With increasing evidence that many individuals are either unable or unwilling to employ the critical reasoning skills necessary to discern between what is factual and what is not and thereby conflating fake and actual news, I’ve been considering the possible reasons for this alarming lack of judicial faculties. There is much I COULD say on the topic, as in a former life I have taught Formal Logic and Critical Reasoning courses. But over the course of many years, after teaching students, listening to other profs talk about their students, reading, and observing patrons at the libraries where I’ve worked, I place the blame for this squarely on the back of relgion, particularly the American brand of Prostestant Christianity. It places BELIEF, a uniquely personal and private belief that you have been saved (which of course cannot be objectively verified), above anything else. As long as you testify positively to this, everything (and I do mean everything) else falls by the wayside. Some might point to the Bible, saying that it is factual. That merely illustrates my point and highlights the believer’s maleable relationship with reality. At any given time, no two sects of Christians will likely believe the same set of facts from the Bible; in fact, one might be hard-pressed to find two individual Christians who each believe the same set of facts from the Bible. (N.B.-I’m using the term “facts” here ironically. I highly doubt that most anything found in the so-called New Testament has any basis in history and is largely myth. The Tanakh MIGHT record some events that happened in ancient times (but only a few) but it is also mostly mythological.) But Christians cherry-pick. What displeases them, for whatever reason, they discard. REMEMBER THIS-IT’S IMPORTANT! God says keep kosher, observe the sabbath, and, later on, the more incendiary whatsoever you do to the least of these, you did for me. Let’s not do any of this, too inconvenient, not modern, been superseded, etc. etc. It’s not what we believe. ….It’s not what we believe. That’s it in a nutshell. If your view of reality is that what is true is determined by what you FEEL and what you BELIEVE, rather than by factual evidence, then of course you will fall for fake news. You will believe preposterous claims like the ones made about Hillary Clinton being involved in child sex scandals or the ones claiming that Sandy Hook was a hoax. You will believe, despite actual hard evidence that shows otherwise, that Donald Trump won the popular vote. You will believe that that China or some guy in a basement somewhere, not the Russians, hacked the DNC, despsite what U.S. intelligence agencies have to say.
What can be done? In a perfect world, stop indoctrinating children with pernicious religious doctrines. Should they wish to become relgious as adults, fine. That would be a decision made with a more informed consent. START TEACHING CRITICAL REASONING SKILLS AT AN EARLY AGE! FORMAL AND INFORMAL LOGIC COURSES AS REQUIRED COURSES IN HIGH SCHOOL (IF NOT BEFORE)! Have parents expose children and teens to actual (as opposed to fake and “faux”) news media-show them the diiference between real researched articles by journalists with credentials and false, often conspiratorial, news articles or shows that are often little more than alarmist headlines by persons who have little to no trustworthiness. I am not a parent (nor do I play one on TV). But I am a human being and a citizen so interested in the continuation of the species, one, and of the fate of our country, two. So, teaching kids to reason is not optional. IT IS VITAL.