“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.”
-Carl Sagan The Demon-Haunted World: Science As A Candle In The Dark
Carl Sagan had a very large impact on the scientific community. Mostly known for his work with the television series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, Sagan has also contributed to the world of skepticism. I was given his book A Demon-Haunted World: Science As A Candle In The Dark about 3 years ago and it has been a great reference for separating science from pseudoscience.
This general premise of this book is stated in the first chapter. In this chapter Sagan describes an encounter with a man who well very knowledgeable and up-to-date on what the popular science trends were. The only issue is that the trends were not science, but pseudoscience. To paraphrase this chapter: In a world so full of pseudoscience it is hard to differentiate between real science and what is just a popular trend of pseudoscience. And that is why Carl Sagan wrote this book.
I was given this book from a friend who told me I needed to be more skeptical. I didn’t know what he meant until I started reading this book. The beautiful thing about this book is that it is so easy to refer back to it for skeptical guidance. Every chapter is a new topic: Science and Witchcraft, Aliens, Hallucinations, etc. Sagan takes topics such as aliens and gives the scientific explanation behind it. This book is one of the larger books I’ve read but it is not a book you have to read front to back in a hurry. This is the type of book that you can just look up a chapter that seems interesting at the time and give it a quick read.
Overall this book is a must read for the skeptic. Every chapter holds great value and can change the way that you think about certain topics. This book is something you will use when engaging in scientific discussions with people. I have personally used some of Sagan’s ideas in real life discussions with people.