For thousands of years humans were oppressed - as some of us still are - by the notion that the universe is a marionette whose strings are pulled by a god or gods, unseen and inscrutable.
Both Barnum and H. L. Mencken are said to have made the depressing observation that no one ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the American public. The remark has worldwide application. But the lack is not in intelligence, which is in plentiful supply; rather, the scarce commodity is systematic training in critical thinking.
To what purpose should I trouble myself in searching out the secrets of the stars, having death or slavery continually before my eyes? —A question put to Pythagoras by Anaximenes (c. 600 B.C.), according to Montaigne.
Every age has its peculiar folly; some scheme, project, or phantasy into which it plunges, spurred on either by the love of gain, the necessity of excitement, or the mere force of imitation. Failing in these, it has some madness, to which it is goaded by political or religious causes, or both combined.
Practitioners of pop science were once called Paradoxers, a quaint nineteenth-century word used to describe those who invent elaborate and undemonstrated explanations for what science has understood rather well in simpler terms.
We are, each of us, largely responsible for what gets put into our brains, for what, as adults, we wind up caring for and knowing about. No longer at the mercy of the reptile brain, we can change ourselves.