The Burden of Skepticism

posted May 14, 2011, 9:33 PM by Viva Paco   [ updated May 14, 2011, 10:13 PM ]
By Carl Sagan
Published in 1987
What is Skepticism? It's nothing very esoteric. We encounter it every day. When we buy a used car, if we are the least bit wise we will exert some residual skeptical powers -- whatever our education has left to us. You could say, "Here's an honest-looking fellow. I'll just take whatever he offers me." Or you might say, "Well, I've heard that occasionally there are small deceptions involved in the sale of a used car, perhaps inadvertent on the part of the salesperson," and then you do something. You kick the tires, you open the doors, you look under the hood. (You might go through the motions even if you don't know what is supposed to be under the hood, or you might bring a mechanically inclined friend.) You know that some skepticism is required, and you understand why. It's upsetting that you might have to disagree with the used-car salesman or ask him questions that he is reluctant to answer.