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Does Conservatism Have to Be Synonymous With Ignorance? - Comments

isisdron's Avatar Comment 1 by isisdron

I love Dr. Krauss. He is constantly speaking up about politics and science and education, and as a resident of the state of Texas, where idiocy reigns supreme in the form of our near and dear governor Rick Perry, I can tell you that education standards have gone down while suddenly the testing has gotten harder (thank you Rick Perry's brother, maker of the new STARS test). 9th graders will now be screwing their chances of graduating if they dont pass state exams their freshman year, and so many will be unprepared. This method almost guarantees failures and defundings all over the place.

Thu, 15 Mar 2012 03:32:15 UTC | #927295

Neodarwinian's Avatar Comment 2 by Neodarwinian

" Does Conservatism Have to Be Synonymous With Ignorance? "

No, but it sure is hard these days to find a Conservative that is not an arrogant ignoramus.

Santorum!! Did anyone read what he said to the Porto Rico people in a recent speech? This religious wackaloon and creationist is actually in the running for the nomination of a major party!!!!! Go figure!

Thu, 15 Mar 2012 03:34:32 UTC | #927296

JTMcDaniel's Avatar Comment 3 by JTMcDaniel

No, we're not all idiots. Some of us actually understand the first amendment and everything. It's really annoying to have no good choices. My personal belief is that we were much better off when there were only a handful of primaries and the candidates were picked at the conventions. To win in the primaries a candidate has to appeal to the most radical voters, because they're the ones who vote in primaries. This is how you end up with a choice between a Democrat who looks upon the people as sharecroppers whose primary function is to pay for his programs and a Republican field who mostly have their heads stuck up their butts. Barry Goldwater would disown the lot of them.

Thu, 15 Mar 2012 04:04:36 UTC | #927318

MilitantNonStampCollector's Avatar Comment 4 by MilitantNonStampCollector

It's funny how one can accurately predict the ticks on a conservative such as Santorum almost every time.

Anti Evolution ✔ Anti Climate Change ✔ Anti Condom ✔ Anti Stem Cell Research ✔ Anti Pre-natal Medical Care WTF? ✔ Pro Ignorance ✔

What a freak show. In 2012, this is beyond words.

Thu, 15 Mar 2012 04:09:04 UTC | #927321

aroundtown's Avatar Comment 5 by aroundtown

Welcome to the new America my friends. Thank you Lawrence for continuing to drag these people out into the light of day for all to see. Yes they are ignorant and proud of it but they are also arrogant beyond any measurement as well. I don't see any choice in the present predicament in seeking relief regarding this conservative phenomenon. We will have to tread water for a time I'm afraid.

Thu, 15 Mar 2012 04:59:16 UTC | #927344

mordacious1's Avatar Comment 6 by mordacious1

Does Conservatism Have to Be Synonymous With Ignorance?

It never used to be, but Reagan changed that situation...

Thu, 15 Mar 2012 05:10:43 UTC | #927347

Starcrash's Avatar Comment 7 by Starcrash

Count your blessings! Four years ago Sarah Palin was on the ballot. When it comes to ignorance, she continues to show up all of these candidates...

Thu, 15 Mar 2012 05:11:26 UTC | #927348

mordacious1's Avatar Comment 8 by mordacious1

Comment 7 by Starcrash

I'll see your Sarah Palin and raise you a Michelle Bachmann. Also Rick Perry was a real stump.

Thu, 15 Mar 2012 05:33:52 UTC | #927352

aquilacane's Avatar Comment 9 by aquilacane

Wow, these guys are power sliding into the abyss. Reminds me of some lost boys...

Before the party had started a great log had been dragged into the center of the lawn and Jack, painted and garlanded, sat there like an idol. There were piles of meat on green leaves near him, and fruit, and coconut shells full of drink.

