For that, the government and the military must face a reckoning as well. — Javier Grillo-Marxuach (okbjgm), in “on bradley manning”
Despite frequent observations to the contrary, teens today are much less likely to use alcohol or tobacco, to try illegal drugs, or to have sex (or get pregnant) than their parents’ generation. According to the Monitoring the Future survey at the University of Michigan, high school seniors are almost half as likely as their parents’ generation to have had alcohol recently (40% in 2011, compared to 72% in 1980). Additionally, 43% of seniors had tried an illegal drug other than pot in 1981; in 2011, only 25% of seniors had done so. High school boys are only half as likely to have had sex as they were decades ago (28% in 2010, compared to about 50% in 1988). And according to the nonprofit Guttmacher Institute, teenage pregnancy is at its lowest rate in 40 years.
It seems to me what is called for is an exquisite balance between two conflicting needs: the most skeptical scrutiny of all hypotheses that are served up to us and at the same time a great openness to new ideas. Obviously those two modes of thought are in some tension. But if you are able to exercise only one of these modes, whichever one it is, you’re in deep trouble.
If you are only skeptical, then no new ideas make it through to you. You never learn anything new. You become a crotchety old person convinced that nonsense is ruling the world. (There is, of course, much data to support you.) But every now and then, maybe once in a hundred cases, a new idea turns out to be on the mark, valid and wonderful. If you are too much in the habit of being skeptical about everything, you are going to miss or resent it, and either way you will be standing in the way of understanding and progress.
On the other hand, if you are open to the point of gullibility and have not an ounce of skeptical sense in you, then you cannot distinguish the useful as from the worthless ones. If all ideas have equal validity then you are lost, because then, it seems to me, no ideas have any validity at all.
Some ideas are better than others. The machinery for distinguishing them is an essential tool in dealing with the world and especially in dealing with the future. And it is precisely the mix of these two modes of thought that is central to the success of science.—
Carl Sagan on Mastering The Vital Balance of Skepticism and openness (via electricspacekoolaid)
In short: The world is full of wonder, and we are capable of using reason to explore it. If you deny either of those, you’re missing out on half the universe.