Mental Midgetry

America is heading down a dangerous road. I’m not talking about Socialism or Anarchy (yeah, those are bad too). I’m referring to our free-fall into ignorance. Far too many Americans are rejecting obvious facts in favor of what they want to believe. They’ll reject a beneficial scientific discovery because they think it conflicts with their religious beliefs. They reject common sense precautions against Covid-19 because they’ve been deluded into thinking their rights are being violated. We reject vaccines because some goofball on youtube strings together a bunch of unrelated information. We are becoming a nation of people unwilling or unable to think outside the box. I find myself torn between wanting to help fight the tidal wave of stupidity or just giving up.

What are the consequences of our descent into mental midgetry? We’ve fallen far behind other developed nations in education. Our education system is among the most expensive (per student) in the world. And yet we consistently lag behind other advanced nations in academic achievement. We’re seeing entire generations entering the workforce lacking basic life skills old farts like me take take for granted. We have millions of people of all ages who flatly reject science and regard important issues like climate change and overpopulation as being conspiracies by the NWO, the Illuminati, or whichever political party they don’t vote for. Hells Bells, even the Flat Earthers are making a comeback.

But why? Aren’t we the greatest nation on Earth? Um, no. Not even close. We haven’t been in a long time if we ever were. Other civilized nations look at us and wonder openly what we’re doing to ourselves. The Canadians feel like they’re living in an apartment above a meth lab. Yeah, shit’s worse in Mexico. But how much longer will that be true? We are in the beginning of our second civil war. Doubt me? Pull your head out of the sand (or wherever you hid it) and look around. Our cities are burning. Innocent people are dying at the hands of violent anarchists and racist nutjobs. And a lot of those nutjobs wear badges, which makes things incalculably worse.

But again, why? Is there a single reason or a small set of reasons we can point to? How’d we become such a steaming, gooey mess?

It all goes back to willful ignorance on the part of The People and the twisted, perverse pride they feel in it. Stupid, irrational people do stupid, irrational things. Too many Americans refuse to consider anything that challenges their preconceptions. I see it all the time on social media. People just say the damndest things, pointing fingers of blame in all the wrong directions. Our thirst for knowledge is dying. Our curiosity is fading away. We no longer trust anything new.

It isn’t the only cause, but modern-day American Christianity bears a huge part of the blame for this. A well-educated population, properly taught in the basic sciences, is the bane of all religion. Why? Because the more one understands about how nature actually works, the less likely one is to attribute nature’s workings to some unseen god. Blind faith becomes undesirable and impractical in the face of real knowledge. Faith has never been a reliable path to truth. But it is an excellent way to be wrong about everything. Twentieth-Century visionary Carl Sagan said it best back in 1995…

“I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time — when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness… The dumbing down of America is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30 second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance.”
Carl Sagan, 1995

In the words of Issac Asimov…

“Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’ ” — Isaac Asimov

And from Doctor Neil deGrasse Tyson…

“One of the great tragedies of modern society is that we have politicians cherry-picking science in the interests of their own social, cultural, political and religious belief systems, and that’s the beginning of the end of an informed democracy.” — Neil deGrasse Tyson, 2015

Religious leaders are going to drastic lengths to keep Americans dumbed down and scientifically illiterate. The reasons are obvious. Churches can’t stay open if the faithful aren’t dropping cash in the offering plates. Religion overall is declining in America. Conversely, religious extremists – the comparatively tame Christian version – are on the rise. And like most any desperate person, many Christian pastors are resorting to outright lies to defend the faith. Yes, I said that. A lot of preachers are outright lying to their flocks. Some because they earnestly feel it’s necessary, others just to keep the pews full on Sunday.

What lies are they telling? Here are a few…

There is no evidence whatsoever for evolution.
They’ll say this because evolution conflicts with the biblical creation myth. The evidence in favor of evolution is overwhelming.
Evolution is “just a theory.”
Here they misrepresent how the word “theory” applies to science. In science, a theory represents the best explanation, based upon the evidence, of a known fact. And yes evolution is a known fact. There is no debate within the scientific community. There is merely mindless denial by the uninformed.
The world is only 6,000 to 10,000 years old.
No. All evidence points to our world being about 4.5 billion years old, with the universe being much older. However, this conflicts with the dubious math of James Ussher who originated the idea of a Young Earth from scriptures. So no matter the evidence against it, Young Earth Creationists will claim Ussher is correct.

Want proof of the lies? Watch this video in which atheist activist Aron Ra picks apart the lies of mega-church pastor Robert Morris. I don’t always agree with Aron (usually but not always) but he absolutely nails this schmuck on every point. Morris’s sermon is more cringe-worthy than a cheesy monster movie because of the lies he tells his congregants, including the three listed above.

