On the subjectivity of truth: part 3 of 3
So much for hand-wringing and pointed examples. The scary part? Regardless of the subject matter, to the terminally committed, beliefs that are sufficiently widespread and charged with enough demagoguery do indeed take on the relevance, importance, and power of truth. This might not matter if elected officials were above this grisly trend, but if anything they are especially susceptible, at least under the catastrophically backward ethos of the Bush administration. A superb example is Cheri Yecke, Florida's brand-new K-through-12 education chancellor and an established shitwit who was ousted from a similar post in Minnesota, allegedly owing to a Democratic vendetta. Yecke, the latest in a long line of rowdily inept politicos from afar -- such as the now-exiled Jerry Regier -- who have staggered into the warm, welcoming arms of Florida Gov. Jebediah Bush, exemplifies the sort of state-sanctioned backwardness that has become de rigueur in recent years.
Yecke is a creationist who claims that her personal beliefs will not influence her policy decisions in Florida. Leaving aside the fact that a creationist is indisputably unfit for the post Yecke now holds, she's left a clear trail of creationist machinations in her wake. If it's not her personal beliefs that have driven her attempts to soak all children in her bailiwick in creationist bullshit, then what? A thoughtful examination of the evidence? Accepted NCSE standards? Yecke clearly has no problem substituting beliefs for facts, and in her case such tomfuckery carries dire implications for an already benighted state.
Now this is really disappointing to me. It doesn't bother me that people believe in insensible, contradictory things if it makes them feel better and doesn't interfere in the lives of others. However, there's no such thing as a growing movement that keeps its collective idiocy to itself. And the more their solecistic chattering peppers airwaves, newspapers and the Internet, the more validity their quests appear to hold and the louder they squawk.
The motives of the belligerently incorrect are clear, but has this sort of thing always been so, well, okay? Is is a matter of the blogosphere giving voice to misguided opinions formerly limited to inane reveries and conversations with one or two kindred spirits? Is there a solution?
Eliminating bad beliefs would be helpful, but this is not feasible; it's not difficult to suggest reasons for why they persist, so a better strategy is to simply treat them with all the "respect" (something their proponents claim, a priori, such befuddled histrionics require) they've earned. That is, mock them to the edge of the earth. No amount of iterating and re-iterating how howlingly wombat-shit-stupid these ideas are is too much. If this means making an otherwise "good person" not capable of viewing the world sensibly feel bad, tough shit. A rabid dog isn't morally responsible for its destructive behavior either, but if it attacks you, you're still obligated to beat it down.
At its core this issue is really very simple. I have no quarrel with Christians, fat people or joggers, or, for that matter, people who enjoy wanking to photos of syphilitic cartoon mules with strong NRA ties. But it rankled me when people squander their brains at the clear expense of the general ebb and flow of society. There's enough calamity in the world without mixing in bullshit that cannot fairly be called, as some would have it, a "healthy exchange of ideas." If your Christianity has you yelping inanely about what I should do with my penis, uterus, or petri dish and rushing to the courts in an effort to ensure that your archaic, senseless views are imposed upon others, then I'll tell you you're diseased and if I discover your blog I'll litter it with incendiary rhetoric.
The most troubling thing for you is that I'll be right. The most disturbing thing to me is that I'm outnumbered by decerebrates.
This is no call for a world devoid of fantasy, a universe populated exclusively by soulless, Spocklike organisms whose only purpose is the bland execution of rational acts. I'm as creative as the next person you'll meet. Hell, I even enjoy making up words as I go along, rather like a Shakespeare without one one-thousandth of the skill or notoriety, but thrice the facility with profanity. I merely think that people should confine their lies to purely self-serving motives, as with philanderers aiming to keep suspicious spouses at bay or moneygrubbers on the run from the SEC or the IRS. No one needs to be fed bulshit about the natural world. Unfortunately, not everyone gets to take a turn at being correct, with the dullards among us being disproportionately but rightfully deprived of their chance to shine. Assigning equal value to every idea is intellectual welfare, which is inarguably bad policy.
I'm also weary of the people screaming about the inherent lack of morals and values in the god-free mind. That's perhaps the biggest crock of shit of all. Atheists understand all to well how dear our time on Earth is, and are more troubled by the sheer unfairness of the deaths and ruination of innocent life than are the faithful because they do not self-indulgently place such goings-on in the context of sin and an inscrutable (yet certainly caring) deity whose morality -- despite, of course, his very human distaste for homosexuality, atheists, and uppity women -- is "unknowable to us." More than anything alse, I'm just grateful no one tried pumping my head full of this bullshit when I was young. Better to be beaten regularly with a big-buckled belt.
Most people who believe in a divine creator aren't fundagelical yammerbags, and most overweight people aren't self-deluding haters of everything they're not or fails to support their agenda. But the increasingly equivocal use of terms like opinion and the perceived interchangeability of words like evidence, thought, and faith and observation, belief and assertion does not bode well for anything or anyone, anywhere. The world has undergone considerable reformation throughout human history, but hiding from the truth has, I am sure, never proven fruitful or progressive.