One night I found myself particularly angry with the evangelicals and posted a question to the forums at RichardDawkins.net asking if anyone had any ideas on what one can do to fight ignorance. The responses are worth reading. It also inspired a rant, which is posted below.
I am not sure what I can do. As far as arguing with theists online – I’ve found that to be a complete waste of my time – it is fundamentally impossible to argue with someone who has abandoned reason when forming their ideas.
I’m no good with kids, but I agree that in the schools is where this battle will ultimately be fought. The cure for ignorance is education. I don’t believe however that all education happens in schools. Somehow our culture has developed into one of tolerance – we are, as a nation, complacent when it comes to ignorance.
The United States should be turning out the best and the brightest – but somehow we’ve managed to acquire a president who can’t churn out one logical argument to save his life.
In the end it isn’t religion I wish to fight. I don’t want to fight at all. What I want to do is encourage; I want to encourage a culture of critical thinking.
I look to a day when Plato replaces the Bible as the means to an informed and fulfilled existence.
I asked my original question to a friend of mine, who suggested that I get involved in local politics – to make sure that the voice of reason is never left out of any debate. I think I just might do that.
I heard an interview on NPR recently with Nancy Pelosi’s daughter Alexandra (a documentary film maker) in which Alexandra expressed admiration for Evangelicals because they don’t just believe something – they take action. From standing on a street corner handing out flyers, to going door to door, to educational events held all over the country – the evangelicals are mobilizing.
“What a difference we could make,” I thought, “if we could organize like that and be as active in the communities.” But then I realized that our position is not as simple as that. The evangelicals talk about issues like evolution/creation as if it is a perfectly fine thing to debate, a battle of two valid ideas. Sometimes I feel like I’m arguing with someone who is trying to convince me that 2 + 2 = 36. Why aren’t we out on the street corners? Because we shouldn’t have to be. Because we wouldn’t go out to pass out flyers with 2+2=4 written on them.
The creationists pick and choose which science to use as evidence for their beliefs, and which science to discard. Because of the inclusive, cumulative nature of science all new evidence modifies the working theories developed by the previous evidence. This nature means that you can’t pick and choose. You can’t ignore evidence that doesn’t fit your theory. Therefore if a creationist does not accept evolution, they can not accept any scientific theory because they have abandoned the most fundamental aspect of science – its inclusive nature.
It is only natural that we defend science when it is attacked – but I’m starting to feel that (in the United States at least) we are nearing the critical line. This line represents the point at which we must go on the offensive to survive. Our defenses are holding, but we will constantly be under attack if we do not eradicate the enemy entirely.
This eradication will be slow – it can only be done via a cultural shift – one that moves us away from accepting without reasoning. Our tremendous ability to reason is perhaps our greatest attribute – it is what separates us from the animals. Perhaps it is no coincidence, then, that a popular religious movement today refers to their god as a shepherd, and themselves as sheep.
My apologies for the rant – I guess I’m just wishing for this cultural movement to move as fast as it can – we shouldn’t have to worry about the future of reason.
Anyone out there have any great ideas on how to take the offensive?