carl sagan on our need for skepticism every day

WE HAVE ARRANGED A SOCIETY based on science and technology, in which nobody understands anything about science and technology. And this combustable mixture of ignorance and power, sooner or later, is gonna blow up in our faces.

People had to be educated to practice their skepticism. Otherwise, we don’t run the government—it runs us.

If we are not able to ask skeptical questions—to interrogate those who tell us that something is true, to be skeptical of those in authority—then we are up for grabs for the next charlatan—political or religious—who comes ambling along.

It’s a thing the Jefferson laid great stress on. The people had to be educated, and they had to practice their skepticism and education. Otherwise, we don’t run the government—the government runs us.

People read stock market quotations and financial pages [and] look how complex that is! People are able to look at sports statistics [and] look how many people can do that! Understanding science is not more difficult than that; it doesn’t involve greater intellectual activities.

But, the thing about science is, first of all, it’s after the way the universe really is, and not what makes us feel better. And a lot of the competing [pseudoscience, superstition, new-age beliefs, and fundamentalist zealotry] doctrines are after what feels good and not what’s true.”

The statements above—addressing if only briefly charlatanry and dishonesty in both politics, religion, and medicine—are always meaningful in any given here-and-now, but especially today.

The paragraphs were taken from a transcription of a conversation between Sagan and Charlie Rose and appears as “A Way of Thinking” on the Skeptic website.