Thursday, January 24, 2008

Blissful Ignorance

A very disturbing trend I've noticed regarding the upcoming Presidential Election is the enthusiastic embrace of ignorance.

Some people don't like the horrible truth, so they resolutely refuse to accept it - despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

I'm afraid to say it's the conservatives who are the most enthusiastically ignorant. Many conservatives claim that their refusal of rationality is a 'political choice' whereas really, it's just bloody mindedness tinged with stupidity.

The most obvious example of this is Evolution.

Many conservatives - including presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee - reject the 'theory' of Evolution. Some prefer to consider 'intelligent design' - which is a not-mutually-exclusive theory in which the development of man was overseen by some 'higher power'

But others, like Huckabee himself, prefer 'Creationist' theory. This is the belief that the world was created exactly as described in the Bible - over the course of seven days, a little more that seven thousand years ago.

The problem with this 'theory' is that it's bunkum. Utter, preposterous rubbish.

Because 'Evolution' is not just a theory. It's also a fact.

Evolution is Here to Stay

The 'theory' of Evolution was not just invented by Charles Darwin while he was in a drunken stupor aboard The Beagle. It was a theory pieced together through objective examination of the evidence.

Further research - which yielded carbon-dating figures and the bones of dinosaurs and woolly mammoths - proved conclusively that animals have changed and developed over the course of the millenia and the world is considerably more than 7,000 years old.

Now whether you believe mankind developed from monkeys via random selection or the work of some 'higher power' is up to you - but it's a fact that humanity as we know it has walked the earth for 33,000 years before the Bible claimed it did.

Evolution is only a 'theory' in the same way that gravity is a 'theory.' We theorise why a ball thrown into the air will be drawn inextricably to the ground. The fact that it happens - each and every time - is a incontrovertible fact.

So people like Huckabee - who refuse to accept concrete, inarguable facts that blow their religious dogma out of the water - are just willfully, gleefully ignorant. And is that the sort of person we want running the country?

But leaving aside Evolution - which at least has the armour of religious dogma to protect it - let's examine some of the other incontrovertible facts conservatives blissfully ignore.

Global Warming

In the past century, the temperature of the world has gone up by a little more than a single degree centigrade. This is an astonishing rise in temperature and has been linked directly to the increase of so called 'greenhouse gases' accumulating in the atmosphere since the mid 20th century.

Given the industrialisation of the world, it is estimated that the planet's temperature could rise by as much as 6 degrees centigrade in the 21st century.

The world is getting hotter. That's a fact.

Unless, of course, you're a conservative.

Because a large number of conservatives refuse to believe the 'theory' of Global Warming and the mountain of scientific evidence linking man-made greenhouse gases to the rise in temperature.

One of the major reasons to be skeptical of the 'theory' of Global Warming is because it's convenient not to believe. If Global Warming is real, we're in trouble. It will take an expensive and inconvenient revolution to transform the world's industries to be environmentally friendly.

No more gas-guzzling cars. No more smoke-churning factories. It will take research and investment and - worst of all - we might have get up off the sofa to take part in it.

So plenty of people choose to be skeptical - and the conservative right (linked to oil industry investors desperate for us not to believe in Global Warming) are happy to swallow up the cynical propaganda pumped out to keep us skeptical.

I stole this cartoon from CK's Blog and I hope he doesn't mind!

I recommend reading Wikipedia's post on the subject of Climate Change denial. It's pretty scary reading.

Is there any credibility to the Global Warming skepticism? Well the most knowledgeable person I know is a friend of mine, energy conservationist Margo Bettencourt - who says: "Denying that global warming/climate change is real is akin to saying evolution is 'just a theory'. In both cases, those who don't know how to deal with the consequences of an issue deny it's truthiness. We'd all be better off if these naysayers could accept that we came from monkeys and are changing the climate."

Margo is the dictionary definition of a 'smart cookie' and if her opinions are good enough for Colombia University and the city of New York, they easily trump any of the cynical oil-industry funded 'strategic studies groups' [Or SUV owning laymen from the midwest - Editorial Bear.]

Why so dumb?

With things like Evolution, we just have to take the scientist's word for it (the thousands of scientist's words for it, backed up with mountains of incontrovertible evidence.)

For something like Global Warming, the evidence is right there in front of us.

I was born on a snowy day in February in 1978. In recent years, England can go for years without snow appearing. The bookies have even stopped running odds on a 'white Christmas' because what was once a reasonably common occurrence has now simply ceased to happen.

In 2002, I spent Christmas day in a New York snowstorm. This Christmas, I was walking around without a jacket on. Global warming is HERE. It's a FACT and we're all living it and witnessing it with our own eyes.

