The Demon-Haunted World

Science as a Candle in the Dark

Carl Sagan

Summary: A great book by a great scholar. I expected more science and less politics, but still, great reading.

Score: 90 / 100

How We Know What Isn’t So: The Fallibility of Human Reason in Everyday Life, by Thomas Gilovich, (Friday, September 11, 2015, 04:28 PM, page 418-19)

The method of science, as stodgy and grumpy as it may seem, is far more important than the findings of science. (Friday, September 11, 2015, 04:31 PM, page 434-35)

Science is far from a perfect instrument of knowledge. (Saturday, September 12, 2015, 07:16 PM, page 479-80)

science has built-in, error-correcting machinery at its very heart. Some may consider this an overbroad characterization, but to me every time we exercise self-criticism, every time we test our ideas against the outside world, we are doing science. (Saturday, September 12, 2015, 07:18 PM, page 486-88)

One of the great commandments of science is, ‘Mistrust argu­ments from authority’. (Saturday, September 12, 2015, 07:21 PM, page 504-5)

sifts the wheat from the chaff. (Saturday, September 12, 2015, 07:34 PM, page 549-50)

Michelangelo Antonioni’s film Blowup describes another. (Monday, September 14, 2015, 10:30 PM, page 742)

I reject the notion that science is by its nature secretive. Its culture and ethos are, and for very good reason, collective, collaborative and communicative. (Wednesday, September 16, 2015, 08:21 AM, page 898-99)

We’re more closely related to chimps than rats are to mice. (Wednesday, September 16, 2015, 08:51 AM, page 1017-18)

Martin Gardner’s Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science. (Wednesday, September 16, 2015, 12:22 PM, page 1081-82)

published in the March 1945 number of the pulp fiction periodical Amazing Stories. (Wednesday, September 16, 2015, 12:54 PM, page 1140)

folie a deux - a shared delusion in which, generally, the submissive partner goes along with the delusion of the dominant partner. (Wednesday, September 16, 2015, 03:22 PM, page 1572-73)

The capacity to establish and maintain clear distinctions between the life of dreams and life in the outside world is hard-won and requires several years to accomplish, not being completed even in normal children before ages eight to ten. (Wednesday, September 16, 2015, 03:37 PM, page 1639-41)

The demonic seducers of women were labelled incubi; of men, succubi. (Wednesday, September 16, 2015, 04:27 PM, page 1756-57)

Loftus argues that ‘memories of an event more closely resemble a story undergoing constant revision than a packet of pristine information’. (Wednesday, September 16, 2015, 08:04 PM, page 2079-80)

It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts. Sherlock Holmes, in Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Scandal in Bohemia (1891) (Wednesday, September 16, 2015, 09:20 PM, page 2244-46)

It is not known how to distinguish, with complete accuracy, memories based on true events from those derived from other sources . . . Repeated questioning may lead individuals to report ‘memories’ of events that never occurred. (Wednesday, September 16, 2015, 09:41 PM, page 2324-26)

The startle reflex, it’s called. Perhaps it’s left over from when our ancestors slept in trees. (Wednesday, September 16, 2015, 10:31 PM, page 2498-99)

If there’s no way to disprove my contention, no conceivable experi­ment that would count against it, what does it mean to say that my dragon exists? Your inability to invalidate my hypothesis is not at all the same thing as proving it true. Claims that cannot be tested, assertions immune to disproof are veridically worthless, whatever value they may have in inspiring us or in exciting our sense of wonder. What I’m asking you to do comes down to believing, in the absence of evidence, on my say-so. The only thing you’ve really learned from my insistence that there’s a dragon in my garage is that something funny is going on inside my head. (Wednesday, September 16, 2015, 10:36 PM, page 2517-22)

If it is to be (Sunday, September 20, 2015, 08:22 PM, page 4379)

Most of the ideas never make it to the outside world. Only those that pass a rigorous self-filtration make it out to be criticized by the rest of the scientific community. (Sunday, September 20, 2015, 08:55 PM, page 4537-38)

Among the best contemporary scientist-popularizers, I think of Stephen Jay Gould, E.O. Wilson, Lewis Thomas and Richard Dawkins in biology; Steven Weinberg, Alan Lightman and Kip Thorne in physics; Roald Hoffmann in chemistry; and the early works of Fred Hoyle in astronomy. Isaac Asimov wrote capably on everything. (And while requiring calculus, the most consistently exciting, provocative and inspiring science popularization of the last few decades seems to me to be Volume I of Richard Feynman’s Introductory Lectures on Physics.) (Sunday, September 20, 2015, 10:22 PM, page 4981-85)

different amounts of melanin in the skin; (Friday, September 25, 2015, 03:26 PM, page 5991)

‘There is no national science,’ said the Russian playwright Anton Chekhov, ‘just as there is no national multiplication table.’ (Monday, September 28, 2015, 05:35 PM, page 6168-69)

‘A society that will trade a little liberty for a little order will lose both, and deserve neither.’ (Monday, September 28, 2015, 09:40 PM, page 6361-62)

first published: 2015-10-01
last modified: 2023-01-21