Friday, April 6, 2012

A Plea for Skepticism

Many people lament (while others rejoice) in this age as one of skepticism. For my part, however, I am of the opposite view. I think the world today suffers to a rather alarming extent from a lack of skepticism. It is my wish there were far more than currently exists. For one of the greatest dangers we face today is that of a widespread credulity. If, indeed, this really were an age of skepticism, there would be no cause for concern. As a Catholic, I think the Church could well bear any scrutiny such an age would bring to bear on its teaching.

The problem, however, is that too many people today (whatever other wonderful qualities they may possess) are only too ready to accept the claims they hear, and fail to test them at all so as to discover whether they do have any basis in reality. That is where the danger is especially profound. For it is precisely those who have the power and money in order to command our attention (especially in the mass media and entertainment industry) who are at the same time not particularly interested in accuracy, but rather pushing their own agenda or selling sensationalism or whatnot. Yet such are the very sources so many rely on (especially those who consider themselves “independent” thinkers and “challenging the status quo”, ironically enough) when forming their views.  Hence, the presence of so much pseudo-knowledge in the world today. It is how so many people can, say, take The Da Vinci Code seriously, or the idea that the Church is opposed to science, and so forth, in the face of all the actual evidence. They do not critically examine the “information” they take in. They are not skeptical in the least. If they were, then the Church could use such skepticism as an opportunity of defending herself from the false charges leveled against her. But due to the overwhelming credulity of the modern world, the Church faces an uphill battle.

Of course, skepticism, as with anything else, can present its own problems through misuse. But given its comparative lack today, that is not a danger we need worry about anytime soon. Instead, our necessity is to learn how to (in the words of one wise teacher)
"test everything; hold fast what is good."