Ignorance vs. “Cosmos”: The Dumbing Down Of America

Image courtesy of www.nationalgeographic.com

Image courtesy of www.nationalgeographic.com

Are we at this point in the evolution of the human species ready to continue to move forward, to go out amongst the stars as envisioned in “Cosmos”? Or have we begun to slide back toward superstition and a fear of science? Yesterday, I read this story from Jonathon Gatehouse and watched the latest episode of “Cosmos” in which Neil deGrasse Tyson talks about where humanity may find itself generations from now. While “Cosmos” was awe-inspiring in the prediction of where we could be thousands of years in the future, “America Dumbs Down” was depressingly accurate in Gatehouse’s description of where we may have peaked as a nation, and perhaps as a species as well.

The American public’s bias against established science doesn’t stop where the Bible leaves off, however. The same poll found that just 53 per cent of respondents were “extremely” or “very confident” that childhood vaccines are safe and effective. (Worldwide, the measles killed 120,000 people in 2012. In the United States, where a vaccine has been available since 1963, the last recorded measles death was in 2003.) When it comes to global warming, only 33 per cent expressed a high degree of confidence that it is “man made,” something the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has declared is all but certain. (The good news, such as it was in the AP poll, was that 69 per cent actually believe in DNA, and 82 per cent now agree that smoking causes cancer.)

If the rise in uninformed opinion was limited to impenetrable subjects that would be one thing, but the scourge seems to be spreading. Everywhere you look these days, America is in a rush to embrace the stupid. Hell-bent on a path that’s not just irrational, but often self-destructive. Common-sense solutions to pressing problems are eschewed in favour of bumper-sticker simplicities and blind faith. (Source)

“America is in a rush to embrace the stupid” – how true that is! We really need to look no further than television and social media to see that hypothesis repeatedly confirmed as quickly as you can change the TV channel or refresh your mobile browser. We are marching, knuckles scraping the dirt, towards a world resembling “Idiocracy” despite the wealth of knowledge just a couple of taps of a smartphone screen or tablet away. The sad thing is, it isn’t that good information isn’t available – it’s easier to access than ever before – but people have chosen to accept hyperbole and comforting, pandering lies over actual data. As I stated in a previous article:

“The fact that the study of civics is no longer a priority in our schools is most certainly at least one contributing factor, but let’s also take into consideration that we have an incredible amount of willful ignorance and apathy as well.

There are far too many people who know every contestant on a reality show but cannot name their elected officials, let alone find the country they want to bomb into oblivion on the map. These are people who cannot tell the difference between a Sikh and a Muslim, let alone between a Sunni and a Shiite. These people are a couple of generations almost completely removed from the reality of the world the rest of us live in. The History Channel has gone from programs based on actual history to staged reality shows and Ancient Aliens. The Learning Channel has rotted away from being a channel based on actual learning to Honey Boo Boo.” (Source)


Let’s also not forget the people who vote and act against their own best interests just because they’re told that “only elitists do that.” There’s few better examples of this than my current state, Louisiana. Like many other deeply conservatives states, the populace remains poor, sick and uneducated, and it is celebrated. I am firmly convinced that if doctors and scientists told them drinking bleach was a bad idea, at least some of them would swallow a gallon of the stuff, just to say that they knew better. After all, these were the same people who were indignant when the First Lady stated that drinking more water was a good health tip – and this is a trend which seems to be accelerating, not slowing down. This isn’t just confined to rural areas, this is a problem across the United States as we continue to slip behind the rest of the world in education scores. Neil deGrasse Tyson made a prediction in the latest episode of Cosmos in which he believes humanity thousands of years from now will be traveling from star system to star system. The sad thing is that if we stay on the path we’re headed down, that dream will never come true, even if we as a species survives that much longer.

“The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.” ― Isaac Asimov


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  • Pipercat

    The first part of Gatehouse’s (up the the first single sentence paragraph) piece was excellent. The rest just reiterated the beginning. He still missed the underlying reason why this happening. The dumbing down is deliberate and it’s being orchestrated.