And creationists are still trying to worm Bible study and forced prayer back into our public schools. It was just recently that the national and Tennessee chapters of the ACLU finally won a lawsuit against a school district in Smith County, TN for breaking the law in this regard. The school was passing out bibles, leading students in prayer, etc. That’s against the law, folks. But of course I’m sure the school officials would say something like, “We’re doing the Lord’s work.”

Creationists still want their dribble taught as an alternative to science, even though the SCOTUS has ruled against them. Why? Because their chances of winning converts is higher with young skulls full of mush than with mature, well-educated adults. Or you know, as well-educated as American students can be nowadays.

But it goes farther than this. There are those who’ll tell you that seeking knowledge for the sake of knowledge is a bad thing. In an article titled The Vice of Curiosity by Professor Hans Boersma, the author quotes the execrable words of St Augustine…

Ecclesiastes questions one of our most dearly held cultural assumptions: that curiosity is a good thing. Curiosity is a vice, not a virtue. 1 John 2:16 speaks of three kinds of worldly love: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. Saint Augustine, in his Confessions, identifies the second of these, the lust of the eyes, as curiosity. Why? Because seeing and knowing are one and the same. The African bishop laments our “lust for experimenting and knowing.” “To satisfy this diseased craving,” he comments, outrageous sights are staged in public shows. The same motive is at work when people study the operations of nature which lie beyond our grasp, when there is no advantage in knowing and the investigators simply desire knowledge for its own sake. . . . Even in religion itself the motive is seen when God is “tempted” by demands for “signs and wonders” (John 4:48) desired not for any salvific end but only for the thrill (Conf. 10.35.55).

Wait! What did he say? He said in part, “The same motive is at work when people study the operations of nature which lie beyond our grasp, when there is no advantage in knowing and the investigators simply desire knowledge for its own sake…”

In other words, we shouldn’t try to understand the workings of nature. You know, stuff like gravity, evolution, germs – that kind of stuff. We should simply accept whatever flatulence the church blows our way and never ask any questions. Yeah. And we should still be rubbing sticks together to make fire, too. But when we ask the “wrong” questions we run the risk of questioning biblical myth.

Had Edwin Hubble and Georges Lemaître not asked questions, we might have never learned about the Big Bang and Universal Expansion. It’s worth noting that Lemaître was a practicing Catholic. Not all religious people are as pig-headed as St. Augustine. Curiosity is at the heart of learning. It is curiosity that drives the sciences. It drives exploration. It is an extension of our natural intellect.

And just in case my liberal friends thought they’d skate by, oh hell no. I’ve got a few bones to pick with you as well. It is liberals who come up with ideas like participation trophies. Liberals think it’s just wrong for a kid to get a bad grade or lose a contest. Kids need to be challenged in school. They need to get their noses blooded (metaphorically speaking of course). They need to know how it feels to lose and to struggle. Why? Because all that is a part of life in the real world.

Kids need to fear and respect their teachers and the teachers need to earn that fear and respect. Corporal punishment? YES! Kick some sense into that young skinny ass when he / she screws up in a big way. Make them understand that there are real and immediate consequences to the choices they make. It’s a part of the learning process. It isn’t just about grades. It’s about being ready to be a part of a world that’s getting harder and harder to get ahead in. Discipline teaches self-discipline. It isn’t pleasant or pretty but it’s a necessary part of growing up.

Do we also coddle the kids? Of course. They’re kids, with often complex and confused emotions and desires. I remember Mr. Turner, my math teacher in 8th grade. That dude busted my ass on several occasions. But it was because I was acting up or running my mouth in class. But ya know what? I could also talk to the man about anything. He’d listen, he’d advise. He was a good guy and a great teacher. But it wasn’t his job to be my friend. His job was to help me become a productive member of society. Sometimes that meant counseling. Other times it meant that stick of wood across the seat of my pants. Whatever it took.

We’re seeing the worst of Sagan’s predictions coming true. Both the far left and far right are committing all manner of logical contortions to make science fit their agendas. With the left it’s political. They seem to think socialism is the answer to all our societal ills, and they’re bound and determined to prevent proper forest management (while the left coast burns to ash). With the religious right, it’s for the most part a misguided belief that the Bible holds all the answers to life’s problems. But it goes deeper than that. Many Christians, based on my own observations, have come to value belief itself over truth. Whether they realize it or not they’re promoting belief in their scriptures with little regard as to whether those scriptures are in any way accurate. They are afraid to question or doubt because that would be a crack in their faith. And faith is all they have. They hide from the world beneath a blanket of willful ignorance.

