Saturday, February 16, 2008

A reasonable woman: The interview of Susan Jacoby and the discussion about her book "The Age of American Unreason" was one of the most interesting in the Bill Moyers series. I believe the most serious issue our nation is facing is the utterly stunning mind numbing ignorance of our people. The film clip shown of American young people on a game show not knowing that the country Hungary exists at all or thinking that Europe is an entire country is staggering. The discussion illuminated that many in our country do not even know that there are nine justices on our own Supreme Court, still believe the earth is the center of the universe and that angels are truth made me both incredulous and want to cry. Not only should our people know there are nine justices on our highest court they should be able to name them and understand the political issues surrounding the Court's decisions. It it so serious because these are the people who elect those who would influence our country's policies. These are the people I entrust with my safety. These people are the present and the future of our country. I cannot fathom when presented with simple questions of geography, science or history how stunning the lack of knowledge is. How did this happen?

I believe this ignorance is not only the fault of our educational system but is endemic in our history. There has been and is a thread of anti-intellectualism sewn within the fabric of our culture. Although our Founding Fathers were men of intellect, much of our historical dialog has catered to men who were not. Whether in the historical populism of an Andrew Jackson, the fiery sentiments of a William Jennings Bryan or, in modern times, the mind boggling cerebral and expressive incapability of a George W. Bush, there has been a large strain in American politics and populism which appeals to ignorance. It has run through the course of nearly our entire history.

I almost cannot read the arguments touting creationism. It is like saying it is okay to think that spirits cause disease. Some may believe in the germ theory of infection but others think that a spirit causes infection so let's debate it. No, let's not debate it. Bacteria and viruses cause infection and spirits do not. Facts rule. The case should be closed but it is not.

Evolution is the very foundation of science. It is NOT contextually debatable within belief of creationism. If we do not accept or understand its truth our ability to find cures for cancer, the nature of immunological resistance to infection and, indeed, to understand the origins of our species is fatally diminished. We will be relegated to a mindless prison forever mired in a Middle Age like philosophy when it was in the interest of the religious authority to keep mankind ignorant so their own power which married church and state could prevail.

I believe nearly all the problems we face as a nation are etched in and can be traced to this mindless tyranny which does not allow reason to triumph. This is not only deadly for our country but for the entire world as one can see how man is stuck in belief systems which cannot be verified and which contain little truth. These beliefs and the lack of critical thinking of them are responsible for the divisions in our society and these beliefs are responsible for the ultimate massacring of millions. I hope everyone will find the time to read Susan Jacoby's book "The Age of American Unreason." Her views are rational, reasonable and prescient. I believe, they could save the world.