I used to frequent a deli located near a roadside, commuter bus stop. Once, while idly waiting for my order, I thumbed an accordion bus schedule taken from a holder by the register. The cashier looked over at me and said she hoped I wouldn’t ask her when the next bus was, as she had never been able to understand those darn things. I was surprised she didn’t know how to read a schedule. Disappointed that she didn’t seem interested in learning. And gobsmacked that she seemed proud of the fact.

Her lack of knowledge and enterprise will do little damage to the Republic. Unfortunately, when you combine her ignorance with that of so many others, we end up with people in charge who know little. And worse, who don’t know that they don’t know much. We elect politicians who debate and vote on health care economics, job creation, climate science, educational philosophy and even who to bomb and when – with nothing in their education or experience to suggest they are more qualified to do so than your hairdresser.

Voters celebrate and reward the ‘common sense’ and ‘fresh thinking’ of political neophytes – although these newbies give little evidence of either sense or thinking. I do not know why we reward ignorance in politics. How many people value those qualities in their doctor or mechanic?

Let’s realize this though. Polls show that the less educated tend to vote conservative. And these folk embrace their ignorance by coloring knowledge as somehow ‘elitist’. However, liberals are equally capable of intellectual folly. How else to explain homeopathy and a slavish addiction to nutritional supplements? And worst of all, the appalling anti-vaxxers. It is one thing to damage your own kids, but putting other kids at risk – that’s criminally selfish.

But back to politics. One mistake the voter makes is to assume expertise based on a seeming link between a person’s work and the larger subject. Let me give you an example. In 201o, an ophthalmologist, Nan Hayworth, won a congressional seat in New York. Her campaign stressed that her medical background gave her an expertise in delivering health care. A red-hot subject at the time because, while the ACA had been enacted, the provisions had yet to take effect.

Superficially, her claim made sense. But there is no particular reason why a doctor should be an expert on healthcare delivery and economics. Any more than an actor would necessarily be a good theater manager. And a lot of restaurants fail because they are opened by people who know how to cook, but not much else.

Many congressional hopefuls boast of the smarts they picked up running and owning businesses. But business is not economics. Seducing people into putting his name on their hotel – or running golf courses – has not given Donald Trump the expertise to run an economy. Much less direct America in a complex world.

But the voters keep returning to that poisoned well because they don’t know what to look for in a candidate. They are comforted by confidence – can you imagine a candidate admitting he wasn’t an expert on something? And reward those who tell them what they want to hear more than they those who say what they need to know.

That’s how people end up thinking that undocumented aliens are criminals, stealing jobs from Americans, and living on welfare. That the solution to crime and unemployment is an expensive and pointless border wall. That tax cuts for the rich gives the not-rich more money. That guns make homes safer. That science is a matter of opinion. And that the Earth is 6,000 years old.

Which brings us to religion – the great promoter of ignorance in American life.

There are plenty of smart people who believe in God. The founders generally did. But they don’t let their faith stand in the way of the facts. Despite some difficulties with Galileo over the arrangement of the heavens, the Catholic Church has signed off on science. A Catholic priest, Georges Lemaître, proposed the ‘Big Bang’ hypothesis. And the Church even accepts the Theory of Evolution.

This is incomprehensible to the American evangelical who thinks that a scientific theory is something you thought up down the pub, over beers.

Fundamentalist religion is popular with those who have no wish to toil in the vineyards of thinking. They can get all they need to know – for a modest donation. With the added benefit that it is certified authentic by the divine authority, as the man passing the plate assures them.

If blind ignorance ended at evolution-denial I suppose we could muddle through. But once you deny one science you seem to get in the habit. And that is where the thoughtful suffer at the hands of the thoughtless.

Take global warming. It is a lung-cancer diagnosis. There may be some debate about the course of the disease and when you will die. But there is no doubt it is real and that smoking caused it. And, to beat the analogy to death, the first thing you do when diagnosed is QUIT SMOKING.

But what is our President doing? Declaring an end to the ‘war on coal’. And his zealots in the cheap seats go crazy. But how will they feel when, as the coal barons pollute for profit, the jobless coal miners remain jobless. No doubt they will blame Mexicans and Democrats.

And the cynics will smile as the plutocrats will go on to the next thing – and the men of God will weigh their gold.






Really? – 2.4.17.

February 4, 2017

Trump says that Dodd-Frank has to be repealed because his friends can’t get loans. Two thoughts: One, there’s plenty of cash available for well-rated businesses. Two, Trump doesn’t have any friends. Fox’s Jesse Watters says,“It’s my opinion that liberals on college campuses now resemble Islamist mobs”. Other conservatives scorn college liberals as ‘safe space’ seeking ‘snowflakes’. They should […]

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Religion Poisons Everything. Even Atheism.

December 29, 2016

The is nothing more annoying than a debate between an atheist and a true believer. I’m an atheist, and I can feel within myself the smug and poisonous intellectual superiority of being a ‘critical thinker’: a dispassionate observer of the world. Not for me the magic of superstition, the prison of rote, the mindless surrender of intellect […]

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The Bible, a Poor Use of Technology.

December 15, 2016

“The Bible has noble poetry in it… and some good morals and a wealth of obscenity, and upwards of a thousand lies.” ― Mark Twain The base nature of the human race is revealed by how it uses its technology. It is a well-acknowledged truth that every technological advance is judged in part by its […]

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Is Religion a Force for Evil?

December 11, 2016

Bible thumpers claim that without God there is no morality. Atheists argue that religion is a perversion that inspires its adherents to evil deeds. Is either side right? No. There are good people, and there are bad people. Some of whom are religious and some of whom are not. The only difference is that bad religious folk add […]

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Creation Science Is an Oxymoron

December 7, 2016

“Religion is a culture of faith; science is a culture of doubt.” ― Richard Feynman Biblical creationists believe that the Bible is the inerrant word of God. And as such proves that God created man and all flora and fauna in their current form. What an exercise in magical thinking. However, it is not my […]

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Really? 11.29.16 – Fundamentalism Is a Cancer in America.

November 29, 2016

A good Christian. This election has shown so many self-declared Christians to be completely devoid of any Christian spirit. Luckily, there are still Christians in America who act according to Jesus’ precepts. Take Colby Martin. He was a young star of the conservative evangelical church. And like many, he studied the Bible. However, he came to realize that […]

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Evangelicals Elect an Unholy Man.

November 11, 2016

When I was a boy, I went to schools that were unmistakably Christian. As it was in England, where parents think their children are vaguely criminal and too rambunctious to have underfoot, I was sent away to a low-security detention facility at the age of eight. A place called, in British private educational parlance, a ‘boarding school’. The authorities […]

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The ‘War on Halloween’ & Some Other Evangelical Nonsense.

October 31, 2016

Pat Robertson’s ‘War on Halloween’. Every holiday season it’s the same. First ‘Christians’ claim there is a ‘War on Christmas’ – and then they mount a ‘War on Halloween’. In that conflict, there is no more dauntless warrior than the venerable Pat Robertson. His biography is stained with failure, yet he clings to the absurdity that trick or […]

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