Thursday, June 18, 2009

Quotation of the day

The tenets of skepticism do not require an advanced degree to master, as most successful used car buyers demonstrate. The whole idea of a democratic application of skepticism is that everyone should have the essential tools to effectively and constructively evaluate claims to knowledge. All science asks is to employ the same levels of skepticism we use in buying a used car or in judging the quality of analgesics or beer from their television commercials.

But the tools of skepticism are generally unavailable to the citizens of our society. They're hardly ever mentioned in the schools, even in the presentation of science, its most ardent practitioner, although skepticism repeatedly sprouts spontaneously out of the disappointments of everyday life. Our politics, economics, advertising and religions (new age and old) are awash in credulity. Those who have something to sell, those who wish to influence public opinion, those in power, a skeptic might suggest, have a vested interest in discouraging skepticism.

— Carl Sagan, The Demon Haunted World
[h/t and happy blogversary to toomanytribbles]

1 comment:

  1. That's a good quote. I would say that at least half of my discussions with my trainees boil down to me trying to lead them to be skeptical. It is a natural inclination for a scientist to be on the lookout for evidence that is consistent with her hypotheses. That's the easy part. The hard part is to keep your eyes open for evidence that is inconsistent and, even more importantly, to design experiments that explore the broadest scope of sources of potentially inconsistent evidence.


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