Thursday, September 01, 2011

Sunday Morning Soapbox: Calendar's broken. Deal with it.

With Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, and Michelle Bachmann established as the Republican frontrunners for 2012, a lot of people are talking about the anti-science stance of conservatives in The United States.

io9 has an article that portrays this as a fad that's going to burn out: after all, if conservatives work in scientific fields, then conservatives will eventually come to love science, right? The article tells us that everything's okay because the religious nuts won't be around for much longer.

Sadly, these "religious nuts" have been around for all of human history. What they call themselves and the trappings of regressive, cultural stasis they promote change, but the desire for humans to feel omniscient about our world, even if that omniscience takes the form of "a wizard did it," will not be quenched with an equal amount of witchcraft in the next ten years.

Nurses might use science to treat people, but what part of nursing requires a practitioner to believe in a heliocentric solar system? Global warming? The parallels between human and ape biology only applies if they're moonlighting at a veterinary clinic. Diagnosing illnesses and administering medicine might call for additional schooling, but the internal consistencies of the human mind can safely join rigorous diagnostic logic with any number of emotionally based beliefs and still have enough room left over to comfortably fit a fear of the number thirteen and broken mirrors.

Just claiming that "science people aren't conservative" and "[these people] aren't conservative," ergo, "no one is conservative" is just as reality-denying as the people you're attacking. So is the presumption that religiously unaffiliated people are automatically against irrational, religion-based dogma. Sure, 16% of US citizens might identify themselves as unaffiliated, but most of those ("most" just shy of "all," that is) probably identify themselves as Christians, which, as I rambled about Monday, isn't so much about Jesus Christ and printed scripture as it is about
acting in an accordance with an identity as a member of a culture that references those things lot, and slightly more when it's convenient.

There are exceptions, of course; there are plenty of good, authentic Christians out there and I don't mean to insult them or their beliefs. I'm painting with a wide brush here.

I, however, believe that science and technology do drive the way of life The United States has enjoyed for so long. I believe that ignoring science with ad hominem attacks on scientists indicates that you have no ability to comprehend what they're talking about, but desperately want to ignore it. I believe that schools are no place to teach religion, but to teach children how to logically reason with facts and then how to question those facts so that they can make wise decisions about our country's future.

I also believe that fear overpowers principle. That gratification overpowers curiosity. That comfort overpowers ambition. I believe the resurgence of these irrational conservatives is directly the result of a great, powerful nation with citizens that now feel great enough that they cannot fail and powerful enough to dictate reality. Ascribed to anti-intellectualists is a belief that their "ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."{1} It's an absolutely insidious and selfish belief, and like anything insidious and selfish; it's destructive, reprehensible, and deserves to be stamped out, not waited out.

Bit more from the NYT.

{1} Attributed to Asimov.

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