Thu, 15 Mar 2012 05:34:21 UTC | #927353

aquilacane's Avatar Comment 10 by aquilacane

What the hell happened to Palin? I was expecting a freak show... well, more of a freak show. I want my money back. Bus tour then nothing, unless I missed it.

Thu, 15 Mar 2012 05:36:40 UTC | #927355

Metamag's Avatar Comment 11 by Metamag

Comment 6 by mordacious1 :

Does Conservatism Have to Be Synonymous With Ignorance?

It never used to be, but Reagan changed that situation...

How exactly can this be, doesn't conservatism mean conserving and thus not adjusting to new knowledge and implementing policies according to that knowledge?

Isn't conservatism by default irrational and incoherent?

Thu, 15 Mar 2012 05:52:58 UTC | #927356

Hume's Razor's Avatar Comment 12 by Hume's Razor

I am sure there are reasonable conservatives out there, but anyone who thinks that low taxes or the absense of state interventions or anything at all is more important than keeping lunatics like Santorum out ot office is, by defintition, not among them.

Thu, 15 Mar 2012 05:56:56 UTC | #927357

rjohn19's Avatar Comment 13 by rjohn19

Dr. Krauss needs to find a modern version of Max Perkins but it's hard to find fault with any of the notions he put forth in this piece.

Santorum is not the disease; he is only an early symptom, like the first oozing chancre of syphilis. Well, I suppose Bush Light was the first massive pecker-sore and Satorum only represents the incurable spread.

"No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public," wrote H. L. Mencken, but people have to wise up eventually or there will be no eventually.

You have to wonder whether seemingly intelligent, articulate men like Santorum (or more extremely like Dinesh D'Souza or other noted Apologists) really believe what they are saying or if they are just applying Menckenesque economic principles by pandering to the booboise to get stinky rich. Their side of the argument pays far better than ours.

Santorum's ilk and the Tea Party will either kill the Republican Party or kill us all and neither is a palatable option. We shall not do well with a one-party system.

I even know why this toxification of the Republican Party happened and I know when it happened but I'll save that for another post not so close to bedtime- but here are two clues- Dixiecrats and Strom Thurmond.

Thu, 15 Mar 2012 06:05:10 UTC | #927360

danconquer's Avatar Comment 14 by danconquer

"Does Conservatism Have to Be Synonymous With Ignorance?"

It's a good, pithy question. And the answer I suspect is that, yes, there is degree of inevitability in the two being synonymous.

Conservatism takes the natural human desire to conserve certain things and turns it into an almost fetishistic position against change, against evolution in human relations and behaviours. One seeks, by default, to prevent evolution in culture, in ideas, in techniques (unless, of course, those changes happen to permit personal enrichment, at which point monetarist selfishness suddenly trumps any desire to conserve).

How can seeking to maintain something solely because 'that is how things have always been' possibly not lead into blind-alleys of ignorance? Trying to hold back the mutation of ideas and cultures is about as pointless and self-defeating as trying to prevent the mutation of genes. Just look at all the things that even European conservatives were opposing a few hundred years ago (opposition which is never apologised for nor mentioned today) to get a flavour of the sort of ignorant stagnation that unchallenged political conservatism leads to.

Thu, 15 Mar 2012 09:09:07 UTC | #927390

Viveca's Avatar Comment 15 by Viveca

Comment 14 by danconquer :

Conservatism takes the natural human desire to conserve certain things and turns it into an almost fetishistic position against change, against evolution in human relations and behaviours. One seeks, by default, to prevent evolution in culture, in ideas, in techniques ( unless, of course, those changes happen to permit personal enrichment, at which point monetarist selfishness suddenly trumps any desire to conserve).

You've undone your own analysis by your bracketed comment. Now all you have to do is show how "radicalism" doesn't succumb to the same tendency.

