In his recent blog post, “This is the Dawning of the Age of Credulity”, Roger Ebert correctly characterizes our times as an age when we “accept rather than select”. The constant stream of sound bites, mash-ups and carefully sculpted lies push and prod us to conclusions. Rarely do we take the time to collate, digest and reflect.
The drive for this particular article was the firestorm of comments generated by another blog post by Ebert where, without revealing preamble, he laid out as a Q&A his understanding of Creationism. Most of the answers he gave were subtly snarky, well subtle if you are a Creationist;
Q. What about bones representing such species as Cro-Magnon Man and Neanderthal Man?
A. Created at the same time as man. They did not survive. In fact, all surviving species and many others were created fully formed at the same time. At that moment they were of various ages and in varying degrees of health. Some individuals died an instant later, others within seconds, minutes or hours.
Apparently, they were subtle enough to get some anti-Creationists upset and there the problem lay. Posting a Q&A about Creationism without clear derision was enough to get people up in arms.
Mr. Ebert challenges us to be “perceptive readers” and schools us with a story of his early education and the lesson learned by reading “A Modest Proposal” by Jonathan Swift. He then uses a recent review of the Heroes season premiere where a quote from Hamlet is characterized as “crazy nonsense” to show how our rapid processing can let us miss the obvious.
In the final weeks of a multi-year Presidential Campaign where so much is at stake, Mr. Ebert reminds us to be critical thinkers. Look at the context, judge the merit and above all, use your head! It is exactly what these careful crafters of lies hope you will not do.
These days, there is no room for ambiguity, and few rewards for critical thinking. Now every word of a politician is pumped dry by his opponent, looking for sinister meanings. Many political ads are an insult to the intelligence. Here I am not discussing politics. I am discussing credulity. If you were to see a TV ad charging that a politician supported “comprehensive sex education” for kindergarten children, would you (1) believe it, or (2) very much doubt it? The authors of the ad spent big money in a bet on the credulity and unquestioning thinking of the viewership. Ask yourself what such an ad believes about us. No politics, please.
Don’t you think that Roger Ebert should be acknowledged as one of the standard bearers of the Skeptical movement?