still hamper nations, governments and the populous that its hard to see how anything can lead us out of the darkness... But Sagan was right... If anything can it is science and reason...

3 people found this helpful

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S'alright

Mostly good. A bit dry at times, the narrator does not help this one bit in his monotony. The information is broadly given with a handful of specific mentions of events. There was this really weird bit where it almost felt like Sagan was advocating for not believing women when they've been raped, which not only was very out of place, made me feel supremely uncomfortable.

It's also very America-centric, but I suppose that's to be expected.

3 people found this helpful

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A light not dimmed

Excellent audio book of a great book from the much missed Carl Sagan. You must own this book.

3 people found this helpful

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A much needed skeptic view of the world.

The world remains filled with quacks and pseudoscience, it is very important to have the tools to perceive the reality and spot the baloney!

2 people found this helpful

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Sarcastic tone of Narrator let’s it down.

I loved this book while reading it,
Hearing it on this audible I felt at times throughout the book, annoyed by the tone the narrator.
He has a sarcastic and antagonistic tone that was never what I took from the book.
It’s really annoying and put me off hearing the full book.
I don’t believe The writers perspective was coming from an arrogant and dogmatic place( as the narrator seems to come from from) it was simply questioning beliefs, sharing facts
And asking questions that ask the viewer to enquire themselves into these topics
From a more balanced and grounded perspective.

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preaching to the converted

hammers the point home. unnecessary for sceptics. great performance very clear. goes on a bit

2 people found this helpful

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  • CuddyWifter
  • 27-01-19

Absolutely, one of my favorite books to date!

Wow! Such a revealing book, especially for someone like myself that went through a highly religious and intolerant phase in my life based off my beliefs and the ideologies of the religion I followed. I recommend this book to anyone that is seeking the truth of the origins of humanity, and not in some fantastical way, but in a scientific way that can be and has been proved through modern discovery and time. What I love about this book is the way that Carl Sagan is able to demonstrate that we need that fine balance between openness and skepticism to discover truth. And being a skeptic on any scientific or religious matter is not a cause to rebuke or defame you, as some people would have. In the end, without science we would still be in the Dark Ages. Outstanding book from the great mind of the humble Carl Sagan.

66 people found this helpful

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  • Dee Goulet
  • 09-12-17

Amazing

Simply wonderful! Carl's work still holds up 20 + years later. A must read for students of any age!

23 people found this helpful

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  • William Jenks
  • 25-07-19

Some good points, but not a great book

First, some context. I am a university chemistry professor and I grew up watching Carl Sagan's Cosmos in high school, running around saying "billions and billions" as if it was both funny and profound. Moreover, pseudoscience drives me crazy. I *wanted* to like this book. I was hoping, at least in part, to see what Sagan had said some years ago could be applied in the age of social media, but of course I had no expectation of that being explicitly mentioned.

Unfortunately, I found this book disappointing. Others have dwelt on the seemingly dated UFO issue, but I didn't see that as a major problem. However, it doesn't seem like it is a coherently written book. It feels more like a set of related lecturers that were edited to turn them into a book without enough emphasis on the editing.. It's repetitive in places and not really coherent from one topic to the next in others.

A very good Audible Original of 2-3 hours length could be made from excerpts of this book. There are some very good and very important ideas here, and some good stories too. The book is not without merit. It's just not the level of content I expect from this icon of my youth and one of the great science communicators of his day.

108 people found this helpful

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  • Amaze
  • 13-08-20

Shallow and unscientific

The author takes the position that he knows everything about everything. For example, he blandly asserts that psychosis can be cured by a pill. No nuance: Just take the pill and, my psychotic friend, you'll be cured. This is dangerous nonsense. Along the same lines he attacks psychoanalysis as having no value. Where's the evidence pro or con? He simply makes the assertion, more than once, but no evidence is adduced. In fact, this supposedly pro-science book is completely free of supporting evidence for the author's numerous breezy assertions.

Sagan seems to be completely oblivious to computer science, which is the science having the greatest impact on society at present. Admittedly, computer science is not a "natural" science like astronomy, but to ignore it is to ignore the elephant in the room.

The author asserts that ordinary citizens must know about science or democracy and civilization are in peril. This assertion, unsubstantiated, is utter nonsense. In fact, science is divided into thousands of silos, and the scientists in one silo typically know next to nothing about the silos next door, let alone about the silos in other branches of science. If working Ph.D. scientists are ignorant of 99.999% of most current science, how are ordinary citizens supposed to keep up? And why should they?

I'm satisfied if my auto mechanic can fix my car, my accountant can fix my tax return, and my dentist can fix my toothache. I'm perfectly content if they don't waste their time on black holes or quantum indeterminacy.

This is a very shallow work by a very arrogant man. Don't waste your time on it.

18 people found this helpful

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  • Rex Michael Dillon
  • 15-01-18

An Excellent Reminder to be a Skeptic

if only this book was required reading for students in their junior year of high school. If only more to the extra step to think about why, we would be a better and more informed society.

15 people found this helpful

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  • Ryan Porter
  • 17-08-17

The importance of rational skepticism.

An amazing read, I wasn't sure what to expect coming in and found myself pleasantly surprised. although there is a rather large chunk of the book devoted to UFO'S the message of Sagan comes through very clear. And the narration brings energy to the book that could have just as easily become monotonous.

41 people found this helpful

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  • Phillip Combest
  • 15-07-17

A peek into Carl Sagan's thinking ...

Written for everyone this audiobook covers principles of human decency and advancement in general terms easily accessible to the non-scientist. It's timeless - written long ago but so germane to life in 2017. Loved this one.

25 people found this helpful

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  • Alex
  • 24-10-17

Phenomenal

If, 1000 years from now, this book is the only surviving record of human existence, I will not be content. I will be dead. However, if I were paradoxically still alive, I would be content.

103 people found this helpful

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  • M. Nobles
  • 28-11-17

Carl Sagan is Astounding!

This was the first book to which I've listened from Carl Sagan and it is amazing! I highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone. Carl Sagan expounds at length on the virtues of skepticism and the scientific method and how it has brought the world out of extreme superstition and greatly elevated the overall status of humanity and implores humanity to maintain a strong dedication to education and learning of science and math in order to better humanity so that we don't fall back into the wretched ways of the past.

42 people found this helpful

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  • Paul Patton
  • 04-07-17

A supremely important work

I love Carl Sagan.
I think this is perhaps his crowning achievement. The importance of sceptical thinking and detection of baloney is critical.

16 people found this helpful