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The Demon-Haunted World

Science as a Candle in the Dark
Narrated by: Cary Elwes, Seth MacFarlane
Length: 17 hrs and 23 mins
Categories: Non-fiction, Astronomy
5 out of 5 stars (85 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

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.

Introductory music from the original score for Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey composed by Alan Silvestri, used with permission from Cosmos Studios, Inc. and Chappers Music. All rights reserved. Special thanks to Fuzzy Planets, Inc.

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

What members say

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  • Toby
  • Sydney
  • 28-06-2018

Amazing book

If this was the only book I’d read in school I’d undoubtedly be a better and happier person.

If this was the ONLY book all kids read in school, the world we live in would be a better place.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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American centric, but invaluable to new skeptics.

The only reason I didn't give 5 stars for the story is that it is dated to the late 90's and very American in it's telling and learnings. For other beginning sceptics I would start with this and then move on to "A Skeptics Guide to the Universe"

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • raz
  • Sydney, Australia
  • 12-08-2019

A very important book

Bought this book for my 13 year old daughter. This book is so well written with extremely clear and easy to understand examples of how and why science is important. The audible edition is great very well narrated so a real pleasure to listen to.

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  • Dee Goulet
  • 09-12-2017

Amazing

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

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 17-08-2017

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.

25 of 27 people found this review helpful

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  • Alex
  • 24-10-2017

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.

66 of 73 people found this review helpful

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  • CuddyWifter
  • 27-01-2019

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.

13 of 14 people found this review helpful

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  • M. Nobles
  • 28-11-2017

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.

34 of 38 people found this review helpful

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  • Phillip Combest
  • 15-07-2017

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.

13 of 14 people found this review helpful

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  • William Jenks
  • 25-07-2019

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.

18 of 20 people found this review helpful

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  • Paul Patton
  • 04-07-2017

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.

11 of 12 people found this review helpful

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  • DT
  • 05-09-2017

Cary's new career

I should have known that Cary would be a fantastic reader. Great book and readers.

14 of 16 people found this review helpful

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  • Frenand
  • 06-07-2017

Question yourself

Timeless. Some of the topics might seem dated, but the essence shall always be valid.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • andrew
  • 01-07-2017

A light not dimmed

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

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Mr. Philip V. Wright
  • 12-01-2019

preaching to the converted

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

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Vilius
  • 03-10-2019

Not as relevant

Excellent book! There are updated and more relevant books on topic now, but still great!

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  • M. Russell
  • 03-10-2019

It's hard to over eulogise about this book.

It feels like it was written today as a response to Trumps America. It essentially predicts Trumps America. It calls for every child to be taught not what to learn but how to learn, how to critically think, so that they may act as a light to stop the encroaching darkness of human foibles and stupidity. It is wrong and outdated in some places perhaps, especially when it comes to how one might tackle those of faulty thinking, and he's very wrong about beavis and butthead.
Other wise this a masterpiece by a fantastic and noble human being.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 02-09-2019

One of the most relevant and important books

This is one of those books you just must read/listen to even though it's a little over 20 years old now. Segans many observations in the 90's has unfortunately become more or less true in our day and age..

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  • hart_attack
  • 29-06-2019

Engaging from start to end

Excellent promotion of science and skepticism by Sagan. Super messages for today across the board.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 04-06-2019

A book worth reading over and over again

This fantastic compilation of ideas that back the validity of logic, science and rationale, will never become outdated. Having been published in 1995 and read by myself in 2019, I cannot help but recommend it to everyone(whether scholar, teacher, or citizen of whichever country) who would like to gain a deeper understanding of how to employ critical thinking, and learn to question illogical ideas that are still rife in the world we live in today. I will be reading this incredible book again soon.

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  • Dave Cassim
  • 15-03-2019

As relevant as ever!

I highly recommend this beautiful book. The prose is outstanding as are the narrators. A few years ago I would have never thought that our times now are so full of anti science, I took progress for granted... This book beautifully describes how fragile our democratic and scientific institutions really are and how much we should cherish and protect, even fight for them!
A great listen.

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  • Russell
  • 04-06-2018

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!

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  • scibreaker
  • 27-05-2018

valid point

though this book present some extremely valid poinst the main focus of the story which is critical thinking could help advance the world and reduce many world issues. this could have been done i a different format which also has some scientific bonus to reading