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The Demon-Haunted World Science as a Candle in the Dark

Eminent Cornell astronomer and bestselling author Sagan debunks the paranormal and the unexplained in a study that will reassure hardcore skeptics but may leave others unsatisfied. To him, purported UFO encounters and alien abductions are products of gullibility, hallucination, misidentification, hoax and therapists’ pressure; some alleged encounters, he suggests, may screen memories of sexual abuse. He labels as hoaxes the crop circles, complex pictograms that appear in southern England’s wheat and barley fields, and he dismisses as a natural formation the Sphinx-like humanoid face incised on a mesa on Mars, first photographed by a Viking orbiter spacecraft in 1976 and considered by some scientists to be the engineered artifact of an alien civilization. In a passionate plea for scientific literacy, Sagan deftly debunks the myth of Atlantis, Filipino psychic surgeons and mediums such as J.Z. Knight, who claims to be in touch with a 35,000-year-old entity called Ramtha. He also brands as superstition ghosts, angels, fairies, demons, astrology, Bigfoot, the Loch Ness monster and religious apparitions. ~ Publishers Weekly

Table of Contents

    • Preface: My Teachers    xi
    • 1.    The Most Precious Thing    1
    • 2.    Science and Hope    23
    • 3.    The Man in the Moon and the Face on Mars    41
    • 4.    Aliens    61
    • 5.    Spoofing and Secrecy    79
    • 6.    Hallucinations    97
    • 7.    The Demon-Haunted World    113
    • 8.    On the Distinction Between True and False Visions    135
    • 9.    Therapy    151
    • 10.    The Dragon in My Garage    169
    • 11.    The City of Grief    189
    • 12.    The Fine Art of Baloney Detection    201
    • 13.    Obsessed with Reality    219
    • 14.    Antiscience    245
    • 15.    Newton’s Sleep    265
    • 16.    When Scientists Know Sin    281
    • 17.    The Marriage of Skepticism and Wonder    293
    • 18.    The Wind Makes Dust    307
    • 19.    No Such Thing as a Dumb Question    319
    • 20.    House on Fire    337
    • 21.    The Path to Freedom    353
    • 22.    Significance Junkies    367
    • 23.    Maxwell and the Nerds    379
    • 24.    Science and Witchcraft    401
    • 25.    Real Patriots Ask Questions    421
    • Acknowledgments    435
    • References    439
    • Index    449