Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Book: A Demon Haunted World by Carl Sagan


In this excellent book, famed science populariser Carl Sagan looks at all sorts of dodgy practices and beliefs, including pseudoscience, the supernatural, UFO sightings, alien abductions, life on other planets, witches, hallucintations (these, Sagan points out, are part of being human but are internal, not external), and dreams and nightmares, when imagination and reality lines get blurred (often caused by sleep deprivation, high fever and sensory deprivation), hoaxers and scam artists. Instead of just waving these topics away without a second thought Sagan spends much time and effort breaking them down these beliefs and weighing them against the evidence. He underscores the importance of critical thinking and looking for evidence, and not stifling doubts with a dismissive attitude, but remaining curious and continually investigating. After all, it would be of the highest importance if any of the above did stand up to scientific scrutiny. The point is, as far as we know, they don't.

Sagan's openness to wonder and rational thinking permeates this engaging book, which is wide ranging and digestible. It makes you want to learn and keep on learning, honestly and deeply.

Quotes and notes to follow - there's a whole bunch of 'em!

****1/2

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