Krauss answered his own question: No, conservatism doesn't have to be synonymous with ignorance. This begs the questions: what has caused the relatively recent slide into stupidity to such a degree? And what, if anything, can be done to reverse it? I don't know the US well enough to answer those questions with any degree of assurance, but, to state the obvious- such candidates presuppose that a significant part of the electorate are apathetic, politically stupid and ill-informed. And yet, what country doesn't harbour a similar bedrock? What Krauss didn't provide was an explanation of why this love-affair with ignorance since G.W.Bush came into existence and why it still persists.

Can anyone here summarise, honestly and concisely, the reasons for this descent into crass stupidity?

Thu, 15 Mar 2012 11:01:23 UTC | #927410

foundationist's Avatar Comment 16 by foundationist

Comment 14 by danconquer :

"Does Conservatism Have to Be Synonymous With Ignorance?"

It's a good, pithy question. And the answer I suspect is that, yes, there is degree of inevitability in the two being synonymous.

Conservatism takes the natural human desire to conserve certain things and turns it into an almost fetishistic position against change, against evolution in human relations and behaviours. One seeks, by default, to prevent evolution in culture, in ideas, in techniques (unless, of course, those changes happen to permit personal enrichment, at which point monetarist selfishness suddenly trumps any desire to conserve).

How can seeking to maintain something solely because 'that is how things have always been' possibly not lead into blind-alleys of ignorance? Trying to hold back the mutation of ideas and cultures is about as pointless and self-defeating as trying to prevent the mutation of genes. Just look at all the things that even European conservatives were opposing a few hundred years ago (opposition which is never apologised for nor mentioned today) to get a flavour of the sort of ignorant stagnation that unchallenged political conservatism leads to.

I never thought that I would eventually end up defending conservativism, but I don't think that's nessecarily true. Smart conservativism can check ideas for their merrit and embrace them when they are worth embracing. A smart conservative is then merely a person who is all in all happy with the status quo and thinks that the current state of society is a good one and largely deserves to be preserved.

Of course in reality conservative groups have always had their share of reactionaries who desired to hold on to traditions just for the sake of tradition, but on the other hand the progressive groups have always had their share of revolutionaries, who despised almost everything in the status quo so much they wanted to throw it all away just because it was the present state of society. Just think of the New Soviet Man or the French Revolutionary Calendar.

Thu, 15 Mar 2012 11:07:25 UTC | #927412

cheesedoff17's Avatar Comment 17 by cheesedoff17

Great one Dr. Krauss! Sock it to them!

Thu, 15 Mar 2012 11:26:26 UTC | #927420

rationalmind's Avatar Comment 18 by rationalmind

Comment 14 by danconquer :

"Does Conservatism Have to Be Synonymous With Ignorance?"

It's a good, pithy question. And the answer I suspect is that, yes, there is degree of inevitability in the two being synonymous.

Conservatism takes the natural human desire to conserve certain things and turns it into an almost fetishistic position against change, against evolution in human relations and behaviours. One seeks, by default, to prevent evolution in culture, in ideas, in techniques (unless, of course, those changes happen to permit personal enrichment, at which point monetarist selfishness suddenly trumps any desire to conserve).

How can seeking to maintain something solely because 'that is how things have always been' possibly not lead into blind-alleys of ignorance? Trying to hold back the mutation of ideas and cultures is about as pointless and self-defeating as trying to prevent the mutation of genes. Just look at all the things that even European conservatives were opposing a few hundred years ago (opposition which is never apologised for nor mentioned today) to get a flavour of the sort of ignorant stagnation that unchallenged political conservatism leads to.

I think you have hit the nail on the head. I have been involved in various committees and charitable things for years and I always had problems getting a certain kind of person to understand technical or progressive things. It was really hard work getting them to appreciate science or how things linked together on any matter. These people were also not progressive themselves and often rather conservative with a small "c" in their attitudes. One one memorable occasion I foresaw the outcome of a sub-committee's deliberations just because of the people who volunteered, and the charity is still suffering as a result of the bad decision! One friend uses the term "mundanes" for such people who lack a certain something. It is borrowed from the Babylon 5 sci-fi series usage where telepaths use it to describe non-telepaths.

