‘the demon-haunted world’

Another in the occasional series of ‘what I’m reading’ (actually, there are 3 books on the go at the moment but I’ve only just started the second & I’m still trying to decide whether or not I like the third).  This one is The demon-haunted world by the late, great Carl Sagan.

Sagan was a physicist, astronomer, & a superb science communicator. (There are some great videos from his lectures & TV performances, available on YouTube.) I’m re-reading this particular book partly because I’m starting to give some thought to this year’s Schol Bio preparation day. I’m always on the lookout for ways of teaching critical thinking & showing why it’s so important (for more than just passing the exam!), & this whole book is an impassioned argument for the power of science as a way of critically assessing the information that comes at us every day.

The sub-title, science as a candle in the dark, is a metaphor for what Sagan saw as the role of science in throwing light on pseudoscience, and woolly, mystical, & uncritical thinking, & the like. More than that, in fact: he saw the rise of non-scientific ways of understanding & explaining natural phenomena as a rising, threatening tide, and scientific literacy as all that stood in its way.

Read the book. Whether you agree with Sagan’s viewpoint or not, you’ll still find a lot of excellent advice & commentary on the value of science & of critical thinking in today’s world. (And it might just de-bunk a few myths for you, as well!)

Carl Sagan (1997) The demon-haunted world: science as a candle in the dark. Headline Book Publishing.

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