"Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and consciencious stupidity." -Martin Luther King, Jr.
Within the past 24 hours, I have interacted with not one but TWO people who say they do not believe that human activity is responsible for causing global warming. Only one of them was overtly hostile to the idea, spouting the old, discredited line that we are simply in a normal "cycle," and the opinion of the scientific community be damned (this is someone who works as a disability analyst, mind you-her primary credential for being so cocksure of herself on this issue is apparently that she can read and parrot dated right wing propaganda.) The other one stated that since "not everyone agreed" with the IPCC report-and gave me one or two names of dissenters-he thought the facts were "cherry picked" to support the argument that we were the cause of global warming (this is a guy who has no use for George Bush so I feel a little more charitable towards him. However, he is still a moron.)
Since Christmas, I have interacted with someone who told me he believes there were WMDs in Iraq. He seemed a little surprised when I told him that even those cretins at the White House admitted that there were no WMDs. Unlike my ignorant but literate acquaintance in the first example, I'm not sure he even knew where to get information...
I've already posted the example of the person who thought that stem cell research was "killing babies."
Although I've never personally interacted with her-thank God-Laura Bush thinks that there's only one bomb a day going off in Iraq. She also thinks Condoleezza Rice can't be president because she's a single only child. The only remark in the world that could make me defend Condoleezza Rice...of course she can be president! What does being single have to do with anything? She can't be president because she's a lying fuck, but not because she's single!!!
What in God's name makes people so stupid? Everytime I was exposed to one of these clearly incorrect statements-humans don't cause global warming, Saddam had WMDs, stem cells are pre-born children-I felt like I had lost 5 points off my IQ. Is it catching?
I'm not talking about ideology here. You don't have to be an intellectual midget in order to be a conservative-in fact, to come up with a lot of their lies and spin requires one be cognitively functional at a pretty high level (I actually tend to agree with Ann Coulter's statement that the most intelligent people are either liberal or conservative). I'm talking about ongoing belief in a position that has been thoroughly discredited, as reflected in the old Will Rogers saying: "It's not what he doesn't know that scares me. It's what he knows for certain that just ain't so." It usually isn't because the person espousing the discredited belief is completely ignorant of the facts (although sometimes that is the case, as is possible with the guy who was so sure about the WMDs). Where does it come from?
I don't know. Is it conceit? That only you can figure out the truth, despite the evidence and the more reasonable beliefs of those around you? This seems a likely culprit in the case of the stupid global warming woman and the stupid stem cell poster.
Is it laziness? Simply too much work to change your opinion about something, in spite of overwheming evidence that you are wrong? In the case of the stupid global warming woman, I doubt this, considering the ferocity with which she delivered the discredited anti-global warming argument. But in the case of the WMD guy, that may be true.
Sunk cost bias? Have these folks devoted so much time and energy into this irrational and stupid belief that nothing short of a nuclear explosion will shake them from it? Again, it seems to fit the global-warming and stem cell stupid people, and possibly the less hostile but equally stupid global-warming guy. I'm sure the WMD believer had invested a lot in his belief as well, but it just didn't seem like it was a personal matter to him, more of an uninformed matter.
Religion? Does the belief in something in which there is absolutely no basis of evidence of any kind make you inherently stupid? Sam Harris seems to think so, but I disagree, although I don't think it makes you any smarter. But religion seems to be one of those rare things that can be compartmentalized in terms of how stupid it makes a person. Anyway, I only know the religion of two of the stupid people above, and one of them is Laura Bush.
Or do they just think the rest of us are morons?
So, what do we do about stupid people? Do we try to talk to them about why they hold the ideas they do, as if we thought they could learn something? Do we prohibit them from smoking? From scaring small children? Do we ask them to colonize so they don't give stupid to the rest of us?
It's something to ponder as I sit down to watch my first Red Sox game in five months, a spring training affair in Florida...I'm stupid, I know, for living in an area where we have winter six months out of the year, when I know there's warmer places elsewhere.