Title: The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark
Author: Carl Sagan
Publisher: Random House
Specific irrational beliefs explained and refuted
Logical fallacies and errors in thinking explained
Good introduction to the nature and importance of skepticism
25 essays, some written with his wife
Explains skepticism and the scientific method
Explains why skepticism is important to democracy and technology
His book is comprised of twenty-five essays, several written with his wife, Ann Druyan. The first part of the book focuses on the philosophical aspects of skepticism and the scientific method. Sagan does a fantastic job of explaining what science is and what it isnt. He understands and shows that the wonders of science can be just as interesting (not to mention more reliable) than the wonders of superstition, myth, or ignorance.
The second part of the book deals with the question of why people dont apply scientific methods, and more importantly, how this can be fixed. Sagan is most optimistic here because he rejects the claims that science is too hard or too complex for most people, or that scientific thinking is against human nature and that we are more inclined to adopt superstitious attitudes.
The title is taken from the ancient Indian text Isa Upanishad, and Sagan draws strong parallels between the oldest demon stories of human history and modern paranormal claims of spirit haunting and alien abduction. But the title goes further than that, because a common theme throughout this book is the idea that our world really is haunted by demons - the demons which compel us to believe claims without good reason and without asking hard questions. They are demons which tell us to simply accept the statements of political and religious authorities, and which assure us that ideas which comfort us are also most likely to be true.
The final few chapters address the question of why it is important to hold on to a skeptical, scientific attitude. After all, if belief in alien abductions or astrology comforts people, then why fight it? Why criticize things that make people feel better and do no harm?