Monday, 21 October 2013

Ignorance 2 - I Can't Hear You - La La La La La

I love it when a blog gets discussed. Yesterday's was discussed twice, in a way, because I also posted this:

Which led to a great discussion, read it if you haven't already.

Then this morning, I stumbled across this:

And that's the other side of the story. 

We did talk about fear, and loss - loss of dearly held beliefs. 

But if you know, I mean YOU KNOW you are wrong, and you stick to that script anyway, I think pride has to be involved too. 

I had a discussion (we won't call it a debate, debate has all participants following certain rules) on a friend's wall yesterday, which began on the topic of teaching "Intelligent Design" alongside science in public schools. My position on this is no secret. I do not object to it being taught, but it must be taught in a class called Mythology, and all other creation myths must be given equal time. 

I do not object to it being taught any more than I object to Greek Mythology being taught, because - I contend - they are equivalent. They are both hugely important mythologies, if for no other reason than the fact that they inspired literature, art, and many aspects of civilization. But we don't teach Greek mythology alongside science, it simply isn't appropriate. It isn't science. 

I offered a compromise. Allow it to be taught in a class called "Christianity" but pay. Pay for the textbooks, the tuition, and the classroom rental. It would be a great way to see just how much parents really do want this taught. Or alternatively, teach your dearly held mythology at home or in church. 

"Intelligent Design" is not science. If it is your beliefs, that's fine. You are allowed to believe anything you want. But there are two critical things to remember:

1) You have no business inflicting those beliefs on non-believers. A public school is for all children. That will include other Christians who are not literalists, children from other religions (which have their own sacred myths, including creation myths), children from religions who don't teach creation myths, children with no religion, and a whole whack of children who need to know the current, mainstream version of cosmology in order to succeed in a scientific career, regardless of the beliefs of their family.

2) If it is vitally important to you that your children be fed mythology instead of science, there are other education options, such as private schools, home-schooling, and classes at your church. Unfortunately you do have a right to feed your children this fiction, and despite my disapproval, I actually uphold your right to do so. But not on the public purse. I don't care if 99% of local residents who pay those taxes support you (not that I believe that for a moment), that 1% who don't would then be forced to pay for their own children to be educated against their beliefs. Not acceptable.

But all of this is actually by the by.

The important thing here was what happened during the discussion. The person arguing against me, who we'll just call ID, on two occasions specifically argued against things I hadn't said.

This happens every time one of these discussions comes up. Without fail. This is why it wasn't a debate, it was just an argument. It remained polite, which is remarkable, but I could object to being misrepresented. I am in fact so used to that I do a countdown in my head...."any minute now he'll say X...5 - 4 - 3 - 2 -1...there he goes."

Assumptions. Regular as clockwork. WHY? Because their argument is not their own. It's memorized, like a telephone customer service agent's script. If I throw in a fact that messes with their assumptions, they are lost.

This does not only apply to the religion/science argument, obviously. It is very prevalent in political discussions, and quite often in general conversations too.

It leads to people pouting, and saying "Well, that's what I believe anyway." Or the equivalent thereof.

They then claim to be picked on.

Their argument is defeated, but they cannot concede that they were wrong, or mistaken, or ignorant. You are picking on them. With facts. This is pride.

Here's an example, no religion or politics involved.

My son has a cold. My neighbours says I should take him to a doctor. I say that's pointless, doctors can't do anything for colds. My neighbour says I could ask for an antibiotic. I say that would be a waste of money as antibiotics don't work on colds. She says they work on hers. I say this isn't possible, because colds are viruses, and antibiotics kill bacteria. She pouts, looks hurt, and repeats "Well, it worked for me." And now she's off in a huff. That's hurt pride, right there.

She has been corrected. Well, that's pretty uncomfortable. But a wise person would say "OK, I didn't know that. Thanks. I'll remember that." Or maybe she'd be less easily convinced and say "Oh, I must ask my doctor about that," which is fine. Go to an expert, yes. No problem.

This is how we judge people, intellectually, when it comes down to it. Not by the number of degrees they have. Not by their position of responsibility. Definitely not by age. But by their ability to recognize that new information has come along, and requires that they re-think their view.

Of course it's not always cut as clear-cut as my example. In some issues even the experts disagree and that's fine. The solution there is to acknowledge that it's not finalized, that there's more than one theory. This necessarily applies to economics for example. If experts agreed on that, there would never be any financial issues, but there are many variables, so the wise person postulates with that in mind. But first they do some research.

They don't guess.

They don't just parrot what they saw on TV.

If they know nothing about economics at that level, there is no shame in that - but spouting off about it as if they do know, makes them look foolish.

Do you want to look foolish? Admitting you don't know can make you look far wiser than pretending you do know, when you don't. When stuck, say nothing. Avoid the discussion. know....ask?

That's what children do, that's how they learn.

Some of the wisest people I've ever known had a bad start. Indoctrinated into literalist/fundamentalist religions, and/or poorly educated, etc etc. Their "why" questions were ignored, or they may even have been punished for them. They grew up effectively very ignorant. But they had a spark inside them that questioned, and when free to ask, as adults, they did. People who grew up with racist parents, but knew instinctively it was wrong. People who grew up in a strict patriarchal culture, who recognized the bigotry there. People who had been taught to discriminate and hate in many and various ways, but escaped that mindset. It can be done.

It takes a choice, and I believe it is the choice to do what is right over what is easy. It is a choice to risk being ostracized by those around you who still stick to the script. That's very hard, because that can lead to being out on your own away from all that is familiar.

But you know, that's how we got here, where we are today. If the first tribesman had not made the choice to be friendly to that other tribe, to accept their differences, to think outside the box, and not just do everything the way the tribe had always done it, we would still be running around with spears.

I am not exaggerating. Modern society exists because of those people who had the courage to dare to be different. So, yes, I do think they are "better" than the cowards who resisted. I certainly respect those who called for restraint, not too many changes all at once, not change for the sake of change, for a little caution. That's a good balance.

I have no respect for those who wished to keep the status quo just for their own comfort, and I openly condemn those who try to go backwards.


  1. It has been my experience that when I pause to think about something while in a argument-type conversation, that the other person mistakes this for not understanding what they said and they repeat their position even louder (because dummies are deaf, too.)

    1. Of course, because they don't bother with pausing to think.

  2. Brava! Yes yes yes! As I said yesterday, it is interesting to me that people who strictly adhere to their scripts, and who are filled with pride/ ego have troubles understanding those who dont make assumptions, who ask questions and attempt to learn rather than think that they know all there is to know, and assume that the freethinkers are somehow deficient. Joke's on them, in the end, perhaps. But it matters not. What matters is that we continue to ad lib rather than stick to the scripts. Its all good.

    1. hey nice post meh, You are one of the best writers I've seen of recent. I love your style of blogging here. this post reminds me of an equally interesting post that I read some time ago on Daniel Uyi's blog: Solving Big Problems .
      keep up the good work friend. I will be back to read more of your posts.


      (I'm not deleting it on purpose, I want you all to memorize the spammers name)

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