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No time to study to be competent to judge many questions, then no time to believe.

Who among us has not shared posts without fact-checking them? Unfortunately, that doesn't make it right. Almost everything that we encounter online is being presented to us by for-profit algorithms, and by us, post by post, tweet by tweet. That fact, even more than the spread of fake news, can be its own sort of shell game, one that we are pulling on ourselves.

As the late-19th-century mathematician W. K. Clifford noted in his famous essay, "The Ethics of Belief," ambivalence about objective evidence is an attitude corrosive of democracy. Clifford ends the essay by imagining someone who has "no time for the long course of study" that would make him competent to judge many questions. Clifford's response is withering: "Then he should have no time to believe."

-- Michael P. Lynch, a professor of philosophy at the University of Connecticut, is the author of the "Internet of Us: Knowing More and Understanding Less in the Age of Big Data." Twitter: @Plural_truth.

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