Steve McEllistrem

The Devereaux Dilemma

Why do some of us seem to embrace ignorance?

There’s been a movement underway for the past two decades or so to embrace ignorance. It was born out of disgust at the hectoring of liberal intelligentsia from Harvard and other premier universities, who delighted in telling the rest of us how to live our lives. This backlash is understandable, to be sure, but it has been taken much too far.

What began as a simple crusade to stop the “We know best” mantra of the East Coast elites has mutated into something almost unrecognizable – something hideous.

Some people take a perverse pleasure from being anti-intellectual, from embracing ideas that are idiotic just because they’re the opposite of what these elites say is truth. They point to the instances when the elites got it wrong as justification for rejecting everything the intellectuals say.

For example, a good many people refuse to believe in climate change. I’m not talking about people who dispute that humans are a primary cause, though they too are often unwilling to accept facts as truth. I’m talking about people who actually believe the planet isn’t warming.

They point to arcane statistics and anomalies to support their position, using, for example, the year 1998 (which was unusually hot, but not as hot as 2014) or 1934 (which was hot in the US but not so hot elsewhere) to make the case that the world isn’t getting hotter.

Then there are the fanatics who believe that vaccinations are somehow a terrible thing, that we’re better off somehow by letting diseases run rampant through the human population. They remind me of the story – likely fictional – of various peoples who cut off the arms of their vaccinated children. They cite discredited research and religious or cultural mores to support their positions.

And let’s not forget those who dismiss evolution despite archaeological records confirming it time and again. Sure, some say, evolution is probably real, but humans are special. We didn’t evolve from other creatures even though lots of other species did.

These are just a few examples.

What is it about knowledge that scares them?

Some, no doubt, think the intelligentsia is peddling falsehoods so that the elites can acquire and/or maintain power. Some are contrarians who don’t like being told what to do or think. Some are simply angry at their lot in life. And some are so protective of their beliefs that anything interfering with those beliefs, anything that makes them question their reality, must be wrong.

Unfortunately, they would drag us to the bottom with them. Better that the whole world collapse in ignorance than a few smart people tell us we’re living our lives wrong.

We all live in communities (the biggest being Planet Earth), but too many of us refuse to accede to the greater good. We form our own small communities to bolster our ignorance and say, See. You don’t know best. Look at how many of us believe X. We must be right or we wouldn’t have so many followers.

And the thing is, in the short term, it’s often hard to prove them wrong. Only by studying our failures from the distant future will we see clearly the mistakes we made. Then they will be obvious.

Of course, then it will also be too late.

book 1 in the Susquehanna Virus series

book 1 in the Susquehanna Virus series

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