    • Luke

      I’ve suspected that myself. But to what end?

      • Pipercat

        My conclusion, wealth extraction and accumulation. Wealth equates to power; more so these days. Nothing like a bunch of distracted proles, as opposed to a middle class that can affect change via the pocketbook.

      • Jenny

        Dumb population is easier to control

      • Jbh Jbh

        It’s far easier to control ignorant, uneducated people through mysticism and fear than someone capable of researching facts to make their own decisions. The end has always been the same: absolute power.

      • Tom Pryor

        Democracy can’t work without an educated populace. Take away the educated populace and you can eliminate our democracy.

      • Matthew Reece

        Democracy can’t work, period. It is a soft form of communism, and only recently in the history of ideas has it been mistaken for anything else.

      • Tom Pryor

        Not that recently – Mussolini came to the same conclusion in the late 1920s. Congratulations – you’ve discovered fascism.

      • Matthew Reece

        I am an anarcho-capitalist…

      • Tom Pryor

        translation: douchebag.

      • Matthew Reece

        Ad hominem is an admission of defeat and ignorance.

      • Tom Pryor

        So is self-identifying as an “anarcho-capitalist”.

        I accept your surrender.

      • Matthew Reece

        Base assertion fallacy: You have offered no rational logic or empirical evidence to support your statement. As such, I do not offer my surrender but rather demand yours.

      • Tom Pryor

        A grown adult who actually self-identifies as an “anarcho-capitalist” with a straight face doesn’t deserve “rational logic” [which is redundant, btw], or to be taken at all seriously at any time under any circumstances. Now give your sword to my adjutant and report to my tent at 0.800 hrs. for your ceremonial rogering. Dismissed.

      • Matthew Reece

        Yet another base assertion fallacy. Until you actually support the idea that there is something wrong with anarcho-capitalism, I care not what you have to say, so do not bother responding further.

      • Tom Pryor

        It’s cute that you’re so keen on logical fallacies but don’t see that “anarcho-capitalism” is one of the biggest logical fallacies at all. Your surrender is complete.

      • Matthew Reece

        Yet another base assertion fallacy with no rational or empirical support. Three strikes and you’re out. From now on, I will flag you for spam and hope you get banned, as you have nothing useful to say.

      • Tom Pryor

        Don’t worry – you’ll figure it out one day, genius. Meanwhile, flagging people who disagree with you as spam is seriously pathetic, dude, and will only get you banned in the end. Good luck with that.

      • Matthew Reece

        I do not flag people as spammers for disagreeing with me. I do flag people as spammers if they keep repeating the same nonsense and refuse to say anything rational.

      • Dosbilliam

        When the argument you make isn’t worth bothering with actually formulating a logical, coherent argument, whining about someone not wasting their time making one just shows you’re about as familiar with logic as the average Fox News viewer is with anything Karl Marx wrote in Capital.

      • Matthew Reece

        That was such an ignorant and ridiculous statement that I won’t bother with actually formulating a logical, coherent response. I will just say that having studied mathematics and physics, I am very familiar with logic.

      • Dosbilliam

        Logic as defined by math, not as defined by creating a logical argument.

        To actually return to the main topic…a quote of Adam Smith: “As soon as the land of any country has all become private property, the landlords, like all other men, love to reap where they never sowed, and demand a rent even for its natural produce.”

      • Matthew Reece

        There is no substantial difference between the operation of mathematical logic and philosophical logic. Both are axiomatic systems governed by the three laws of thought: identity (reflexive property), excluded middle, and non-contradiction.

        Adam Smith was exactly wrong. Reaping what one did not sow, and demanding rent even for natural produce, is exactly what government agents do through the powers of taxation and eminent domain. A completely private system of physical property is the only system of property rights which can avoid this.

      • Dosbilliam

        Normally I’d make a half-sarcastic “you really don’t know how incorrect that statement is” joke here, but it’s not really worth my time.