It wasn't therefore too much of a revelation then when I discovered that there is actually a documented and well researched basis for this. It appears it is primarily related to a well-known aspect of personality called "openness to experience" which is even sometimes called "intelect" in the literature. "Open " people tend to like new things and are often knowledge seekers and more creative. It is a characteristic linked with higher IQ scores too. They are likely to reject tradition and authoritative sources and work things out themselves and there may well be a genetic element to this. The converse is true for non-open people, they tend to be less intelligent and createive ,dislike new things and new knowledge.

This is probably why you get what Americans call the "liberal bias" in academia. It is also the reason why you see it in Hollywood too. Open people tend to be "liberal" in their attitudes.

If you want an example we know well, just look at Richard Dawkins himself. He is an intelligent knowledge seeker who expresses excellent creativity through his clever writing. His father, we discover from the obituary Richard wrote, exhibited similar qualities but in a different way.

John's binder-twine ingenuity extended beyond farming. Throughout his life he took up one creative hobby after another, and all benefited from his resourcefulness with red string and old scrap metal. Each Christmas there would be a new crop of home-made presents, beginning with the toys he made for me and my sister, moving on to equally beguiling contraptions for four grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

Look at Richard's wife Lala Ward, a famous actress. This is what Richard tells us about her and their meeting in another article.

I'd had it explained to me that she was an actress, and I was very impressed that she had played not only the 'Companion' in Dr Who but also Ophelia in the BBC television production of Hamlet. Even more remarkable was that she had read my books. Actually, I later discovered that she's read everything. She read Darwin's Origin of Species when she was only 15. But it was still gratifying to find that she had read not just my Selfish Gene, which people sometimes have read, but also The Extended Phenotype, which is a rather technical book designed for professional scientists.

Then I learnt about her other career, as an artist. She has done beautiful embroideries, for the Shell calendar and for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds calendar. She has written books on embroidery and knitting. In one, which is about birds, she has a comic verse about each bird, and they are very funny.

Another intelligent , creative, open person.

I have been seeing these characteristics in people for years and the research just explains what it was that I had already noticed.

Of course, it doesn't mean that every conservative is stupid, it just means that the personality traits that cause certain kinds of stupidity also can cause conservative attitudes.

Thu, 15 Mar 2012 11:27:08 UTC | #927421

Duff's Avatar Comment 19 by Duff

The Republican powers run these political, religious clowns for one reason only, to get the vote of the simple people. Without the "social conservative/religious morons" they don't have nearly enough votes to protect their money from the tax man. Ergo: Santorum.

Thu, 15 Mar 2012 11:28:00 UTC | #927422

strangebrew's Avatar Comment 20 by strangebrew

OP

Does Conservatism Have to Be Synonymous With Ignorance?

It does not have to be...but these days it is! I suppose it all depends on how one defines the term Conservatism

All to often there are only a few strands to that cable...mostly hatreds...

(1) Taxes...Conservatives detest them at any level....simply because they go private and pay enough for that in any service and fail to understand that not everyone else can so why should they pay for the lazy and the poor?...and they do not particularly care either.

(2) Immigration...Conservatives tend to blame the ills of the world on that aspect of society and besides they do not want to understand the culture or the circumstances...after all any misfortune will be the immigrants fault by default.

(3) Single mothers...Same basic reasons as (2) but with the righteous nose turned up at those promiscuous gals that get into trouble simply because they are feckless and careless . Rape is never the man's fault...his truly manly passions were inflamed by those Jezebels. And that alone means they must suffer for their sins with enforced pregnancy and no abortion at any price except if private very expensive and discrete.

(4) Science...Because they have not a clue what it is or how it works.

(5) Exclusiveness...the plebs in the street can not be allowed to have access to education...after all where would the minions come from if they get educated. The plebs must be ....flexible...with no rights and no state financial aid because then they must work or starve...and if they work be grateful enough to receive a pittance and be aware when the market turns they are expected to go elsewhere without complaint or attitude.

