Carl Sagan’s book, The Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, reads as a “how to” book on thinking skeptically to enhance a scientific train of thought. The book does not attack peoples beliefs against science, nor does it try to sway people to stop thinking against science. It does however; take aim at the practice, theories, and applications of pseudo-science. It delves into, through essays in the form of chapters, debunking pseudo-scientific claims such as demons, ESP, aliens, faith healing, magic, Atlantis and much more.
One part that really captured my attention was the chapter on the distinction between true and false visions. Continuing on from the previous themes of UFO’s and alien abductions; Carl Sagan speaks of hypnosis, and its influence on the human psyche. He discusses how hypnotists and therapists, through lines of questioning and certain “trigger words” can make people relive, vividly, events that hadn’t really occurred. Just as it was stated in the text and in the lectures, getting people to do or say things, relies heavily on the form of questioning. If you are trying to figure out if a child has been abused, and you ask them a very specific questions such as “does your dad hit you?” the child will most likely answer with a lie, and embellish, getting the result investigators are looking for. This essay also speaks about visions, and how most people have had visions of saints and even the Virgin Mary dating back to medieval times. One historical figure who had visions was Joan of Arc, who claimed she had seen visions of Saint Michael, Catherine and Margaret. Sagan goes on to talk about how in some cases visions of apparitions by masses could be staged and coordinated. The more important question posed by this essay, and should be for all skeptics is “why?” Why do these saints come to the poor, whose creditability is not that of a high ranking official? Why not a more significant message or appearance? Why, if Aliens are so far ahead technologically do they abduct the same type of people for the same exact thing?
This book is a great book for many different reasons, the main one being is it talks about things that we’ve all thought of at least once in our lives when encountering unexplained phenomenon. It really makes the reader think about different instances in one’s life, and try to figure out a logical explanation to the unexplainable; A proverbial light in the dark.