Throwback Thursday: The new Know-Nothings
Earlier this week, I read a column in The New York Times by Paul Krugman titled "A Plague of Willful Ignorance" and later the same day a Washingon Post column titled "The U.S. is falling behind its peers. Americans - if not their leaders - are starting to notice." The columns pricked my memory. Hadn't I written something along those same lines a few years ago? A search through the blog archives revealed that my memory was correct. Almost eight years ago in 2012, I had written this post about "The new Know-Nothings." Little could I have guessed at the time to what levels these Know-Nothings would sink. They have left their nineteenth-century forbears in the dust when it comes to willful ignorance.
Thursday, September 27, 2012
I was reading a story about Bill Nye, the Science Guy, a couple of days ago when I came across a sentence that literally made me groan out loud. It said, "In June, a Gallup poll revealed that 46 percent of Americans believe that God created humans in their present form about 10,000 years ago." So much for science and the fossil record. So much for critical thinking. These people prefer to accept the Bible as their scientific and historical text and not worry their little heads about any more complicated explanations. Oh, well, I guess we should just be relieved that the percentage wasn't even higher.
As the story pointed out, the United States stands alone among modern industrialized states in this Know-Nothingism. It's only in the most backward and theocratic places on earth that you would find such a high percentage of people who refuse to acknowledge evolution as settled science.
The same disheartening assessment can be made regarding human-caused global warming. The United States is the center, the hotbed of denialism.
Indeed, a denial of evolution and a denial of global climate change seem to go hand-in-hand. Both refusals to accept the facts established by science involve a kind of magical thinking. Dinosaurs and humans walked the earth at the same time and Noah carried two of them onto the Ark! God is looking out for us and will not allow the earth's systems to be destroyed by human negligence; therefore, global warming cannot be happening. Both thought processes, of course, absolve humans of any responsibility for the consequences of their actions.
This refusal of a large percentage of Americans to think critically and rationally about issues facing them and the country certainly goes a long way toward explaining many of the problems which our society has. It truly is enough to make one despair of the future. In fact, Bill Nye himself seems to despair of the adults whose brains are already ossified, but, in a video that is making its way around the Internet, he asks them please not to impose their beliefs on their children.
It seems a reasonable argument to me. Let the kids think for themselves and make up their own minds. Somehow, though, I doubt it will be persuasive to that 46 percent that the Gallup pollsters counted.