Sunday, August 07, 2005

The Politics of Ignorance - Sam Harris - Huffington Post

The Politics of Ignorance - Sam Harris - Huffington Post
Great piece.

"Because it is taboo to criticize a person’s religious beliefs, political debate over questions of public policy (stem-cell research, the ethics of assisted suicide and euthanasia, obscenity and free speech, gay marriage, etc.) generally gets framed in terms appropriate to a theocracy. Unreason is now ascendant in the United States -- in our schools, in our courts, and in each branch of the federal government. Only 28 percent of Americans believe in evolution; 68 percent believe in Satan. Ignorance in this degree, concentrated in both the head and belly of a lumbering superpower, is now a problem for the entire world."
"Garry Wills has noted that the Bush White House "is currently honeycombed with prayer groups and Bible study cells, like a whited monastery." This should trouble us as much as it troubles the fanatics of the Muslim world."

Dawkins seems to like Harris' piece, too.

There's one part of Harris' piece that gives me pause:
"According to several recent polls, 22 percent of Americans are certain that Jesus will return to earth sometime in the next fifty years. Another 22 percent believe that he will probably do so. This is likely the same 44 percent who go to church once a week or more, who believe that God literally promised the land of Israel to the Jews, and who want to stop teaching our children about the biological fact of evolution. As the President is well aware, believers of this sort constitute the most cohesive and motivated segment of the American electorate. ..."

I pause not because Harris is wrong but because he's right, and because actions that weaken this dominant superorganism weaken it in comparison to other, rising superorganisms that are inherently stronger. Look how Sistani has been able to contain Iraq's Shia population, commanding them to go to the polls and so on. Not that Sistani or the Shia pose any threat for the time being or necessarily in the future, but I am somewhat ambivalent about the weakening of the dominant superorganism, the one I live near.

I'll have to explore this and try to put it to better words some other time, but right now it's past my bedtime.

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