        To be fair, considering Smith is the father of capitalism…I can’t really say it’s surprising that you, as an anarcho-capitalist (a belief system only possible through the miniscule [since actually reading his work shows that his system has many weaknesses ignored by everyone right-of center] understanding of Smith’s writings we have today) would be unwilling to admit that landlords, or in this case, most of the 1% in the US (like hedge fund managers) earn money from doing essentially nothing of worth to society overall. At least gov’t can provide things like roads and infrastructure…and before we get to the “who will build the roads” bullshit, private companies had an excellent chance to do so and earn points with everyone over the past ~12 years and they sat on their thumbs and didn’t bother.

      • Matthew Reece

        Hippocrates was the father of medicine. This does not mean that we take all of his medical ideas seriously today. So it is with Adam Smith and his ideas about capitalism.

        I cannot admit that which is false. The 1% do many things that are of worth to other people, such as provide the capital necessary to employ people and manufacture goods. The problem is that governments give them unfair advantages like bailouts, subsidies, patent laws, and liability shields that the 99% do not get. In a free society, the 1% would be closer to the rest of us because they would not have the advantages that allow them to amass such a wealth disparity.

        Government infrastructure is crumbling, and this is partly because governments do not have to do a good job, as government is a monopoly that forbids competition with its services.

      • Ben Consuegra

        1. Most businesses are started by people not in the 1% with money not borrowed from the 1%.

        2. Government’s do give unfair advantages to the 1%, which those people bought with their money. Regardless of a government or no government, those at the top will buy what they want. At least with our form of government, there is a chance that the populace can rise up and take control back and write laws into place that prevent the lobbying that has lead to our power/wealth distribution inequality.

        3. Do you really think that without a government, the 1% would be closer to us? They wouldn’t buy off anything and everything and rig situations that keep them at the top? Go back to my number 2.

        4. Your point back at the person who brought up the flaws in Adam Smith’s philosophy was absolutely not thought out. That person told you that you were selectively reading about capitalism, and failing to take into account all of the flaws that must be fixed and regulated by a non-interested party (what government should be). We do not take all of Hypocrites medical ideas seriously because we have weighed the good and the bad. You are refusing to weigh the bad parts of capitalism. Anarcho-capitalism has been proven to not work, and it is exactly what would lead to a worker revolution a la Marx. Did you read anything about the late 19th century?

        Humanity already had this debate 125 years ago, and your side lost because it’s asinine. Sit down.

      • Matthew Reece

        1. I never claimed otherwise, so this is a straw man.

        2. Then you must explain why this has never happened. The answer is that it is impossible, as any effort to do this will be captured and co-opted by the 1%. See the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street for examples.

        3. They could not do this because they would be deprived of the mechanisms which allow them to do this.

        4. What the person told me was a false accusation against me, so I dismissed it.

        There is no such thing as a non-interested party, so your point is moot.

        There are no bad parts of capitalism; the bad parts are the result of government interference with capitalism, also known as crapitalism, crony capitalism, corporatism, state capitalism, or fascism. This has been the problem since the mid-19th century.

        Anarcho-capitalism cannot have been proven not to work because it has never been tried.

        5. That is impossible, as anarcho-capitalism was not around 125 years ago. Murray Rothbard founded the school of thought in 1949.

        Also, ad hominem and ad lapidem are admissions of defeat and ignorance. Sit down, or what? Ad baculum is also an admission of defeat and ignorance.

      • Erik

        Your response to 3 is not satisfactory. One counterexample is a large company buying up smaller companies that are competition and just closing their business just to gain a larger monopoly. This has happened before. An example is gamestop buying up all of the local game shops in Arizona. I think it was called game crazy. They just closed every shop of their competition. They don’t need government to do this kind of thing. In fact without government stopping this large companies would be stupid not to do this kind of thing more often to consolidate a larger portion of the market share. In effect this means there would be less room for smaller companies. With all of the money consolidated in a few large corporations social stratification would be much worse than it is today because there would be no profit incentive for the company to pay all its work force a decent wage. There are flaws in saying that capitalism is 100% fail proof. Without effectively regulating certain things you can have problems. Are you against say food safety regulations? Without them we would have god knows what in our food, because the big companies would be able to squeeze a little more money out of the system by using awful produce, the unsavory bits, or even worse, whatever they wanted and if they could squelch the competition there wouldn’t be a healthy alternative to choose from. This is kind of already the state of things, but I fail to see how a completely free market protects against anything I stated. I think your confidence in capitalism relies on companies being good their customers, employees and fair to their competition, which is really too much to expect.

