Monday, October 6, 2014


Below is an excerpt, from INTELLIGENT DESIGNER, that deals with irrationality in public office, regardless of whether that irrationality is politically astute or not. Nowadays, with so much willful ignorance being spewed in the political realm, and a couple of unqualified GOP candidates running for high office in my state, I thought this excerpt was applicable to our situation:

Thomas Frank, a journalist and Wall Street Journal columnist, describes an outstanding example of such population-level scientific illiteracy in his best-selling book What's the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America (Metropolitan Books, 2004). Despite all kinds of evidence to the contrary, Kansans seem to consistently vote against their own vested economic interest and Frank’s only credible explanation is that the state simply has been taken over by a conservative ideology that is so severe it blinds the majority of voters to any rational and objective analysis of their situation.
Frank’s book formalizes our impressions of scientific illiteracy at the state level through use of data, i.e., a rather scientific approach. He gives us economic figures that nobody argues with (observations, records, neutral information), then proceeds to express his amazement at Kansans’ apparent willful ignorance relative to this information. Frank was preceded by Barbara Tuchman, who used a similar narrative strategy in her book The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam (Knopf, 1984), again asking the question: why do nations behave in ways that are clearly counter to their own vested interests? Individuals often seem to have the answer to this question; populations rarely do. Thus we have the big take-home lesson for elected officials: if an action is in the public’s best interest, and everyone can plainly see that this course of action is in the public’s best interests, yet the public is determined not to carry out the action, then an elected official’s job is to convince the public to behave otherwise, not to do what the public wants. If that sentence seems long and convoluted, then try reading it again a few times. The lesson is not a very difficult one to understand; it can be exceedingly difficult to apply, however, sort of like stopping a runaway train, although in this case the train is made of willful ignorance and outright stupidity.

ID is available as an e-book on kindle, nook, and smashwords, and as a nice paperback from createspace.

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