Dec 13, 2006

Knowledge is Attainable. But, Willful Ignorance is Unbecoming of the Human Spirit. A Need-to-know Option?

Who's Excited About the Journey in the Pursuit of Knowledge?

I believe in education, that is, where there's a pursuit of knowledge through inquiry, critical thinking, and the scientific method. I really abhor the attempts of dumbing down, aplenty in our society. We're not producing enough critical thinkers, and people who, put it simply, can connect the dots! We're losing the distinction between an opinion and a fact. Yes, there are many theories our there, but a theory--in the scientific definition--is a collection of evidence that point to a specific conclusion. Some theories are indeed conjecture but if are based on informed opinion and are an extension of established facts then they can be very helpful in furthering our understanding. On the forefront of knowledge--when blazing new paths--mistakes are possible, but that's why a scientific theory is strong--because it allows the possibility of revision once better facts are presented. Weak theories are the ones that are "closed," not subject to proof or amendment. Theories based on feelings (especially of the supernatural kind) and unverifiable opinions are not very useful in the pursuit of knowledge. Those theories based on fiction (or, delusion) are for entertainment purposes only. I do like entertainment, fiction, and the other joys of life, but it would be intellectually dishonest to always identify the comforting with the real. I also understand that this view may be quite unpopular on occasion.

Yes, it is possible to know things about the natural/physical world. We know that the Earth revolves around the Sun and not the other way around. This is a fact, along with the facts of the theory of evolution, the laws of physics, etc. We know how to date stuff, we dig and unearth fossils and other archaeological treasures; we know the properties of light, we can measure the distances in the cosmos and the expanding universe, we've stared into the heavens and we understand that we're looking back into the past! We've examined the DNA and the human genome. We've documented historical events and can face up to reality of the human condition, from the most beautiful & creative side to the worst behavior of our species. But, the key has been: we want to know! And, not only the things that may be pleasing & comforting to us. We follow the evidence wherever it leads us. That's very exciting--at least to those who appreciate the discovery and the journey of getting there.

Sadly, many among us don't really care about finding new things and expanding knowledge. They may believe that they've captured the absolute truth and all there's to know! Of course, they are not interested in the truth that lies outside their own narrow horizon framed by feelings. Thinking is an active process and requires effort. Obviously not every idea or statement we utter is fully developed or sound, but we should recognize it as such. When people say "I think" they truly mean, "I feel" which usually is void of any rational process. Others are deliberately sinister in manipulating the ignorant and perpetuating dumbness for their own personal gain--just look into politics, religion, and almost every other human activity.

One of the unpleasant things we know is that millions of humans have been intentionally and systematically killed because of their color of their skin, religion, ethnicity, origin. The Holocaust did happen and we do have indisputable proof. We've seen the corpses, we've seen the torture, we've seen the horrors, and the survivors--most barely alive when rescued by the Allies. We have the testimony of fascists/nazis, and all the proclamations for a pure race and how the "sub-human" races must be exterminated! Yet, just the other day, "scholars, PhDs, historians, politicians and white supremacists" gathered in Tehran, Iran, to raise questions about and basically deny the Holocaust. It was there that the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said "the Zionist regime will disappear soon... thus, humanity will achieve freedom."

Surely, this guy is an idiot, but he is a dangerous ignoramus for he's preaching hate and calls for extermination of people he doesn't like. Now, who's more likely to fall prey to this kind of rhetoric, the educated or the ignorant? Those who have a broader horizon or those with a microscopic point of view? In a previous post on this blog [link to the post here] I advocated for a world-wide effort to educate the children of the very poor. Education is the key to a better & safer life, and it will help reduce conflicts and future wars.

We should not neglect our own people here, because there's much ignorance and bigotry in our own country. Remember David Duke, the founder of the Louisiana Knights of the KKK? [He's also known as Dorothy Vanderbilt--his pen name under which he advised women on vaginal exercises, fellatio, analingus, and anal sex] He attended the Tehran conference too, how could he not to? I'm not going to discuss the absurdities he spreads, but I'm going to ask: how is this possible that this person can gather 44% of the vote in a state-wide race in these United States of America? This is not marginal, unless we accept that the lunatic fringe has become mainstream in some parts of our country!

As we enter the long race for the next presidential election in 2008, there are several names being mentioned, but I'd like to ask whether the country could possibly elect someone like Barak Obama or Hillary Clinton? I know that politics has to do with issues, personalities, vision, party affiliation, etc. But, can a black man or a woman be elected to the highest office of our land today? Can Americans elect a President without paying attention to race and gender? I don't think we have a definite answer; although, because we don't know, it bothers me. Doesn't the absence of a unequivocal answer reveal something about the US?