Intractable ignorance

Large numbers of people are ignorant, even in the well-educated West. And it’s a serious problem.

Here’s an example. Chris Selley of Megapundit summarizes an Ottawa Citizen column by John Robson:

John Robson … is sick of ignorant, selfish people who demand antibiotics for non-biotic illnesses, the doctors who indulge them, and genuinely sick people who don’t follow the directions their doctors and pharmacists helpfully provide — all of which, of course, contributes to antibiotic resistance. “I don’t want to die of some wretched superbug because people were too lazy or insolent to follow simple directions on a bottle, or had a misplaced sense of entitlement that the universe owed them a cure for the common cold,” he writes. We couldn’t agree more.

I agree, too, but what’s the fix for this problem? The misuse of antibiotics, and its connection to superbugs, has been widely discussed in the media. Every doctor I’ve ever seen has emphasized the importance of taking all the antibiotics in the bottle, even if I start to feel better part way through the prescription. Ditto for the pharmacists who dispense the medicine.

The public’s ignorance is intractable. I read the other day that 25% of Americans, including many Democrat supporters, continue to believe that Barack Obama is a Muslim. How far do you have to have your head up your ass to believe that, this far into the process, given how much coverage Obama’s candidacy has received? Similarly for the widespread view that Saddam Hussein actually did have weapons of mass destruction, etc., etc.

If secularism is a kind of religion, education is supposed to function as the means of salvation. This is an easy way to define and compare religions. Every religion proposes (a) a diagnosis of why there is so much misery in the world and (b) a way of salvation. For example, Christians claim that sin is the ultimate source of misery and atonement is the means to set things right. Secularists substitute ignorance for sin and education for atonement.

But (as in every other religion) the secularist’s proposed means of salvation demonstrably fails to deliver the goods. OK, more education is effective to a point. But beyond that point, the iron law of diminishing returns takes hold. There is a reservoir of profound ignorance among the public that more education won’t drain.

I don’t have a better alternative to propose. But if the question is, Will the informed, rational people of the world one day be destroyed by events set in motion by other people’s ignorance?, the answer is You betcha!

I don’t think there’s much point even writing about it. I’m sorry I wasted your time with this blog post. Blame it on Robson and Selley, who sent me off on this snipe hunt.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Bill
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 08:52:11

    Oh My God How true. “There is a reservoir of profound ignorance among the public that more education won’t drain.” I work with supposedly educated people and I have heard people discuss the idea that Obama is a Muslim in Christian wool. Just how out of touch do you have to be to believe this?

    Reply

  2. JewishAtheist
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 12:49:05

    If secularism is a kind of religion, education is supposed to function as the means of salvation. Secularists substitute ignorance for sin and education for atonement.

    That’s true for only a subset of secularists. Maybe a small subset. I don’t subscribe to that “religion” myself.

    Reply

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