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.
A heart-felt plea for enlightenment, inquiry, and open-mindedness from one of the great scientific philosophers of our time. Dr. Carl Sagan was a champion of the skepticism movement because he always treated the subjects of his criticism with fairness, honesty, and compassion. He finished writing this book as he was suffering from the disease that took his life, and his peers have stated that he felt this book would be the his work. This added a new level of awareness, and gave strength to his convictions. Sagan attacked the ongoing (and increasing) plague of pseudo-science that always draws more attention than the actual research that furthers the cause of science. He looks at UFOs, crop circles, "psychic" phenomena, conspiracy theories, legends of Atlantis, and all of the fringe elements that serve to keep a great number of people in the dark. Dr. Sagan was a crusader for the cause of true science, and his words live on in this outstanding book. (One of the points of the book is the the basis of a long-standing rule used by skeptics: junk science books sell far better than true science.)
There are ten or so essential books that I seek, in order to add them to my kids' libraries, for them to read and pass on to their kids. Sagan's "Demon-Haunted World" is one of them. In a clear and concise manner, he explains why science and superstition continue in opposition to each other, despite all appearances that we humans seek rationality in our lives. One of the true five-star books.
Sagan's intent here is to encourage skeptical thinking and use of the scientific method to debunk such superstitions as witchcraft, alien abduction, astrology, and other popular nonsense. It's an informative read, if not a particularly easy one.