The Misadventures of Quinxy truths, lies, and everything in between!

5Jul/117

The Dangerously Stupid Minority in America

One thing that has always shocked me is just how ignorant many in America are.  By no means is ignorance unique to America, nor is it necessarily so much higher in the US than it is elsewhere, but with our vast resources and opportunities it feels wholly inexcusable here.

A timely poll just released a few days ago, asking people when the United States of America declared her independence and from whom showed that a shocking number of Americans didn't know.  Only 58% knew the year was 1776 and only 76% knew we became independent from Great Britain.  How is that possible?  Surely it's a combination of a poor educational system, poor parenting, and some seriously absent curiosity on the part of the ignorant.

It reminded me of all the other frightening points of ignorance revealed by polls in recent years, including:

  • 20% of Americans actually believe the Sun revolves around the Earth (source)
  • 20% of Americans in the run up to the last election were convinced Obama was a Muslim.  (source)
  • 41% of Americans believed that Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11, years after the war with Iraq began, despite Bush repeatedly acknowledging  no connection (source)
  • 47% of Americans (most of whom are Christian) did not know that Judaism is older than Christianity and Islam (source)
  • 36% of Americans don't know the Amazon is in South America (source)
  • 21% of Americans believe witches/warlocks/sorcerers/etc. are real (source)
  • 51% of Americans don't believe in the Theory of Evolution (with 25% actively disbelieving and the others not answering or being unsure)  (source)

I hate the concept of elitism, the idea that any one person or group of people is "better" than any other and deserves a better life, more resources, more power, etc.  But, faced with the shocking ignorance of a good 20-35% of the US population it's hard not to feel we do ourselves great harm by allowing woefully ignorant people equal rights to guide our collective destiny.  Why shouldn't we require that people demonstrate knowledge of important and related objective truths before allowing a person to vote?  So many of our monumental decisions as a nation are made by voted margins much smaller than this collective of the uninformed.  Clearly denying anyone the right to vote is a dangerous activity, and has been a tool used to deny good people their equal rights (see the poll tax of ages past).  But perhaps one day if our interpretation of democracy is allowed to evolve and reflect the technological achievements we've made, we might be able to engage in a more involved and vibrant democracy where people do not vote once every so many years on people, but daily, weekly, monthly, on the many individual issues which shape our nation.  And perhaps then we can apply reasonable restrictions, allowing all the general right to vote, but restricting the right to vote on specific issues to those who can demonstrate the objective knowledge required to make an informed decision.  I can dream anyway...  and it's fitting for a day when we celebrate the ideas and sacrifices of our forefathers.

^ Quinxy

Comments (7) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Lol. Yes, I invoke Alexander Hamilton at every Federal election. To paraphrase, “You mean you want to give them *all* a vote?!!” Yours is a big reason for the electoral college.

  2. Clint, right, just too bad the electoral college is just a rubber stamp approval of whatever the popular vote said. In theory it should be a check/balance against rampant idiocy, but I haven’t seen it so invoked.

  3. I don’t understand your point about the theory of Evolution. I’m an educated person (MS Electrical engineering) but also a christian. I know what the THEORY is about and definitely don’t believe in it.
    First, it is a theory (after all… ) and based on assumptions. You take away one of those assumption, the whole theory crumbles… It’s contrary to christianism. good luck on your website.

  4. Hary, thanks for writing in. Hopefully you’ll take my response in the right light, I’m always interested in a discussion on this topic, and I mean to be genuinely curious, not confrontational or insulting.

    Regarding the theory of evolution, obviously I have a bias. I presume it is true. I say presume because we all have so very much to do that we can’t be experts in everything. We end up accepting a great of what we’re taught on the basis of “faith” rather than having personally verified every argument in the great chain of reasoning that convinced the original believers and those who followed that their belief was provably true. We have faith in our professors, in the books we use in class, and in the academic institution itself, and faith in our own ever evolving ability to tell fact from fiction. We do also have our own limited experiences, if we use a formula in an experiment and the results do not conflict with our expectations then we feel our faith was well placed, despite the fact that our limited experiments really couldn’t do much more than suggest the formula happened to work that one time, in that particular situation. Our faith can certainly be mistaken, particularly when we abdicate the responsibility of fully investigating it thoroughly ourselves, but so be it. I believe in the theory of evolution, unless/until I am shown something which I or others whose opinion I have reason to trust, see as more likely, and I don’t believe in the literal word of the bible. The bible I don’t believe literally because divinely inspired or not it was passed along for decades as oral tradition, eventually written down by many hands, and then ultimately heavily edited and selectively compiled into its current form (with much material of no less divine lineage being left out).

