The Demon-Haunted World

Science as a Candle in the Dark

The Demon-Haunted World

A prescient warning of a future we now inhabit, where fake news stories and Internet conspiracy theories play to a disaffected American populace “A glorious book . . . A spirited defense of science . . . From the first page to the last, this book is a manifesto for clear thought.”—Los Angeles Times 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. Praise for The Demon-Haunted World “Powerful . . . A stirring defense of informed rationality. . . Rich in surprising information and beautiful writing.”—The Washington Post Book World “Compelling.”—USA Today “A clear vision of what good science means and why it makes a difference. . . . A testimonial to the power of science and a warning of the dangers of unrestrained credulity.”—The Sciences “Passionate.”—San Francisco Examiner-Chronicle

The Varieties of Scientific Experience

A Personal View of the Search for God

The Varieties of Scientific Experience

Sagan sets down his detailed thoughts on the relationship between religion and science and describes his personal search to understand the nature of the sacred in the vastness of the cosmos. In 1985, Sagan was invited to give the famous Gifford Lectures i

Cosmology and New Testament Theology

Cosmology and New Testament Theology

For first-century people, cosmology was a fundamental part of their worldview. Whether it was the philosopher contemplating the perfection of the heavenly orbits, the farmer searching the sky for signs of when to plant his crops, or the desert-dwelling sectarian looking for the end of the world, the cosmos held an endless fascination and occupied a prominent place in their understanding of life. For most ancient peoples, cosmology and theology were inseparable. Thus, when the Jewish and Christian Scriptural traditions begin with the bold claim, "In the beginning God created the heavens and earth," these words make statements which are at once cosmogonic, cosmological, and theological. Scholarship has begun only recently to investigate more fully the various cosmological and cosmogonic traditions that were current in the time of the Old and New Testaments. Much of this work, however, has focused on how OT conceptions of the world compared to other Ancient Near Eastern traditions. Much less has been done on the cosmological traditions which stand behind the views of the NT writers. Even fewer works have sought to connect cosmological views with NT theology. In light of the great importance that cosmology had in ancient peoples' worldviews and theological understanding, a thorough investigation of this neglected topic is in order. Cosmology and New Testament Theology systematically examines the NT documents to show how cosmological language and concepts inform, interact with, and contribute to the specific theological emphases of the various NT books. In some NT books, the importance of cosmology can be easily discerned, while in others what is required is a new and close examination of key cosmological terms (e.g., heaven, earth, world, creation) with an eye to the themes and theology of the book.

The Portable Atheist

Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever

The Portable Atheist

Christopher Hitchens's personally curated New York Times bestselling anthology of the most influential and important writings on atheism, including original pieces by Salman Rushdie and Ian McEwan From the #1 New York Times best-selling author of God Is Not Great, a provocative and entertaining guided tour of atheist and agnostic thought through the ages--with never-before-published pieces by Salman Rushdie, Ian McEwan, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali.Christopher Hitchens continues to make the case for a splendidly godless universe in this first-ever gathering of the influential voices--past and present--that have shaped his side of the current (and raging) God/no-god debate. With Hitchens as your erudite and witty guide, you'll be led through a wealth of philosophy, literature, and scientific inquiry, including generous portions of the words of Lucretius, Benedict de Spinoza, Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, Mark Twain, George Eliot, Bertrand Russell, Emma Goldman, H. L. Mencken, Albert Einstein, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and many others well-known and lesser known. And they're all set in context and commented upon as only Christopher Hitchens--"political and literary journalist extraordinaire" (Los Angeles Times)--can. Atheist? Believer? Uncertain? No matter: The Portable Atheist will speak to you and engage you every step of the way.

Oracles of Science

Celebrity Scientists Versus God and Religion

Oracles of Science

Oracles of Science examines the popular writings of the six scientists who have been the most influential in shaping our perception of science, how it works, and how it relates to other fields of human endeavor, especially religion. Biologists Stephen Jay Gould, Richard Dawkins, and Edward O. Wilson, and physicists Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking, and Steven Weinberg, have become public intellectuals, articulating a much larger vision for science and what role it should play in the modern worldview. The scientific prestige and literary eloquence of each of these great thinkers combine to transform them into what can only be called oracles of science. Their controversial, often personal, sometimes idiosyncratic opinions become widely known and perceived by many to be authoritative. Curiously, the leading 'oracles of science' are predominantly secular in ways that don't reflect the distribution of religious beliefs within the scientific community. Many of them are even hostile to religion, creating a false impression that science as a whole is incompatible with religion. Karl Giberson and Mariano Artigas offer an informed analysis of the views of these six scientists, carefully distinguishing science from philosophy and religion in the writings of the oracles. This book will be welcomed by many who are disturbed by the tone of the public discourse on the relationship between science and religion and will challenge others to reexamine their own preconceptions about this crucial topic.

