I just finished watching the excellent extended interview by Richard Dawkins of Derren Brown, the self-professed skeptic and psychological illusionist (watch it here) and he made several very good points at the end of the interview when he was explaining his life story. One that caught my attention was when he was discussing open mindedness and how so many people are derisive of those who seek answers and make decisions based on facts rather than belief. He used the term ‘easy answers’ and it struck me how this is really at the core of the whole Intelligent Design ‘debate’ and the simplistic beliefs of so many evangelical christians among others.
Easy answers are when you don’t understand (or want to make any effort to understand) something – like the age of the earth for example. It is hard to imagine a million, yet alone a billion years so lets just pretend the earth is only 6000 years old. It’s an easy answer and the bible – if interpreted in one way – reinforces the belief and the local pastor proclaims it as ‘truth’ every Sunday. So it must be true, mustn’t it? I have enough to think about in my life without thinking about things like this, so I’ll accept the easy answer.
Easy answers are becoming more acceptable in all aspects of modern life. Those of us who have been around for more than 40 years remember the questioning society we used to live in, where exploration, science and scientists were regarded with great interest and awe even. Where unknown facts came to light every day and we were all interested in them – we used to discuss them at work or at home over dinner.
Not anymore. We have this odd belief that humans have discovered everything there is to discover, that Google or Wikipedia will tell us the answer to any problem we can think of and that ‘all that science stuff’ can be left to boring old farts in universities somewhere. We just want them to keep inventing stuff to make our lives easier but don’t bore us by telling us how it’s done – we don’t want to know.
We are all involved in science everyday. Science and facts are fascinating and can enrich our lives so much more than all the fairy tales of religion, astrology and the ‘paranormal’ can ever do – but thinking about science and working out answers for ourselves is hard. Too hard for most.
It’s dangerous – very dangerous to accept whatever you are told by the loudest or most strident voices.
The quietest, educated voices are usually the ones telling the truth…