Monday, July 20, 2015

Trapped On An Ancient Starship

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/wired-success/201407/anti-intellectualism-and-the-dumbing-down-america

There is a growing and disturbing trend of anti-intellectual elitism in American culture. It’s the dismissal of science, the arts, and humanities and their replacement by entertainment, self-righteousness, ignorance, and deliberate gullibility.
The  linked article has spotted a problem -- they think. People are getting dumber -- but compared to what? Some list of "facts" that they feel are important? But WHY do they "feel" that those particular facts are important?

What is REALLY disturbing is that they never even mentioned Philosophy, Literature or Religion. If you want to study knowledge, it gets kinda scary when somebody trying to be judge and jury on intellectual pursuits fails to drag out the $5 word "epistemology"!

In order to decide if people are "dumber", you need some standard to compare to. You need to understand something about what it would mean to be "knowledgeable" -- or even WISE!

"God and Man at Yale", "The Closing of the American Mind", "A Conflict of Visions", "Ideas Have Consequences"  are great set of books to understand the basic shape of the problem. I did a shorthand version here linked to a GREAT article if you want to dig a slight bit deeper.

Philosophy was the Queen of the Academy -- along with Literature and Religion. Meaning, values, a sense of "being a part of something important" and LASTING -- (say "Western civilization", "Christianity", "America" -- the old one, with a Constitution)

Our technical focus is a major part of this problem -- it gives us "stuff". Some of it useful and good, but much of it distracting and alienating. It also has a giant bias toward the idea that the latest hootch to drip from the still of "knowledge" is better than the 20 - 30 or 1000 year old "Scotch of Wisdom". If the latest is always greatest, then the past is useless -- so our lives are inherently useless going forward except for whatever personal pleasure we can have in our short stay. The brighter more technically advanced future always makes the lives of the poor dwellers in the present to be pitied.

The core problem is the doctrine of "progressivism" is that it is the inherent enemy of meaning. Without meaning there is no way to choose what is "the good". When man has no concept of what is of ultimate value there can be no "body of knowledge" to be achieved to be an "educated person". (how could anyone pick what was of value?)

It is all equally valued atomized "facts" -- and even the very concept of "truth" has become largely discounted in many "intellectual" quarters. "Everyone has their slice" -- but nobody knows what it is a slice OF. What it all degenerates into is POWER -- might becomes right. The article degenerates into pure politics masquerading as "intelligence".

74% of Republicans in the U.S. Senate and 53% in the House of Representatives deny the validity of climate change despite the findings of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and every other significant scientific organization in the world;
If you do science, even if 100% of all organizations domestic or interstellar claim that "Climate Change" is gospel deduced from unicorn farts, if the earth doesn't warm as they predict (and it hasn't so far), they are STILL wrong! An attempt to claim that it is somehow "Republicans" that are "stupid" for failing to read the unicorn farts is a sure sign of a strong need to look up epistemology -- especially the "scientific method" part!

As Freeman Dyson put it so well:

The most questionable of these beliefs is the notion that the science of climate change is settled and understood. The biggest of all climate changes have been the ice ages, which have covered half of North America and Europe with kilometer-thick sheets of ice. Ice ages happened repeatedly in the past, and we are about due for another one to start. A new ice age would be a disaster far greater than anything we have to fear from climate warming. There are many theories of ice ages, but no real understanding. So long as we do not understand ice ages, we do not understand climate change.
If you want to go look at what we know about the history of the earths climate, go look at the cycles of the previous 500K years and then explain to Freeman and I how that happened, that would be a good start.

I often feel like Spock (sorry Spock -- FIGURATIVELY, I know you don't "feel"!) on one of those old Star Treks where they come upon the planet or ship which "the old ones" built, but the current residents have no concept of how it operates. Western civilization was built by "the old ones", and well over 90% of even highly educated moderns have no clue of why it once operated successfully and is now it is falling apart.

As the article notes -- the decline is becoming more and more obvious and precipitous, but the knowledge of how we rose and why we are falling as a civilization is nearly lost.  The writers of the article assume "decline" to mean "doesn't meet their standard", but they have no basis for that standard beyond "popularity" -- which is not a standard of science, and certainly not of wisdom, religion or philosophy. 

Oh -- and mixing political hackery with pseudo intellectualism makes for a rather unsavory stew.

I think Kirk and Spock usually blow up the computer at this point.




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