Do we live in an age of upcoming geniuses or fools? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
This past week, I heard different people saying the same thing. Young people in school are no longer answering “I don’t know” to something. Instead, the response is being “Let me google that for you.” Now of course, in some areas, this is fine. If you want to know the weather or the location of a good restaurant or who won the World Series in 1962, this is okay. The problem is that this is increasingly becoming our way of knowing.
Except we have to ask are we really knowing? Think about when you were in school and you spent that time cramming before that big final. You might have done really well on the final and passed, you might have even aced it, but how many of you really recall what you studied then? You learned it for the time being and then threw it out. It was knowledge only needed for the moment.
This is what our Google age is doing. People are going to Google and thinking that by being capable of looking up an answer, they are capable of understanding an answer. This doesn’t follow. Using Google, you can find any argument you want for any position and if you do not know how the field of the question works. You can look up an answer on evolution, but if you don’t understand science, you will only further your ignorance if you argue from that. You can look up a question on the historical Jesus or the Crusades, but it won’t help you if you don’t know how history works. You can look up a question about ontology, but it won’t matter if you don’t understand how philosophy works.
How do you learn how these fields work? You go and read the books. You can find good material online, no doubt, but books are still the best place to go. Most scholars in the field don’t put up their material for free online. (One possible exception is my podcast where you can hear interviews from them online.) If you can’t afford books, no biggie. Go to the library. Use an interlibrary loan and order books from other libraries. Right now, I’m reading a book ordered from the Georgia State University and I didn’t have to drive all the way over there.
“But this is hard work!” Yes. Yes, it is. You actually have to read and you can’t expect to be an expert in a field if you’re not willing to study it. If you’re not willing to study it, then sit down and be quiet. You don’t have a clue what you’re talking about. By all means, ask questions, but don’t speak as if you’re someone who should be taken seriously. You’re not.
Unfortunately, if people do not read then they will not be able to speak on these issues. This is why we have a generation that has more access to knowledge than ever before but is incapable of thinking for itself. We feel more than we think. People do not know how to follow an argument to its conclusion or how to analyze one. This is why we have so many conspiracy theories out there.
Please also don’t tell me that this is just one side. Atheists and Christians and others both have this problem. Atheists will buy into any argument often that makes Christianity look bad, be it that Jesus never existed or the Middle Ages were the Dark Ages or anything else. Christians meanwhile, will also do the same thing. Christians can also add in in Illuminati conspiracy theories and ideas based on a futurist eschatology.
I have also regularly stated this happens on Facebook. People see stories all the time and they don’t check up on the sources and hit share anyway. It’s horrible to have someone do this. It’s far worse when a follower of Jesus Christ does this. Why? Because if they can see you wrong on something they can check up on within minutes, why should they invest so much time in studying the resurrection of Jesus?
Google is also often repeatedly killing our attention spans. If we watch or read something, it has less and less time to get our attention. If we read something online, we often don’t read the whole thing much anymore. We just skim. We are trying to find shortcuts to being an expert, but there are no shortcuts. One must work. You cannot cheat and cut corners or else when push comes to shove, you will really see that you don’t have a clue and so will everyone else.
What’s the solution? Parents will need to get their kids off of the internet and into books some more. Make sure it’s an area they really enjoy. If your child enjoys dinosaurs, get the best books you can on dinosaurs. If your child enjoys space, get the best books on space. If they want to learn about World War II or chemistry or anything else, get the best books on the topic that you can.
We will also need to teach by example. Be the student you want your own children to be. Always be learning the best you can. Get the books and read them and you will be better informed and better able to talk to other people. You can know what you’re talking about instead of having to rely on whatever is being popular at the time.
Of course, if our young people or we ourselves have an allergy to work, then we will have to suffer the consequences. It will make it harder and harder to do evangelism if people can just find a quick answer that agrees with them, and anyone can do that. The benefit for us is that if we are the ones doing the hard study, then in the future we can corner the market in that area.
If you’re a youth minister or Sunday School teacher, especially get your young people reading. There is a time for fun and games of course and such, but they need to be an informed populace in order to function in our society. If we look at our world today, we have to say that a lot of people, especially in America, are not really capable of the kind of thinking needed to make things go smoothly in society.
An informed populace starts with you and me.