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Evolution vs. Stupidism

Posted by Robert G. PIelke on November 12, 2012 at 1:05 PM

We seem now to be engaged in a great civil struggle, testing whether this movement or that movement – so conceived – can long endure.

Just as the above referenced contest of the mid nineteenth century pitted one just cause against a patently unjust cause, so also are we now in the midst of a struggle between science and stupidism. Lest ye think that I used this latter term lightly, let me reassure you: I intend it quite laterally. So I suppose I should begin with a few definitions.

First, let’s be clear about “science.” It’s not a set of beliefs or theories; it’s a procedure, a way of acquiring information about our universe. It’s an empirical procedure dedicated to developing hypotheses about reality and testing them – allowing the evidence to “speak for itself,” so to speak. No current empirical description is sacrosanct. Everything is subject to a constant critical engagement, and thus subject to revision or abandonment.

Now, let’s talk about “evolution.” Here is where a careful distinction has to be made between the general, abstract theory of evolution proper and various, specific hypotheses about how evolution actually works. One such, historically significant “theory” is “Darwin’s.” Another one was developed by a guy named Alfred Wallace [a theist, by the way]. Both theories have been fundamentally critiqued and either thoroughly revised [Darwin – especially after Gregor Mendel’s genetic theory helped explain the process more fully] or abandoned [Wallace]. No one – let me emphasize that – no one any longer questions the general theory of evolution. Yes, I mean no one!! The specific hypothetical theories, of course, are always being questioned, by science, and always will be.

What about “stupidity?” Good question....glad you asked. I’ll propose the following as a working definition, but I think it’s a pretty good one. “Stupidity” is simply the refusal to accept one’s ignorance when it is perfectly easy and rational to do so. Keep in mind that “being ignorant” is not a bad think. In fact we are all “ignorant” – about virtually everything. There are many things we don’t know – and know we don’t know! We are, in other words, aware of our ignorance. Before Copernicus, most people were genuinely unaware of the fact that the sun was the center of the solar system, and most of them had no way of knowing...that they didn’t know. They were ignorant...with no way to know that they were ignorant. When Galileo Galilei [yes, that’s his full name, in case you were ignorant of this!] made the world aware of the fact that Copernicus was right, they then became aware of their ignorance – gradually, of course, since the Roman Catholic Church had his books burned and had him imprisoned]. But, and here’s the telling point: the Papacy knew Galileo was right! Yet they persisted in “believing” that the earth was at the center of the universe. This persistence...the refusal to accept their a paradigm of “stupidity.” “teach” others to believe something to be true, when you know it to be untrue…is to practice “stupidism.”

So, are there people who “believe” in the “Creationist” account of human origins, when they fully well know it not to be true? Of course there are!! A prime example of this is the people who invented the Creationist-inspired “Dinosaur Adventure Land” in Pensacola, Florida, where dinosaurs supposedly frolicked with humans. [Remember, according to creationism, the world is only about 6000 years old [a la Bishop Ussher]. Naturally [dare I use this word!?] they would protest the authenticity of their beliefs, but all this means is that they may have talked themselves into believing it. Blaise Pascal advised Christians in the 17th century to undertake this very kind of self-deception....just in case! Can they know the truth? Of course! Do they choose to ignore their ignorance? Obviously!

Hence, we have a struggle in our time between the general notion of evolution and stupidism! What can be done about this, you ask. Another good question. Most important, it is for us, the “ignorant,” to be dedicated to the unfinished work which Darin and Mendel have so nobly advanced, the cause of science, and to the great task remaining before us – to rid humanity of stupidism.


Categories: Politics

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