    As for the specific included content, I don’t believe the bible literally because it is contradictory and seems to contain items more likely error than convolutedly true fact. I do not follow the bible’s laws literally because I know of no one that does or could. All its followers, even and particularly its most evangelizing ones, selectively ignore a great many of its rules, while using others of its rules to try to bully others into line. I have yet to meet a Christian who believes anyone should be killed for working on the Sabbath, eating shellfish, wearing cotton and linen at the same time, gathering stick of different lengths, etc. All forbidden, but modern Christians are now okay with those. Oh, and of course most Christians are okay ignoring the prohibition on tattoos but they vehemently defend the prohibition on homosexual behavior. How does that not make them hypocrites? Many Christians say that Jesus freed them from needing to obey most of the rules of the Old Testament, despite Jesus very clearly saying otherwise (in such places as, Matthew 5:17 NAB : “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest part or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.” But even if he had said you can ignore the old rules, how do they pick and choose which ones they will not ignore? I have nothing against someone who believes the bible as the literal word of God, but how can I trust those who pick and choose which laws they want to enforce based on current cultural mores? This malleability has allowed the followers of the bible to justify racism, sexism, slavery, torture, war, etc.

    I have no loss of respect for you or anyone else who doesn’t believe in the theory of evolution, that single point of disagreement with me matters not one whit; I have known brilliant people who believed in some form of creationism. But in my experience the position is often associated with stupidity. I am defining stupidity here as a failure to use their brain rather than a failure of their brain. So when I meet someone and they say they don’t believe in the theory of evolution I become somewhat on the alert, aware that they may express another position or reveal another belief which suggests a chronic failure of theirs to absorb or seamlessly blend facts, observations, opinion, etc. Belief in the theory of evolution is no guarantee that a person is not stupid, don’t misunderstand me, many stupid people are evolutionists, I just haven’t found that finding out a person is an evolutionist is a particularly useful indicator of anything.

    Do you know Kent Hovind? He’s a young earth creationist and fantastically entertaining speaker who has quite a few lectures available on YouTube and elsewhere. I disagree with him completely, but he’s certainly got an extremely active mind which has done its best to blend science with his faith. I would never, ever call him stupid. I love watching his videos, and not in a mocking way. Some points he makes which intrigue me I go off and Google and am ultimately put at ease that Kent is wrong or misinformed; even most creationists groups are against his brand of young earth creationism which they acknowledge has a lot of things factually wrong.

    There are many items in this list any two of us can probably agree indicate stupidity. For some the difference between the Sun or the Earth doing the revolving is so unimportant to their daily lives that they actively choose to be ignorant on all such things. To me that seems outrageous, but it’s not necessarily proof of stupidity. Perhaps to you the fact that so many don’t know Judaism is older than Christianity and Islam would probably seem shockingly uninformed, but again it could represent an indifference to the subject. Any individual can be uninformed or differently informed on any particular issue without being fairly labeled stupid, but when their opinions collectively so differ on reasonably agreed upon things, it seems highly likely they are truly stupid.

    I certainly do not consider you to be stupid. 🙂

  5. I think it is safe to say that the ” theory” of evolution is in fact a theory. Despite compelling scientific evidence. I would also point out the “theory” of God falls into that same category. Islamic, Muslim, Judaism, Christian or otherwise. What needs to happen is for the faithful to recognize this and maybe some level of warfare might end??

  6. Martyn, I’d agree with that. It seems not the specifics of the beliefs which are so dangerous to fellow men as the absolute conviction that only their belief (whatever it may be) is the correct one; whether it’s a Christian killing a Muslim or a Dodgers baseball fan trying to kill a Giants baseball fan.

  7. A scientific “theory” isn’t “just a theory” in the common sense of the word “theory”. Otherwise, gravity? Come on…that’s “just a theory”. So obviously that’s not what it means.

    In science, the idea everyone seems to think “theory” encompasses, is actually called a “hypothesis”: a formal guess that something might be true. But evolution is not a hypothesis.

    A scientific theory is a many-times proven and verified idea that has withstood battery-after-battery of falsifying tests. Evolution is a theory.

    Secondly, the idea that evolution is contrary to “christianism” (whatever that might mean) is unfounded, given there is no conflict between faith and this part of science for millions of faithful Christians worldwide.

    This situation is instead analogous to the situation with geocentrism six hundred years ago.

    At that time, the church had forcefully proclaimed the science and facts showing the Earth revolved around the Sun was contrary to what God told Christians was true. They were terrified of the erosion of their authority by challenges to a (at the time) core part of their worldview.

    Numerous arguments were made against the idea, many that you hear today leveled at evolution — that it could never be proven, claims the theory “just didn’t hold up”, the faithful “knew” what the Bible said, the idea was contrary to Christian Truth, etc.

    Yet here we are six-hundred years later still orbiting the Sun, not it orbiting us. And the Church’s persecution and denial of scientific study and fact on Biblical grounds now seems foolish, and heliocentricism now somehow not so contrary to Christian faith.

    Thus, one should be very careful believing what anyone says is “contrary to christianism” (to borrow a phrase), given, similarly, not too many centuries (or even decades) ago, Christians were also insistently told (and convinced to believe based on the Bible) black people weren’t considered “human” by God and interracial marriage was sinful and wrong.


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