The Demon-Haunted World .
- The Demon-Haunted World
- (Science as a Candle in the Dark)
- By - Carl Sagan, 1995
- Random House
- ISBN 001.9-dc20 95-34076
This book presents a rigorous analysis of how the scientific method has shed
light on the prejudice and hysteria that has darkened so much of human history
and how the perspective of the scientific method must be maintained to
safeguard the democratic institutions and our technical civilization.
There is extensive discussion of "alien abduction," "
channelling," faith healer frauds, the "face" on Mars, and many
of the less than rational diversions our society has fallen prey to over the
In particular, the author presents a detailed "baloney detection
kit" to facilitate separating the fallacious or fraudulent arguments from
- Whenever, possible, there must be independent confirmation of the
- Encourage substantive debate on the evidence by knowledgeable prophets of
all points of view.
- Arguments from authority carry little weight - "authorities"
have made mistakes in the past. They will do so again in the future. Another
perspective is to say that in science there are no authorities; at most, there
- Spin more than one hypothesis. If there is something to be explained,
think of all the different ways it could be explained.
- Try not to get overly attached to a hypothesis just because it is yours.
It is only a way station in the pursuit of knowledge.
- Quantify. If whatever you are explaining has some measure, some numerical
quantity attached to it, you'll be much better able to discriminate among
- If there is a chain of argument, every link in the chain must work
(including the premise) - not just most of them.
- Use Occam"s Razor. This convenient rule-of-thumb urges us, when faced
with two hypotheses that explain the data equally well, to choose the simpler.
- Always ask whether the hypothesis can be, at least in principle,
falsified. Propositions that are untestable, unfalsifiable are not worth much.
- The fallacy of [ad hominem] argument - Latin for "to the man,"
attacking the arguer and not the argument.
- The fallacy of Argument from authority.
- The fallacy of argument from adverse consequences.
- The fallacy of appeal to ignorance. The claim that whatever has not been
proved false must be true and vice versa.
- The fallacy of special pleading, often used to try rescue a proposition
already in deep trouble.
- The fallacy of begging the question, also called assuming the answer.
- The fallacy of observational selection, also called the enumeratio0n of
- The fallacy of statistics of small numbers, a close relative of
- The fallacy of misunderstanding the nature of statistics.
- The fallacy of [non sequitur] - Latin for "it doesn"t
- The fallacy of [post hoc, ergo propter hoc] - Latin for "it happened
after, so it was caused by."
- The fallacy of the meaningless question.
- The fallacy of excluded middle, or false dichotomy - considering only the
two extremes in a continuum of intermediate possibilities.
- The fallacy of short-term versus long-term, a subset of the excluded
- The fallacy of the slippery slope, related to the excluded middle.
- The fallacy of confusion of correlation and causation.
- The fallacy of the straw man - caricaturing a position to make it easier
- The fallacy of suppressed evidence or half-truths.
- The fallacy of weasel words.
You are visitor number
to visit this page since October 28, 2008.