carl sagan on our need for skepticism every day

Es­ti­mated reading time is 1 minute.

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. 

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


CarlSagan galaxy 1000

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 ap­pear as “A Way of Thinking” on the Skeptic website.



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