Is there a solution? Yes I think so. But it’ll be next to impossible. Both the far left and far right need to wake up and smell reality. The left needs to understand that it is good old American capitalism that provides them with the money and resources to go out make fools of themselves ranting against it. They need to realize that we don’t always get what we want, and cradle-to-grave government dependency will only make matters worse. The far right needs to learn the art of critical thinking. They need to see that the sky does not fall in when they ask uncomfortable questions about their religion. They need to stop hiding behind their Bibles and face the truth: It was written by a bunch of bigoted primitives who had no clue about the workings of nature. Their god, like all gods, is a creation of man.

Like I said, next to impossible. But somehow some way, the cycle of ignorance must be broken. America’s future depends on it. More than ever before we need citizens to have a good layman’s understanding of the basic sciences. People need to at least understand the obvious – evolution, germ theory, decent math and language skills, and an understanding of the need for proper environmental stewardship. And it would help if the damn politicians would quit reenforcing the ignorance of their constituents just to get votes.

Ignorance breeds hate. Look around. Watch the news. America is coming to resemble a third world nation. The ignorance of the masses and their willingness to follow (and vote for) those who pander to them will be the downfall of America unless normal people find a way to change it. But how? Damn if I know.

PS: Yes, “midgetry” is a real word. It’s in the urban dictionary. 😉

Sources and Related Reading

2 thoughts on “Mental Midgetry

  1. TheChattyIntrovert

    Education hasn’t been it’s own reward in some time. I’m losing patience with it and it’s part of the reason I finally walked away from it after wanting to be a teacher my whole life. I can’t stand the focus on grades and getting the degrees but the kids don’t know jack about subject matter or different ways of thinking. I help my next door neighbor’s kid get their work done when his mom’s not there (he’s definitely not self-driven). All he wants is video games and not to try. He had to watch and take notes from a math video (remote learning til next week) that had the teacher writing the problems and demonstrating them on the board. I told him to write down what she was writing on the board so he’d have them. He went full-contrarian on me: can’t write well (but you’re not gonna improve if you don’t write more often), can’t understand (put your phone away and stop playing that game while she talks), doesn’t know what to do (picking his toes and doing everything but actually watching the video). He wrote on the paper, but it was scattered crap just to shut me up. I was so glad he was nearly done and left, and sent a note to his mom about it. Haven’t seen him out of the house yet, guessing he’s grounded because he was wasting time. And when I tried to tell him he had to get his grades up, and doesn’t he want to just get it done, he seemed perfectly fine with just being held back for years and didn’t care if “no pass no play” meant he wasn’t gonna be in basketball in the end.

    He was doing what I am good at avoiding: waiting out my impatience and wanting me to just give him the answers and move on. I never budge on that. I just give them my witchiest smile and they cave after a few minutes of stalling… most of the time. That’s a lot of the students I’ve dealt with in tutoring the past decade. They don’t want to think, and writing is the worst. I’ve tried to get kids in the writing habit to improve their writing in learning camps (legibility was a big one). But when it came to “free writing”, just putting stuff on the page for 10 minutes, whatever came to mind, they couldn’t do it. I’d tell them to write about what happened in school that day. I’d say write down what they had for lunch. I said write a poem about their brother’s smelly feet–whatever! They just stared at me every time and insisted on a prompt… then when I invented one, they wanted another to do. They couldn’t just freely think and imagine. Or they’d write “I can’t think of anything to write about” for the entire 10 minutes, over and over, to call my bluff.

    I’d tell them all kinds of things, and no matter how much they whined about it, that was an aspect of the camp that I wouldn’t budge on. They had to do it every day that week. I got some stuff out of them in the end, but the shocked, frozen inability to free think just made me depressed for them. But states giving them those (insert every expletive you can think of) standardized tests and making that the end-all, be-all is killing education. It’s killing learning, and the only folks it makes happy are the test and textbook creators who rake in the cash (and politicians who approve them to get votes).

    Sorry so long–my blood pressure goes up when I think of the state of education and how helpless I feel trying to undo years of “gimme the answer” and come up short. We need free-thinking BADLY in this country, and not to fear new ideas and new ways of looking at things. That breeds intelligence, whether you go to college or not.

    Like

    Reply
    1. Alan Burkhart Post author

      Agree 100%. There isn’t much from “back in the day” that I miss, but we need a return to good old-fashion schooling. Kids are not being taught at home or at school about dealing with adversity. This isn’t true of all schools, but it’s true of far too many. Always good to hear from ya.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

Leave a Reply to Alan Burkhart Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.