      • Matthew Reece

        If smaller companies that are competition are privately owned and the owners do not wish to sell, then they cannot be bought.

        Corporations are legal fictions created by the state to shield executives from civil and criminal liability. No state means no corporations.

        In a free market, companies will bid up the wages of workers as they compete to attract workers.

        I am not opposed to regulations. I am opposed to government violence. Regulations can either arise spontaneously in a free market or be imposed forcefully with a government, but they will not be completely absent for long.

        You are correct to say that government regulation of food does little to prevent contamination, but it is even worse. When a government exercises regulatory authority, it can shield businesses from lawsuits by wronged customers and pollution victims, citing its sole authority to take regulatory action. Something similar recently played out to tragic effect when the Southern Environmental Law Center, a private nonprofit group, tried to sue Duke Energy for problems with its coal ash ponds. The NC Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources intervened to stop the lawsuits on three separate occasions and made no effort of its own to prevent the coal ash spill. In a stateless society, such lawsuits would not be blocked.

        You think incorrectly of my confidence in capitalism. Perhaps you have met some anarchists who are on the idealistic end of the sliding scale of idealism versus cynicism, but I occupy a position near the cynical endpoint of that scale. There is a potential for evil in all of us, including business owners, which is why having a state (which business owners will manipulate and criminals will seek to inhabit) is far too dangerous.

      • Dosbilliam

        To be honest, the only reason they have the capital is by virtue of having made a ton of money either by skill (Bill Gates), luck (Warren Buffet) or inheritence (the Koch brothers). Note the political views of the named parties and how they became famous/infamous.

      • kyle

        Best part about this ad hominem attack of being anarchocapatilist, is the fact that the conversation turned into garbage. Maybe we get back on topic? So absolute power for the top end. What’s that get them? Happiness? Possibly.. I’m certain it makes their lives easier. But aren’t we, the lower/middle class better off than we were 100 or 200 years afo? Maybe we should educate the people to seek happiness in their lives, not saturate their minds with goal-goal – orientated power games.

      • Dosbilliam

        The middle class didn’t exist 100 years ago. The problem is that the upper class is effectively turning the economy back into what it was right before the Great Depression, with a good chance it’ll come to the same end.

      • Randy

        That is impossible AND immoral…

      • Matthew Reece

        Prove your case.

      • whorton

        Matthew,
        You are not correct in your assertion that democracy can’t work.” The problem is, and forgive me here, this is not a personal attack on you, but an observation.

        Your statement seems to illustrate your lack of knowledge of the democratic process. What we have today, is far removed of the democracy even of the 1930’s. For example the 17th amendment, was proposed in 1912. On the face it seemed like a good idea to vest more power to the electorate at the expense of the power of the states. The results were disastrous, as the state now had little or no input to the legislative process, the appointment of judges, public officials and the power to remove from office bad politicians.

        With FDR and his enactment of a social security system was quite contentious, and many of his acts were declared Unconstitutional by the supreme court. The enactment of Social security paved the way for LBJ and the transfer of wealth from the upper and middle to the lower economic classes.

        Consider Farm subsidies. We used to prop up prices to keep farmers solvent. TODAY most large farms are corporate owned, or by those politically connected. And we are paying them to do nothing or rotate crops. The market has little chance to correct price and allow free use of ones land to produce crops. . .

        As a result, The market is biased, and someone is getting rich. who is paying the bill? We are. . .

        Or the war on drugs. . .Now we have a situation where BOTH sides have a vested interest in keeping the war going. . .If drugs were legalized, the black market would disappear as would the crime associated with the black market. Lives, property, respect for the law. . . all lost over the question of does a legitimate government have the authority to tell adults what they CAN and Cannot put into their bodies?

