IPT Book Reviews

Title: The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Darkness
Author: Carl Sagan
Publisher: Random House, 1995

Random House
201 E 50th Street, 22nd Floor
New York, NY 10022
(800) 733-3000
$25.95 (c)

In 25 chapters and 457 pages, this famous astronomer and well-known scientist has written the most blunt attack on magical thinking I have ever read.  Sagan attacks the senseless basis of the belief in UFOs, faith healing, channeling, psychic phenomena, and many, many more.  He denounces psychotherapists who induce false memories in their clients of satanic ritual abuse and alien abductions and warns of hoaxes and scare tactics. In a chapter called "The Fine Art of Baloney Detection," he tells us how to think through issues skeptically.

The main message of this book is that many people believe almost anything they are told with no evidence, which makes them vulnerable to charlatans and "spin doctors." Sagan's solution to this hysteria is to use scientific methodology and empirical studies. I found the portions of the book dealing with Sagan's own life and experiences and his personal love affair with science particularly moving. The only drawback in this excellent book was his frequent use of anecdotes and off-hand opinions, which seemed to contradict his emphasis on the importance of empirical evidence.  I highly recommend this book.

Reviewed by LeRoy G. Schultz, Emeritus Professor of Social Work, West Virginia University.

  [Back to Volume 8, Number 2]

Copyright 1989-2014 by the Institute for Psychological Therapies.
This website last revised on April 15, 2014.
Found a non-working link?  Please notify the Webmaster.