Pulitzer prize winning film critic Roger Ebert died today at the age of 70, according to his long-time employer, The Chicago Sun-Times. While Ebert will be most well known for his prolific and engaging film reviews it is worth noting he also wrote many articles extolling science and skepticism.
In 2009, in an article warning that “new agers and creationists” have no place in politics, he wrote:
Yet they assure everyone they are “a typical Gemini,” were royalty in a previous lifetime, have a personal spirit guide, and have been told they will develop a serious disease but will recover from it. I rarely hear anyone share that they were a toilet cleaner in a previous lifetime and have a year to live at the most.
Roger wrote extensively about evolution, pseudoscience and religion. Often, his writing could almost be confused for that of James Randi:
As a person who firmly disbelieves in woo-woo, I couldn’t believe he would subscribe to such flim-flammery, but I dutifully obtained the “Jungian tarot deck,” in which the ancient symbols of the tarot are seen as manifestations of our collective unconscious.
But in my opinion, probably one of Ebert’s finest writings was written in 2011, on the magnitude and beauty of the Universe. It’s a long read, but it’s strikingly eloquent and captivating.
I read articles about astronomy and physics. It doesn’t matter to me how much I understand. Their buried message is always the same: Somewhere out there, or somewhere deep inside, there are mysteries of which we perceive only vague shadows, and there are possibly more mysteries within those shadows, continuing indefinitely.
I urge you to read A Quintessence of Dust. Reading Ebert’s wandering thoughts through wonder, evolution, life, death and eventually art is a humbling and inspiring experience. This article, I believe, is a perfect tribute to a remarkable writer, critic, and journalist. As well as a powerful example of the inspirational power of science.