        Conversely, How many police, law enforcement, prison jobs, attorneys, etc have a vested interest in keeping drugs illegal. Think of all those DEA agents, or state drug control, or police programs like DARE whose jobs depend on an illegitimate war that continues to be lost in the 40 some years since Nixon started it?

        How many innocent people have have their property and lives searched, property seized even when no charges were brought. Loss of privacy? Rise of the surveillance state? Over zealous police conducting a 3 AM no knock raid on a wrong address, or a bad address, where no real surveillance was conducted to verify if there was a question of illegal behavior? People, Innocent people are being killed almost daily from this farce.

        How about the Fed and quantitative easing? devaluing the value of cash, property, eroding wages. . Just so the government can prosper?

        How about the fact that you can declare Bankruptcy on most any debt EXCEPT Student loans. .. There is NO relief from the damn things. . . Retiring people are having their “Benefits” garnished for 20 or 30 year old loans. . .

        Give it some thought Matthew. . .And support your position. I am looking forward to your views. ..

      • Matthew Reece

        All of these are predictable results of democratic government, and most of these are predictable results of any government.

      • whorton

        Which raises a question. Which is a better for people, a government which allows for maximum individual freedom, or maximum state power?

      • Matthew Reece

        A government which allows for maximum individual freedom is better, but anarchy is best.

      • whorton

        How can you justify anarchy as best as there is NO guarantee for individual rights. No laws to enforce, EXCEPT for the law of the jungle, or might makes right.

        The stronger taking from the weaker, the ability to murder, rape at will.

        As surly as people will screw up a democracy, they will evolve some system of laws to fill the vacuum that results from anarchy.

      • Matthew Reece

        Anarchy is no guarantee for individual rights, but it is the only possibility for respect for individual rights. A government cannot function without trampling individual rights in some way.

  • Joe Randazzo

    Does the “Forward Progressives” website use proofreaders? I am a former ’60s peacenick radical. I read the stories on this site every day. Here’s my problem: irrespective of the author, the grammar and usage are appalling.

    Most of these articles have errors in basic agreement in number between the subject and predicate. Somewhere out there nuns are cringing. There are other glaring errors daily. Agreement in person is violated with regularity. Let me just say this; the word “their” is a third person, plural possessive adjective. Please stop making it singular.

    There are many more examples I could give, but space and time make that prohibitive. May I suggest you have someone with some basic grammar and usage skills proofread your output.

    Your stories would be much more enjoyable if they read correctly.

    • Tom Pryor

      Most websites today can’t afford proofreaders.

    • Dosbilliam

      That’s supposed to be the job of the editor, but as was said, quality in that job seems to either be hard to find or hard to afford.

      • Dana Scully

        As a recent college graduate looking for work as a proofreader, this frustrates me to no end.

  • Joe Randazzo

    Reposting here too…. Sorry again

    Btw… I did not intend my posts to be mean. I love this site and will continue to come here daily. My suggestion was intended to make the stories more credible and enjoyable.

    • Manny Schewitz

      Joe, I am not a professional writer by any stretch of the imagination and no offense taken. 😉

      • MLR

        It figures he’s more focused on grammar than what the article is about. You’d think he’d be more worried about what’s happening to this country than your grammar usage. Yep, “stupid” is indeed spreading.

  • Sandy Greer

    >I am firmly convinced that if doctors and scientists told them drinking bleach
    was a bad idea, at least some of them would swallow a gallon of the stuff, just to say that they knew better.

    ^^^Author does not help matters by turning away an audience. Someone with half a brain would find this offensive.

    Never look down on anybody unless you’re helping him up. ~ Jesse Jackson

    I’ve been guilty of Willful Ignorance, at times. Not wanting to look at Ugliness, because it hurts. When I am led out of Darkness – it’s because Trust has been established – enough, so I’m willing to follow.

    First establish Trust. And then go for the Hard Sale.

    Leaders/Elitists need to either be charismatic (irresistable) or they need to be humanized – become ‘cozy’, like the folks. So they can present ideas like they were being discussed at a dinner table – among friends – rather than Opponents, to be persuaded.

