27 May 1996, interview with Charlie Rose, USA
SAGAN: My feeling, Charlie, is that it's not that pseudoscience and superstition and New Age so-called "beliefs" and fundamentalist zealotry are something new. They've been with us for as long as we've been human. But we live in an age based on science and technology, with formidable technological powers.
ROSE: Science and technology are propelling us forward at accelerating rates.
SAGAN: That's right. And if we don't understand it, and by "we" I mean "the general public," if it's something that, "Oh, I'm not good at that, I don't know anything about it," then who is making all the decisions about science and technology that are going to determine what kind of future our children live in? Just some members of Congress? But there's no more than a handful of members of Congress with any background in science at all. And the Republican Congress has just abolished its own Office of Technology Assessment—the organization that gave them bipartisan, competent advice on science and technology. They say, "We don't want to know. Don't tell us about science and technology."
ROSE: Surprising. What's the danger of all this? I mean, this is not the thing that...
SAGAN: There's two kinds of dangers. One is what I just talked about. That we've arranged a society based on science and technology in which nobody understands anything about science and technology, and this combustible mixture of ignorance and power, sooner or later, is going to blow up in our faces. I mean, who is running the science and technology in a democracy if the people don't know anything about it? And the second reason that I'm worried about this is that science is more than a body of knowledge. It's a way of thinking. A way of skeptically interrogating the universe with a fine understanding of human fallibility. 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're up for grabs for the next charlatan political or religious who comes ambling along. It's a thing that Jefferson laid great stress on. It wasn't enough, he said, to enshrine some rights in a Constitution or a Bill of Rights. The people had to be educated, and they had to practice their skepticism and their education. Oherwise we don't run the government—the government runs us.