One of the tricks that society plays on us is the trick of authority. Though this is relevant to all types of authority here I am focusing in on the idea of an authority when it comes to truth or knowledge.
Instead of engaging with experience 1st hand most people don’t even engage with it at all. That is they don’t attempt to understand what is. The reason behind this is partly school and partly media. At school people were just spoon-fed fact after fact. There was very little in the way of learning how facts come about.
In a very real sense the education system is upside down. When people are younger they should be taught procedural knowledge rather than factual knowledge. This would be a lot easier than it seems especially in things like the sciences because in the sciences you could just get them to perform the experiments. Get them to go through the scientific method but don’t be so concerned with getting them to get the “Right answer”. This would be incredibly easy because the scientific method is incredibly simple.
Don’t go telling me that children aren’t sophisticated enough for the practice that would make up the acquisition of procedural knowledge because they learn language when they have no language. I mean if nature – that is blind forces acting upon stuff – can cause a dumb child to speak then I am sure we can teach that same child how to act out the scientific method.
The media is no less responsible. As a result of the schooling people are given now those that don’t persist into further education generally tend to become vegetative in respects to anything to do with learning once they leave school. Media just perpetuates this state of affairs by offering a surplus of pseudo-documentaries that appear to be instructional but when analyses consist of nothing but a sequence of unsubstantiated truth-claims.
These claims may well be true but that is not the point. That such questions as “How is the truth-value of a claim to be known?”, “How are these “facts” generated?” and so on are not addressed is quite atrocious. It acts upon a person’s intellect in much the same way that the news acts upon a person’s moral sensibility. In the case of the news a person is constantly presented with a series of images where people are in distress but he can do nothing about it and thus his feeling of empathy is deadened. In the case of the pseudo-documentaries he is presented with a string of unconnected facts which come from god knows where and with which he can do nothing and so he is left in a stupor.
In the media – I am afraid to say – science plays the role of religion. Instead of saying to the laymen “Don’t ask that because it is forbidden” it says “Don’t ask that because you are stupid”.