    FWIW

  • Edward Krebbs

    Unfortunately, rather than being a portal to factual information in context, the Internet is flooded with all sorts of fallacious infromation. Data Isn’t presented in context. A simple web search gets mired down in pseudo-information that even if accurate is not appropriate to the level of the person desiring information.

    • Gary Menten

      I personally am appalled by the number of creationist websites floating long debunked pseudo-science our just outright lies cloaked in the language of science. The internet makes it easy to do this.

  • MLR

    I’ve been saying for a while that “stupid” is spreading at an alarming rate in this country and if we want to remain a great country we need to seriously wake the f**ck up, liberals and conservatives alike. Liberals need to get off their fat asses and start voting and conservatives need to stop voting against their own interests. I’m always picking on conservatives because they vote against their own interests and focus way too much on social issues, but at least they vote! Liberals don’t bother to even do that. They only vote every 4 years (presidential elections) and then get pissed off when the president can’t get anything passed because of republican obstruction. So “stupid” exists in both parties but for different reasons.

    • Gary Menten

      You make a good point. Stupid is not exclusive property of any one group.

  • Zoomzoom

    I love how the author assumes that just because America is getting stupider by the minute, that means that America represents the entire human population so therefore we are doomed. This arrogance is why America is in the shithole, as well as our dumbed down “culture”.

  • Snerdly

    The dumbing down of America doesn’t mean that humanity won’t advance. It means that America will no longer be leading the charge. We still could, however. I think the key is making smart cool again, for everyone,

    But even if we don’t, if my fellow Americans get dumber, there is still hope. The world is still an awfully big place with a whole lot of people on it.

  • BlueCollarCritic

    ‘When it comes to global warming, only 33 per cent expressed a high degree of confidence that it is “man made,” something the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has declared is all but certain. (The good news, such as it was in the AP poll, was that 69 per cent actually believe in DNA, and 82 per cent now agree that smoking causes cancer.) ‘

    1) Most agree that smoking causes cancer because we’ve had smoking around long enough to see it happpen, to see smokers get sick with cancer that is specific to smoking. This is an interesting reference to make because it wasn’t but 50 years ago that the “general consensus” was that smoking was not only OK but good for you. Today that sounds ridicolous but 50 years ago doctors were telling patients to smoke, WIth regards to AGW we’ve yet to see the disasters predicted10-15 years ago for today. However we shouldn’t let that causes us to question the religion of climate fear

    2) Neil himself references the IPCC as the implied source for proof of AGW and yet the IPCCC has been shown to be nothing more then a buereaucratic body with a predetermined goal or agenda. The IPCC is a Governmental Body known as a Commision Of Inquiry. A commision of inquiry operates under terms of reference which outline goals, objectives, source material and even defitnions that the committe will use. These terms of reference are used to control the investigation. The Warren commisison that investigated the JFL assasination is a famous example of a commision of inquiry. After the commision released its report somone asked Judge Warrne why the comitte did not look into a specifc area that it shoud have and the response was “That was not in my terms of reference”. So terms of reference are used to restrict and or control the committes work or investigation. In the case of the IPCC when it was formed Maurice Strong who is NOT a scientist in any field let alone climate, wrote the terms of reference which included the definition of Man Made Global Warming or AGW. Strong limited that definition to human causes of climate change.

    So if the definition of Climate Change in as far as the IPCC is concerned was pre-defined ad being limited to man made causes then how can anything the comitte say be taken as scientific?

  • cravin moorehead

    In the intellectual “race to the bottom”, America is way ahead of the field.

    Actually, it’s one of the ONLY fields that we are ahead in.

    The dumber the electorate, the greater the possibility of republicans getting elected.

  • Skxawng

    All you have to do is read the comments here that point to a political party to know this article is true.

  • Chris Watkins

    “Hell-bent on a path that’s not just irrational, but often self-destructive.”
    This is not even a complete sentence. This lack of proper grammar is evidence that the “dumbing-down” has even happened to the critic.

  • red_dragon_hawk

    At this rate if we do travel the stars,we won’t be speaking English