It just boggles the mind why people would make a conscious decision to ignore what they see right in front of them and instead live a fantasy of political expediency.

The problem the conservatives are creating for themselves with this 'embrace of ignorance' is clear. They're pouring their credibility down the plug hole.

If somebody chooses to ignore a fact, like the parallel between greenhouse gas emissions and rising temperatures, or carbon-dating proving that rocks are millions of years old, it makes you wonder what other incontrovertible truths they're willing to ignore.

I mean, the conservatives tell us that the 'War on Terror' is helping to make America safer. It's the cornerstone of the Republican presidential campaign (have you heard the presidential nominees talk about anything else?)

But are we any safer? And can we take the conservatives' word for it, even if we are?

The economy is another issue. Most conservatives would never vote Democrat because they're the 'party of big spending and tax increases.' Yet history has illustrated through the five recent terms of Republican presidency that Elephants can't balance a chequebook.

Right now, the Republican nominees are bleating about the wonders of Reaganomics. This 'golden age' of the American economy was a balloon that got popped on Black Monday.

Reaganomics is a myth.

In reality, Ronald Reagan plunged America into three trillion dollars worth of debt. While the President delivered tax cuts to the super-rich (slashing a 70% income tax to just 28%) payroll taxes for the average working man actually increased.

His Republican successor, H.W. Bush, similarly won the election on the promise of 'no new taxes' - but reneged on his promise as soon as he'd got his expensive loafers into the Oval Office.

Yet people keep buying into the dreary dogma!

In Conclusion

The embrace of ignorance has got me deeply worried about the upcoming election.

It's a well known fact that most of America votes on blinkered party lines - it's single percentage points of 'swing voters' who make the difference and tip the scales towards a Republican or Democratic president.

But Democracy is a system vulnerable to stupid voters - and there seem to be more of them than ever!

Maybe it's because I have liberal pretensions, or I'm a writer, or I occasionally watched Will & Grace and therefore contributed to the 'pro-gay biased liberal media' or some such rubbish - but I live with a dream of an election fought through open debate, rationality and logic.

Sure, some of our reasons for picking the president are going to be illogical. Some people aren't going to vote for Hillary because she's a woman. Some people are going to vote for Mitt Romney because they mistakenly believe he's really Evil Dead actor Bruce Campbell.

But the big issues? It would be nice if policy was dictated by an objective appreciation of the facts. Unfortunately, there's a powerful movement in conservative America that would happily ignore the inconvenient 'facts' in order to embrace a much more comforting fantasy they call the 'truth.'

As historian Indiana Jones said in The Last Crusade:


"History is the search for fact. Not truth."

"If it's truth you're interested in, Doctor Tyree's Philosophy class is right down the hall."


CK said...

So explain to me why it was hotter on Earth during midevil times.

As for evolution, you can't understand where the Christians are coming from.

If I believe that there is a God, then I do believe that God can create Earth and man on his time table...

But evolution from monkey's does make democrats more explainable.

Reverse_Vampyr said...

Interesting blog. Well-written and enjoyable. But this entry is so factually-challenged, I just had to comment.

I'm not even going to get into it on the "global warming" with you, as the scientific community has reached no consensus. There are no shortage of experts and facts on both sides.

But as for the theory of evolution, consider the laws of entropy, organic chemistry, biosynthesis, and the second law of thermodynamics before blindly accepting the far-fetched idea that life could "somehow" come from non-life. Your gravity analogy is woefully insufficient.

We don't see a system move from a state of high entropy to a state of lower entropy. Such ideas are outside the scope of science. To believe otherwise is simply another form of faith, switching from religion to an irrational hope in "singularities" and other metaphysical speculations. The chemical impossibility of the formation of amino acids (DNA) in an oxidizing atmosphere more than trumps the theory of evolution as it is widely believed.

Micro-evolution (variations within species) has and does occur. Macro-evolution has never been observed and can't be proven.

In the end, you choose to believe evolution or creation, neither side having concrete answers. So believe what you will. But it's arrogant to call the other side "ignorant" simply because they have a different view than you. The facts are not on your side.

Roland Hulme said...

Hi Reverse Vampryr,

Thanks for the comment!

Although I believe it's entirely possible that life just sprang from non-life - in fact substantial evidence points that way - I am totally open to the idea of a 'higher power' being behind the immensely significant change that lead to 'no life' becoming 'life' on earth.

What I object to is Creationism itself. The belief that God created Adam from the dirt, Eve from his rib and all that occured 7,000 years ago. That is rubbish. Bullshit. It's a fact beyond any doubt that mankind walked the earth for a hundred thousand years before that.

Anybody who chooses to ignore the facts and 'believe' the lie is willfully ignorant.

But you're abolutely right that a higher power could be the answer to why life actually exists on earth.