Civilized Life in the Universe

Scientists on Intelligent Extraterrestrials

Civilized Life in the Universe

This book is a selective and fascinating history of scientific speculation about intelligent extraterrestrial life. From Plutarch to Stephen Hawking, some of the most prominent western scientists have had quite detailed perceptions and misperceptions about alien civilizations: Johannes Kepler, fresh from transforming astronomy with his work on the shape of planetary orbits, was quite sure alien engineers on the moon were excavating circular pits to provide shelter; Christiaan Huygens, the most prominent physical scientist between Galileo and Newton, dismissed Kepler's speculations, but used the laws of probability to prove that "planetarians" on other worlds are much like humans, and had developed a sense of the visual arts; Carl Sagan sees clearly that Huygens is a biological chauvinist, but doesn't see as clearly that he, Sagan, may be a cultural/technological chauvinist when he assumes aliens have highly developed technology like ours, but better. Basalla traces the influence of one speculation on the next, showing an unbroken but twisting chain of ideas passed from one scientist to the next, and from science to popular culture. He even traces the influence of popular culture on science--Sagan always admitted how much E. R. Burroughs' Martian novels influenced his speculations about Mars. Throughout, Basalla weaves his theme that scientific belief in and search for extraterrestrial civilizations is a complex impulse, part secularized-religious, and part anthropomorphic. He questions the common modern scientific reasoning that life converges on intelligence, and intelligence converges on one science valid everywhere. He ends the book by agreeing with Stephen Hawking (usually a safe bet) that intelligence is overrated for survival in the universe, and that we are most likely alone.

A Demon-Haunted Land

Witches, Wonder Doctors, and the Ghosts of the Past in Post–WWII Germany

A Demon-Haunted Land

A revelatory counterhistory of postwar Germany, not as a reborn democracy but as a nation convulsed by apocalyptic visions, witchcraft trials, and supernatural obsessions In the aftermath of World War II, a succession of mass supernatural events swept through a war-torn Germany. As millions were afflicted by a host of seemingly incurable maladies (including blindness and paralysis), waves of apocalyptic rumors crashed over the land. A messianic faith healer rose to extraordinary fame, prayer groups performed exorcisms, and enormous crowds traveled to witness apparitions of the Virgin Mary. Most strikingly, scores of people accused their neighbors of witchcraft and found themselves in turn hauled into court on charges of defamation, assault, and even murder. What linked these events, in the wake of an annihilationist war and the Holocaust, was a widespread preoccupation with evil. While many histories emphasize Germany’s rapid transition from genocidal dictatorship to liberal democracy, A Demon-Haunted Land places in full view the toxic mistrust, profound bitterness, and spiritual malaise that unfolded alongside the economic miracle. Drawing from a set of previously unpublished archival materials, acclaimed historian Monica Black argues that the surge of supernatural obsessions stemmed from the unspoken guilt and shame of a nation remarkably silent about what was euphemistically called “the most recent past.” This shadow history irrevocably changes our view of postwar Germany, revealing the country’s fraught emotional life, deep moral disquiet, and the cost of trying to bury a horrific legacy.

Abominable Science!

Origins of the Yeti, Nessie, and Other Famous Cryptids

Abominable Science!

Throughout our history, humans have been captivated by mythic beasts and legendary creatures. Tales of Bigfoot, the Yeti, and the Loch Ness monster are part of our collective experience. Now comes a book from two dedicated investigators that explores and elucidates the fascinating world of cryptozoology. Daniel Loxton and Donald R. Prothero have written an entertaining, educational, and definitive text on cryptids, presenting the arguments both for and against their existence and systematically challenging the pseudoscience that perpetuates their myths. After examining the nature of science and pseudoscience and their relation to cryptozoology, Loxton and Prothero take on Bigfoot; the Yeti, or Abominable Snowman, and its cross-cultural incarnations; the Loch Ness monster and its highly publicized sightings; the evolution of the Great Sea Serpent; and Mokele Mbembe, or the Congo dinosaur. They conclude with an analysis of the psychology behind the persistent belief in paranormal phenomena, identifying the major players in cryptozoology, discussing the character of its subculture, and considering the challenge it poses to clear and critical thinking in our increasingly complex world.

How Science Works: Evolution

A Student Primer

How Science Works: Evolution

Evolution is just a theory, isn’t it? What is a scientific theory anyway? Don’t scientists prove things? What is the difference between a fact, a hypothesis and a theory in science? How does scientific thinking differ from religious thinking? Why are most leading scientists atheists? Are science and religion compatible? Why are there so many different religious beliefs but only one science? What is the evidence for evolution? Why does evolution occur? If you are interested in any of these questions and have some knowledge of biology, this book is for you.