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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