Popular ignorance

Pardon me for the 2nd post that’s just going to reek of the effete intellectual within, but Spiro Agnew’s objections notwithstanding, I’ll post away.

Something I had wanted to touch on whilst whining about West Virginia (perfectly to plan, right, Hillary?) was also the willingness of people to believe whatever is easiest to believe. I’ve been working on Abraham Joshua Heschel’s God In Search of Man and I can effectively count religion out as something that is easy to believe… especially as a Jew, I find religion to be an ever-increasing challenge which sates my meager intellect with its magnanimity and sublimity. But it’s things like the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) philosophy and irregular applications of Occam’s razor which bring me here.

I was told by someone with whom I have a working relationship that he believed that the purpose of oil was to lubricate the earth’s plates and that if all of the oil was removed, the plates would no longer be able to move. Okay, I will grant that his understanding of the matter appears very weak and it certainly indicates that if he were to learn more, he’d understand… at least to me, it seems that way. His logic is this: oil is a lubricant, oil comes from the ground, thus oil must lubricate something in the ground.

Clearly he does demonstrate some logic within his reasoning, but his reasoning is based upon a thoroughly incomplete set of facts… keeping it far too simple. How can he then be challenged to open up his mind to learn what are the facts about (a) the source of oil and (b) the nature of plate tectonics? I wanted to yell at him and I’m almost sure that my face contorted in a manner that was visible to another co-worker, so I think my disgust, while not voiced vocally, was voiced facially.

Also, what caused him to believe that? Was it, as I suggest, the result of incomplete information yielding a seemingly logical result? Or was he told this and accepted it without question? This ties into my previous post: do people believe that Obama’s a Muslim because of what they’ve been told and they hold to that prejudice (or that he’s somehow more elite than HRC) or do they base it upon his exotic name and try to logically justify it using a limited base of facts?

What further complicates matters is when people are told something that runs counter to what (a) they’ve already been told or (b) what they believe based upon a seemingly logical conclusion. Changing someone’s mind against their own conclusion would seem to be the more difficult, as it challenges the ego and intellectual capacity of the person – that they’re being told that what they thought and how they concluded was wrong. It would be much easier to tell them that they were lied to and provide them with a litany of evidence to counter that lie.

Thus we have decisions, elections, leaders, followers, and humans – thoroughly bred in the American condition.

-rl

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