And underpinning all these charming little foibles...Conservatism means....

(6) Religion is sacrosanct...the plebs should go to church and learn how to be ...plebs!

They no doubt harbour other cute ideas that benefit a certain section of society...and are rather draconian to the majority...but the point is the ignorance is biblically inspired...how could they possibly be wrong!...Jeebus say's so...what more need be said!

Thu, 15 Mar 2012 11:46:00 UTC | #927429

Hume's Razor's Avatar Comment 21 by Hume's Razor

I would argue that science and critical thinking don't mix very well with ideology in general. I see no reason to single out "conservativism" per se. The American Republican Party certainly appears to be taken over by loons these days, but Republicans don't represent all "conservatives" on the planet. I think there is some legitimacy to the idea that if you have a political system which, for all its flaws, works better than anything else that has ever been tried, there are probably going to be more ways to make it worse than better, which should make us rather slow to throw it overboard for the very next untested idea that looks good on paper. And let's not forget that many of the retorical weapons employed by creationists and climate change deniers (i.e. dismissing any inconvenient scientific result as reflecting the self-interests and ideological biases of your opponents) were handed to them on a silver plate by the accademic left.

Thu, 15 Mar 2012 12:10:38 UTC | #927437

sandman67's Avatar Comment 22 by sandman67

The quick answer to the question is yes.

However, though it irks me deeply, I must draw a deeper separation between the GOP ignoramuses and the Roman Catholic Church than that in Lawrence's article. He doesnt actually poiint out clearly enough that Santorum (and Gingritch) are completely at odds with the teachings and scientifc positions of the RCC they claim to be such good fathful menbers of. As I write in one of my common vernacular peppered blog posts on a US based atheist mates guest web log:

On the matters of fair wealth distribution across society; social welfare safety nets; healthcare policy; market regulation; workers rights and unions; climate change science; the use of torture; the use of imprisonment and detention without charge; capital punishment; immigration policy; and, war and conflict the Roman Catholic Church holds diametrically opposed views to the GOP. In fact the only common positions that the two share are a loathing for and fight against LGBT equalities, and fighting any form of abortion and contraception access for women.

Yeah....I was so mad when writing it I missed off Evolution on that list.

Look up "Dave The Sandman" and you can find my stuff. NB: Its very much NSFW.

Anyways.....IMHO the anti-science and anti-intellectualsm rife in the US GOP has its roots prmarily in economic reasons rather than doctrinal ones. Religion is just the mask they hide their greed and callousness behind.

Thu, 15 Mar 2012 12:18:43 UTC | #927440

Mark Jones's Avatar Comment 23 by Mark Jones

Excellent article, which ends with the right call to all right-thinking right thinkers, because the headline need not be the case:

As we head into the home stretch of a too-long presidential primary season, it is not too late for the public to turn their back on candidates that turn their back on empirical reality and scientific progress.

Hear, hear.

Thu, 15 Mar 2012 12:25:01 UTC | #927442

drumdaddy's Avatar Comment 24 by drumdaddy

The Religious Industry has openly declared war. They are confident that they own enough media, flock, politicians, bubble-trained lawyers and money to finally squash secularism. A reversal is in order. Complacency is defeat. As detailed in Katherine Stewart's The Good News Club, the Bush court opened the floodgates by allowing evangelism into public schools, and it is spreading like orchestrated wildfire. It's war.

Thu, 15 Mar 2012 12:59:37 UTC | #927452

Jonathan Dore's Avatar Comment 25 by Jonathan Dore

Comment 16 Foundationist:

A smart conservative is then merely a person who is all in all happy with the status quo and thinks that the current state of society is a good one and largely deserves to be preserved.

