The Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by CARL SAGAN
# Paperback: 480 pages
# Publisher: Ballantine Books (February 25, 1997)
# Language: English
# ISBN-10: 0345409469
# ISBN-13: 978-0345409461
# Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.5 x 1 inches
How can we make intelligent decisions about our increasingly technology-driven lives if we don't understand the difference between the myths of pseudoscience and the testable hypotheses of science? Pulitzer Prize-winning author and distinguished astronomer Carl Sagan argues that scientific thinking is critical not only to the pursuit of truth but to the very well-being of our democratic institutions.
Casting a wide net through history and culture, Sagan examines and authoritatively debunks such celebrated fallacies of the past as witchcraft, faith healing, demons, and UFOs. And yet, disturbingly, in today's so-called information age, pseudoscience is burgeoning with stories of alien abduction, channeling past lives, and communal hallucinations commanding growing attention and respect. As Sagan demonstrates with lucid eloquence, the siren song of unreason is not just a cultural wrong turn but a dangerous plunge into darkness that threatens our most basic freedoms.
He muses on the current state of scientific thought, which offers him marvelous opportunities to entertain us with his own childhood experiences, the newspaper morgues, UFO stories, and the assorted flotsam and jetsam of pseudoscience. Along the way he debunks alien abduction, faith-healing, and channeling; refutes the arguments that science destroys spirituality, and provides a "baloney detection kit" for thinking through political, social, religious, and other issues.
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 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.
In a chapter entitled "Science and Hope," Sagan (Pale Blue Dot, Random, 1994) writes: "This book is a personal statement, reflecting my lifelong love affair with science." Accordingly, he deplores pseudoscientific thinking and the credulous beliefs that emerge from it. Today, when science is critical for solving the world's problems, many people, instead, trust astrology and New Age spiritualism. Likewise, surveys reveal that a majority of Americans believe that Earth is regularly visited by space aliens. Using basic tools of science?empiricism, rationalism, and experimentation?Sagan debunks these and other common fallacies of pseudoscience. In doing so, he speculates as to how such beliefs arise. Some of his explanations are not entirely convincing (are alien-abduction tales really modern versions of medieval myths?), but he handles them with empathy so as to not demean the intelligence of true believers. The best chapters examine the state of science education and technical literacy in America and suggest an agenda for improving both. The book is overlong, occasionally redundant, and parts have been published elsewhere. Still, Sagan's theme is important, and his popularity might lure some readers from the UFO and occult books cluttering so many library and bookstore shelves.
The Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence by CARL SAGAN
# Mass Market Paperback: 288 pages
# Publisher: Ballantine Books (December 12, 1986)
# Language: English
# ISBN-10: 0345346297
# ISBN-13: 978-0345346292
# Product Dimensions: 6.9 x 4.2 x 0.9 inches
The Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence is a Pulitzer prize winning 1977 book by Carl Sagan. In it, he combines the fields of anthropology, evolutionary biology, psychology, and computer science to give a well balanced perspective of how human intelligence evolved.
One of the main issues featured in the book is the search for a quantitative way of measuring intelligence. Sagan shows that the ratio of brainmass/bodymass is an extremely good indicator, with humans having the highest and dolphins second. It does break down, however, at the extremely small end of the scale. Because a certain minimum size is needed to sustain life, smaller creatures (ants in particular) place disproportionally high on the list.
Other topics mentioned include the evolution of the brain (with emphasis on the function of the neocortex in humans), the evolutionary purpose of sleep and dreams, demonstration of sign language abilities by chimps and the purpose of mankind's innate fears and myths. The title "The Dragons of Eden" refers to man's early struggle for survival in the face of predators, and how fear of reptiles may have led to cultural beliefs and myths about dragons and snakes.
