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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 468

The Demon-Haunted World, by Carl Sagan, isn't a work of fiction, so characters don't appear in it in the same way they appear in a novel. You might say, though, that we are the characters. To understand what I mean by this, you should read the book. I highly recommend it. Everyone concerned with the state of our public discourse, and science's place in it, should read it. I won't summarize the book's contents here. Instead, I'll discuss those 'characters.'

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The book's subtitle is Science as a Candle in the Dark. In 1995, Carl Sagan was one of the world's best-known scientists. He'd written a dozen books, presented a wildly popular television series, advised governments, and taught at world-class universities. He was probably one of the few people really qualified to judge the state of science as a field of inquiry, particularly in American society. So, what message did he want to send with his last book? That we're benighted, stumbling blindly along, wielding our ignorance like a cudgel to smash the product of centuries of painstaking intellectual effort that dragged us out of the Dark Ages, past the alchemists, past believers in a flat Earth and a geocentric universe, past the magicians and witch hunters.

That's the clue to who the 'characters' are in his book. Sagan desperately wanted to leave the world scientifically better off than he found it. He did, but by the time he was dying, in the mid-1990s, he was afraid the charlatans and con men in charge worldwide would render all that work irrelevant. He wrote to us , pleading with us not to forget the scientific method, not to forget the value of critical thinking, not to abandon the idea that it's possible to figure out the universe without resorting to supernatural causes....

(The entire section contains 468 words.)

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