I want to believe. I want to believe that democracy can work in America. But can it? Can it really?
Although it was originally posted more than two years ago on Alternet, Raw Story reprinted an article that makes me wonder. It seems humans will believe what they want to believe, facts be damned. People who thought there were WMDs in Iraq clung to that misperception even harder when shown an article correcting that story. People who thought President George W. Bush banned ALL stem cell research still believed that even when told only a partial ban was put in effect. (No new stem cell lines could be created for research, but research was allowed to continue using the 60+ lines then in existence. Which isn’t nearly enough.) These were examples making conservatives look bad, but political leaning has nothing to do with it. It’s true of all humans, regardless of political philosophies. Facts simply don’t matter. But Education does. If you’re taught the truth about things when you’re younger, you’re less likely to believe false things when you get older. Kids grow up believing what their parents teach them to believe, which is fine if the parents aren’t complete idiots. But if they are, by the time kids enter the public education system they’re already off to a bad start. It would help if schools were allowed to teach actual critical thinking skills, as people would learn how to verify new information and not just accept it because it confirms what they already believe. But as the study shows, that seems to be the essence of the problem. We do not seem to be wired to process information this way. At least, according to how the scientist interpreted the results. There was no measure beforehand of how well the participants could use critical thinking skills, and therefore may have had pre-conceived ideas (however false) but couldn’t process the new information in a way that would make them change their opinion. Hence, the tendency to cling harder to what they previously believed to be true.
Religion may also be responsible for much of this. And not just Christianity, but organized religion of any kind. Particularly in America, we have a lot of people who claim religion is important in their lives, but who don’t even know basic facts about their own religion as well as atheists and agnostics do. But the areas in America where religion is least important are also the areas where literacy rates tend to be higher. Religion requires no critical thinking, and discourages questioning what one is told to be the truth. And while there have been men (almost entirely) who were allowed to explore questions about faith, their answers were heavily censored and only allowed publication if approved by the religious leaders. In other words, not a lot of objectivity, and essentially just an addition to what people are being told to believe. The approved philosophical writings were used to justify why what you were being told is the truth, which is what the study seemed to indicate happens even with so-called smarter people. People still believe what they want to believe and use their reasoning to justify it afterwards. The problem is, there are way too many people in this country who believe provably false things like the Sun revolves around the Earth, and a large percentage who don’t know the Universe began with some kind of large explosion (as opposed to being brought into existence as is). Even more frightening is that more than half do not understand or believe in Evolution. How many times have you heard someone (often a religious conservative) say, “If we’re descended from monkeys, how come there are still monkeys?” (Evolution doesn’t say all monkeys turned into humans. Evolution says humans and monkeys share a common ancestor.) If you can’t start with the most basic of factually correct information, how can you possibly make a well-reasoned decision on which direction to take our country? If you think voting for someone who actually believes the Earth is less than 10,000 years old is going to solve our nation’s problems, then you’re one of the problems.
As I said before, Education can help, especially when started at an early age. As soon as children learn there are natural explanations for the way the Universe works (even if we don’t fully understand them yet), and that it’s not all attributable to an impossible Being with severely psychotic tendencies who kills at a whim, there is hope for Democracy in this country. And a better life for all, too. Studies have shown that elsewhere in the world, the highest standards of living tend to be found in the least religious countries, and the poorest in the most religious. America seems to be the exception. We have both a higher-than-average standard of living and yet are among the more religious countries in the world. But that will change if more Americans grow up believing nonsense before they are taught to think for themselves. Otherwise we just end up with another generation that doesn’t have enough sense to realize someone like Donald Trump is too ignorant and unqualified to run this country. And because he loves the poorly-educated, he’ll create more because they love him so much. And the Great Experiment known as America will have finally failed.
Please don’t let anyone you know vote for Donald Trump. You’ll just be voting for the end of America.