In his 1995 book The Demon-Haunted World Carl Sagan lamented as follows:
I have a foreboding of [a] time when… awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness.
The dumbing down… is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media… but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance…. The plain lesson is that study and learning – not just of science, but of anything – are avoidable, even undesirable.
We’ve arranged a global civilization in which most crucial elements… profoundly depend on science and technology. We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces. See The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark. (pdf)
While it is 25 years since these words of Sagan’s were published a year before his death, one can only lament the ongoing decline of what might simply be labeled the capacity for critical thinking, whether in relation to society and politics, or the science and technology that so concerned Sagan.
At a time in human history when so much is at stake, why is it so difficult to engage most people in anything resembling a thoughtful investigation, consideration and analysis of what is taking place? Why is it that more people do not question what they are told, what they read and what they are shown? In short, why is it that most people do not seek out the evidence for themselves rather than simply believing what is presented to them?Why Do People Believe Propaganda? Creating Submissively “Obedient Individuals”