Video of Susan Jacoby on The Colbert Report




The Center for Inquiry's Susan Jacoby, author of the NYTimes bestseller The Age of American Unreason, appeared last night on The Colbert Report.

As Colbert remarked, he prefers emotion over reason and when Jacoby noted that few Americans can correctly identify the nature of DNA, Colbert answered: "A fraud perpetuated by science in order to make us not believe in God!" The segment is classic satire.

But Jacoby's appearance on Colbert does prompt the serious question: to what degree do shows such as the Daily Show and The Colbert Report contribute to the age of unreason, with younger viewers displacing traditional news consumption with regular viewing of late night satirical comedy? In other words, can young audiences have their satire and their knowledge too?

It's a favorite topic for students in my Political Communication seminar. As it turns out, researchers are divided on the issue. Some note that audiences for the Daily Show are actually just as informed as other regular news consumers (see Pew poll results below) while other research shows that in contrast to broadcast television, Daily Show viewing breeds cynicism among younger viewers. In a special section of a recent issue of Critical Studies in Media Communication, leading scholars debated the topic.



​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Why is 18 the age of adulthood if the brain can take 30 years to mature?

Neuroscience research suggests it might be time to rethink our ideas about when exactly a child becomes an adult.

Mind & Brain
  • Research suggests that most human brains take about 25 years to develop, though these rates can vary among men and women, and among individuals.
  • Although the human brain matures in size during adolescence, important developments within the prefrontal cortex and other regions still take pace well into one's 20s.
  • The findings raise complex ethical questions about the way our criminal justice systems punishes criminals in their late teens and early 20s.
Keep reading Show less

Apparently even NASA is wrong about which planet is closest to Earth

Three scientists publish a paper proving that Mercury, not Venus, is the closest planet to Earth.

Strange Maps
  • Earth is the third planet from the Sun, so our closest neighbor must be planet two or four, right?
  • Wrong! Neither Venus nor Mars is the right answer.
  • Three scientists ran the numbers. In this YouTube video, one of them explains why our nearest neighbor is... Mercury!
Keep reading Show less

Mini-brains attach to spinal cord and twitch muscles

A new method of growing mini-brains produces some startling results.

(Lancaster, et al)
Surprising Science
  • Researchers find a new and inexpensive way to keep organoids growing for a year.
  • Axons from the study's organoids attached themselves to embryonic mouse spinal cord cells.
  • The mini-brains took control of muscles connected to the spinal cords.
Keep reading Show less