Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Misology is the fear or hatred of knowledge, rational thought and argumentation. Agnotology is the cultural production of ignorance. Both problems seem to be getting worse. They contribute to creating a society of people who are less and less able to think for themselves, solve problems, and understand reality. Two of the leading forces behind the cultural creation of ignorance today are religious fundamentalists and corporations. The ignorance created by these institutions contribute to and exacerbate the misology that already exists in our society by mystifying facts, sowing doubt and confusion, and drawing into question the validity and authority of those who demonstrate quality rational thought.
Perhaps the most obvious example of the fundamentalist contribution to social ignorance and mistrust of science can be seen in the numerous lawsuits and publications promoting the teaching of creationism or intelligent design in public schools and the attempts to portray evolution as a flawed “theory” (read “opinion”) that has not yet been proven. While it is primarily religious institutions that have filed the lawsuits, done the community organizing and funded these efforts, the media has contributed to the problem in many cases by portraying the conflict as a controversy between opposing, but equally valid world views, rather than an attempt by religious fundamentalists to impose nonscientific, irrational, spiritually-based ideas on public school science classes. One result is that many Americans believe that the theory of evolution is just an opinion and that it is unproven. Thus, the mystification has succeded.
It doesn’t help that evolution is a complex theory that is not easy to understand. In a misologistic society, few people have the patience and perseverance to struggle with it and really try to understand it. As a result, many people try to oversimplify the theory with disastrous effects. One example is the misconception that people “came from monkeys.” If one believes this misconception, it is not much of a stretch to believe that we are the product of some sort of miscegenation or bestiality between proto-humans and monkeys, an idea that is as untrue as it is racist and that creates a visceral revulsion so strong in some that they won’t even listen to the facts or attempt to understand the theory. Thus, the cultural creation of ignorance, in this case, contributes to or causes a fear of scientific thought.
Perhaps the most well documented example of the corporate contribution to creating ignorance is the way in which the tobacco companies have spent billions of dollars to fund research that downplays the dangers of their products, discredits legitimate research that calls into question the safety of their products, and generally sows doubt and confusion about the facts. Oil and coal companies have used similar tactics to call into question the seriousnous of global warming and the role played by the consumption of fossil fuels in exacerbating the problem.
sadly, philip unwittingly did a decent self-diagnosis:
"We're all much to stupid for our own good and therefore need someone of your obviously superior intellect to make the everyday decisions that go along with being a free and autonomous individual, fully capable of critical and rational thinking."
"I just can't seem to take a critical look at both sides of an issue/argument. I have my preconceived ideas and I'm quite capable of finding plenty of half truths and pseudo-science to back up my prejudices."
The subconscious often sends us these little messages and I think we ignore them to our peril. I think in his first revelation I would have put in more of a "teach a man to fish" angle, but I will assume phil's subconscious knows him well, and I don't.
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If you have ever taken a drag from a cigarette but then have to wait for the science to tell you it’s bad, you are truly a denier.