* The Cosmic Calendar
* Genes and Brains
* The Brain and the Chariot
* Eden as a Metaphor: The Evolution of Man
* The Abstractions of Beasts
* Tales of Dim Eden
* Lovers and Madmen
* The Future Evolution of the Brain
* Knowledge is Our Destiny:Terrestrial and Extraterrestrial Intelligence
Pale Blue Dot by CARL SAGAN
# Paperback: 384 pages
# Publisher: Ballantine Books; Ballantine Books Ed edition (September 8, 1997)
# Language: English
# ISBN-10: 0345376595
# ISBN-13: 978-0345376596
# Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.6 x 0.9 inches
In a tour of our solar system, galaxy and beyond, Cornell astronomer Sagan meshes a history of astronomical discovery, a cogent brief for space exploration and an overview of life-from its origins in the oceans to humanity's first emergence to a projected future where humans "terraform" and settle other planets, Earth having long been swallowed by the sun. Maintaining that such relocation is inevitable, the author further argues that planetary science is of practical utility, fostering an interdisciplinary approach to looming environmental catastrophes such as "nuclear winter" (lethal cooling of Earth after a nuclear war, a widely accepted prediction first calculated by Sagan in 1982). His exploration of our place in the universe is illustrated with photographs, relief maps and paintings, including high-resolution images made by Voyager 1 and 2, as well as photos taken by the Galileo spacecraft, the Hubble Space Telescope and satellites orbiting Earth, which show our planet as a pale blue dot. A worthy sequel to Sagan's Cosmos.
Sagan's great appeal as a popular-science writer, beyond his prodigious knowledge, is his optimism and sense of wonder. A visualizer and a visionary, he fires our imagination and turns science into high drama. After writing about our origins in Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (1992), Sagan turns his attention to outer space and takes up where Cosmos left off 14 years ago. An astonishing amount of information was amassed during that productive era, and Sagan, of course, is up on all of it. A passionate and eloquent advocate of space exploration, he believes that the urge to wander, and the need for a frontier, is intrinsic to our nature, and that this trait is linked to our survival as a species. Throughout this beautifully illustrated, revelatory, and compelling volume, Sagan returns again and again to our need for journeys and quests as well as our unending curiosity about our place in the universe. Such philosophical musings are interwoven with precise and enthusiastic accounts of the triumphs of interplanetary exploration, from the Apollo moon landings to the spectacular findings of robotic missions, especially the Voyager spacecraft. Sagan describes one exciting discovery after another regarding the four giants--Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune--and their many moons, mysterious and exquisite rings, and volatile atmospheres. He argues, convincingly, that planetary exploration is of immense value. It not only teaches us about our celestial neighbors, but helps us understand and protect Earth. Yes, we have seemingly insurmountable problems on this pale blue dot, but we have always reached for the stars, and we mustn't stop now.
This logical successor to Cosmos (1980) offers the characteristic Sagan blueprint for humankind's long-term vitality. In 1990, while speeding out of the solar system, the Voyager 1 spacecraft snapped photographs of the planets. From a distance of 3.7 billion miles, the Earth appears as a ``pale blue dot''--a metaphor Sagan (Astronomy and Space Sciences/Cornell Univ.) employs to underscore the utter insignificance of our home world in relation to the great expanse of space. In his usual eloquent and impassioned language, he builds a cogent argument that our species must venture into this vast realm and establish a space-faring civilization. Fully acknowledging the exorbitant costs that are involved in manned spaceflight while we concurrently face pressing social, economic, and environmental problems at home, Sagan asserts that our very survival depends on colonizing outer space. Astronomers have already identified dozens of potential Armageddons in the form of that will someday smash into Earth. Undoubtedly, many more remain undetected. The only way to avert inevitable catastrophe, Sagan argues, is for nations to join together and establish a permanent human presence in space. Ultimately, he predicts, humans will conquer space because, like the planets that roam the sky (``planet'' means ``wanderer'' in Greek), we too are wanderers. Deep within us lies a spark that compels us to explore, and space provides the new frontier. The exploration of space will inspire the world's young people and unify quarreling nations. Technology has brought humanity to its moment of truth: Our species has the capability either to annihilate itself or to avoid extinction by journeying to other worlds. The preferable choice is obvious to Sagan. The book lacks even the semblance of a specific plan for achieving a space-faring civilization. Nevertheless, Sagan will once again dazzle readers with his brilliance and breadth of vision.
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