I agree with the definition, but I don't agree that it mitigates the position. Since when in human history has any human society ever approached such a pitch of perfection that it could be considered more important to prevent it from changing than to improve it? Never, as far as I know. Maybe in a few hundred years, once we've cracked hunger, disease, poverty, and disastrous environmental impact and live in a sort of Star Trek society (whether aliens are involved or not), then it will make sense to be conservative. Until then, there are so many things that can be done better, how could any thinking person think it more important to conserve than to improve ... (unless of course they're wealthy and solely motivated by maintaining their personal good fortune ...)?

Thu, 15 Mar 2012 13:20:02 UTC | #927457

feanor's Avatar Comment 26 by feanor

Ignoranus (n): A person who's both stupid and an asshole.

Seems apt at the moment for many Republicans.

http://forum.armkb.com/linguist-club/30594-ignoranus.html

Thu, 15 Mar 2012 14:03:17 UTC | #927471

Agrajag's Avatar Comment 27 by Agrajag

Comment 15 by Viveca

What Krauss didn't provide was an explanation of why this love-affair with ignorance since G.W.Bush came into existence and why it still persists.

Can anyone here summarise, honestly and concisely, the reasons for this descent into crass stupidity?

Here's a stab at it: It could be as simple as these candidates, based on their own intuition or observations, market surveys, focus groups, etc., choosing to appeal to voters with compatible views purely because they think this is how to get elected. It's a calculated risk, and the really scary part is that they might be right (about getting elected, I mean).
Steve

EDIT:
@Comment 13 by rjohn19

booboise

I am so stealing that!

Thu, 15 Mar 2012 14:26:02 UTC | #927476

AForceOne's Avatar Comment 28 by AForceOne

Is Sanitorium guilty of wilful ignorance or hypocracy?

Given that 98% of US women have used contraception, at some time or other, is it not highly likely that at least one woman in Sani's family has used it, albeit for medical reasons? I think Sticky Ricky should be asked.

Thu, 15 Mar 2012 14:44:03 UTC | #927479

zengardener's Avatar Comment 29 by zengardener

Conservatism does not imply ignorance.

Many scientists are conservative by nature.

"Amazing new discovery that overturn our understanding of the universe?!?!?!?! Slow down a bit. Lets test this a few more times before we throw out our old books."

It is the form of conservatism that practices irrational adherence to tradition that we should be concerned with.

Thu, 15 Mar 2012 15:08:25 UTC | #927485

hungarianelephant's Avatar Comment 30 by hungarianelephant

Conservatism, in its most basic form, is a perfectly respectable philosophy. Its purpose is not to put the brakes on "progress", but to exercise caution about whether a proposed cause constitutes "progress" in the first place. It prevents headalong rushes into changes that have not been properly thought through.

Science itself is conservative as a matter of principle. New ideas do not get simply waved through on the basis that they are interesting or sound good. They have to prove themselves better than the existing ones first, with the ability to address that which we can already explain as well as that which we cannot. (Edit: also what zengardener said ^^ while I was typing this.)

What passes for "conservatism" in US politics is something very different. Shovelling no-bid contracts to your friends is not conservatism. Starting foreign adventures and running up massive debts to pay for them is not conservatism. The Spectator backed Obama in 2008 because it reckoned he would be a better conservative than McCain - it is arguable whether this has proven true, but the case was certainly based on rational grounds. To be a standard-bearer for US conservatism, you apparently now have to show support for an entire smorgasbord of stuff, from the socially questionable to the downright crazy.

It is hard to see why this should be so. It is almost as if "conservatism" is now like your PC, pre-loaded with a bunch of crap that you don't need, don't want and can't uninstall. Thinking that it might be a good idea to keep government small now puts you in the same camp as the lunatics who want to do vaginal ultrasounds as a pre-condition of getting an abortion or rant about science being evil.

Still, it is as nonsensical to assume that all "conservatives" are the same as it would be to assume that everyone in the other camp is a Stalinist.

Thu, 15 Mar 2012 15:27:55 UTC | #927493