The Demon Haunted World by Carl Sagan

Non-fiction book review written on December 30th, 2011.

I read this book for the baloney detection toolkit [1].  The book contains many ideas.  Some seem obvious and simple, but they required active thought and enthusiasm to formulate.  One of the most interesting was the idea that to further science, it is important to combine credulity with skepticism.  “The judicious mix of these two modes of thought is central to the success of science. … But neither is easy.”

By volume, most of the book is spent discussing UFO’s and religion.  Much of this is old hat, but I enjoyed the sections about religious doctrines that are falsifiable.  For example, on the efficacy of prayer versus the longevity of monarchs.  Despite the heartfelt mantra of “God save the Queen” or King, monarchs do not, statistically, live longer than others in their social class.  One can draw data from millennia of history, all the way back to ancient  Egyptians, may the gods grant the Pharaoh live forever.

“… but if we must make errors, given the stakes, they should be on the side of safety. … Today our poison arrows can destroy the global civilization and just possibly annihilate our species.  The price of moral ambiguity is now too high.” — Carl Sagan

“So far from being an isolated phenomenon the late war is only an example of the disruptive result that we may constantly expect from the progress of science. … We have improved our armaments, and patriotism, which was once a flame upon the altar, has become a world-devouring conflagration.”  — J.B.S. Haldane [2]

The Demon Haunted World references a couple of relevant public domain books:

Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds by Charles Mackay, 1841

Mysticism and Logic by Bertrand Russel, 1929



  • title: The Demon Haunted World
  • author: Sagan, Carl, 1934-1996
  • LOC: Q175 .S215
  • rating: 5

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