Cultivating an Informed Society in an Era of Misinformation

The amount of information and its availability exists at a level that goes beyond comprehension. It takes but a few seconds with the right tools to place our eyes upon almost anything we want to know. Why is it then, that with such an abundance of information available we live in an era that is so uninformed?
The answers are quite simple and find themselves rooted in disciplines that should have been instilled into every person from grade school. Whether it be information that is merely accessible or directly disseminated to an individual, few actually read the material. Even fewer invest the time to read it thoroughly with a level of active thinking that is required when we are taking in new information. While only a small percentage of people will read the materials available to them and even fewer will invest serious effort in contemplating the information, the number who will go on to verify the truth of that information is minuscule.
Some will excuse their behavior with such unreasonable excuses such as lack of time, lack of interest, or lack of information availability. All of these lack an acknowledgment of the true depth and heart matters at hand. In reality, the majority of people are content in naivety and mediocrity so long as the information (or at least the headline) affirms their stance. Unfortunately, the consequences of such a self-deception are critical when the culture adopts this particular mindset.
At least three results come from this mindset:
  • It reinforces the behavior of being uninformed: When people are not challenged about what they think and why it simply allows the behavior to continue. In fact, it offers affirmation of that behavior and gives no incentive for people to search for, read, and utilize the information that is available to them.
  • It reinvigorates the force of falsehood: When the behavior of being uninformed is reinforced, it gives permission for falsehood to thrive. People are free to use whatever means they can to disseminate information because it comes with the confidence that it will go unchecked. For proof of this consider how one of the greatest news stories last year was the existence of false news.
  • It redefines the concept of critical thinking: Finally, critical thinking is redefined. It no longer includes words such as logic, rationality, or truth but instead is replaced with a definition that emphasizes emotionalism and relativity. It could be said then that critical thinking is not merely redefined, but it is destroyed.
The result is a highly opinionated, yet ignorant people which places our society in a dangerous position.
Therefore, it becomes important for rational truth to be recaptured and recapitulated. That means doing the following:
  • Protecting & Promoting Truth: Truth is at the core of Christian doctrine. By truth, people are sanctified (John 17:17) and thus it is truth that has the propensity to transform our society. That means then we must be cautious in guarding truth and the gospel. Paul’s words to Timothy, therefore, ring true when he encourages Timothy to guard what has been entrusted to him (2 Timothy 1:3-14) a point that has been reiterated from 1 Timothy 6:20, thus underscoring its importance.
  • Construct & Cultivate Discernment: The need for discernment is continuously underscore by how quickly deception finds acceptance. However, discernment comes at a price: it requires training and practice. While condemning the Hebrews lac of growth, the author indicates that not only is discernment beneficial for distinguishing between good and evil, but it only comes as individuals invest the time to grow and are not content to fulfill their appetite with basics when a greater feast is available to them (cf. Hebrews 5:11-14).
  • Initiate & Instill Reading and Studying: Finally, there comes a great need to create a culture of people who are continuously reading and studying (cf. Ezra 7.10 in addition to the previously mentioned Hebrews passage). This means exemplifying it in our own lives, teaching others to do the same, and generating an atmosphere that accepts and promotes such habits.
Built on the truth of Scripture, there is an opportunity for salvation (on many different levels) when these aspects are made part of our society.
A society who does not read (and think about what it is reading) creates a culture in which knowledge is considered a detriment and those who obtain it will be quickly judged and condemned. Yet, that same society will be implicit in its own degradation and devolution. What we need then is a society of critical readers and critical thinkers (two things that are not exclusively reserved for only those with certain levels of intelligence, but are obtainable for all). As a result, with the commencement of the new year, I would argue that there needs to be a rededication to the cultivation of a culture who reads and thinks in a critical manner.
Photo “img_0869 Library of Congress” courtesy of user dchrisoh and Flickr.