Ignorant versus Stupid

John Scalzi recently had a couple of observations that I found incredibly interesting:

1. People who don’t know what they’re talking about don’t like to have that fact pointed about, especially if you use the word “ignorant” in context to the fact.

2. People like to confuse “pointing out the fact you don’t know what you’re talking about” with “being hostile,” because it makes them feel better about themselves. It’s generally not worth arguing to them that it’s not necessarily hostile to point out when someone doesn’t know what they’re taking about, but inasmuch as many people who don’t know what they’re talking about are invested in appearing like they do know what they’re talking about, and in the process of trying to make it seem like they do know what they’re talking about will make more statements that show their lack of knowledge, thus necessitating further pointing out that they don’t know what they’re talking about, it’s certainly understandable that they would regard it as hostile. And of course, eventually one may indeed become hostile toward people determined to continue to not know what they are talking about.

Aside from the fact that point number two has an unwieldy sentence, Scalzi is basically saying people don’t know the difference between ignorant and stupid. I whole heartedly agree. Nearly everyone I know uses the terms interchangeably when, in fact, they do not mean the same thing.

Opinion is another aspect that cannot be overlooked. I argued with my father that not everyone was entitled to their opinion, they were entitled to their informed opinion. Another way of looking at it is everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not everyone is entitled to their own facts. I didn’t use that argument with my father, but I think he would agree facts are facts and cannot be changed.

What changes are the interpretations of the facts.

For example, I believe there’s a force called gravity which keeps me firmly on the planet. I don’t believe the hand of God keeps me clinging to the planet. I don’t believe the Flying Spaghetti Monster’s noodly-appendage keeps me grounded. It’s gravity. It’s gravity because science has explained gravity to me, it can be observed, explained and understood. Gravity is a scientific fact.

How I deal with people who are stupid is to ignore or avoid them. I do the same with willfully ignorant people as well. These are people who choose to be misinformed about a subject because that’s the way they “want it to be” and will present their incorrect “knowledge” to the masses. They have some sort of reality distortion field surrounding them. People who were offended by Janet Jackson’s nipple covered boob at the Super Bowl several years ago are stupid. People who think evolution doesn’t exist are willfully ignorant. Both of these groups deserve to be shunned.

Ignorant people simply don’t know (or do know) they don’t know everything about a subject. Many people are ignorant about a great many things. Ignorance, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. It’s what school and teachers and books are for – to change ignorance into knowledge.

What I know about NASCAR could fill an ice cream sample cup. I am ignorant about a great many things regarding this sport. However, I don’t care to fill my mind up with facts and figures about NASCAR. I acknowledge I am ignorant and would never walk into a room of devoted NASCAR fans and presume to know what I’m talking about or even to pass judgement on their choice of entertainment. It has never appealed to me, but that’s not to say I don’t understand the appeal.

My problem with ignorance and stupidity is when these people push an agenda of ignorance and stupidity in places they really don’t belong.

The very concept, presumption and promotion of Intelligent Design is like me walking into a NASCAR party and telling everyone I know how this here race car sport actually runs. I may even have a tiny bit of knowledge about racing, but for the most part I’d be making it all up as I go. How do you think this makes the NASCAR fans feel?

I would imagine the NASCAR fans would punch this person in the face and escort them out of the party probably by the seat of their pants interacting with his boot. They might try and be nice first. They might try and ignore or maybe even teach them the errors of their thinking, but ultimately they’d get fed up and kick their ass.

That’s how I feel about proponents of ID. They need their asses kicked out of school’s and school boards, out of science classrooms and teacher’s institutes. Yeah, I’m a little hostile against these willfully ignorant people. ID is creationism wrapped up in a different colored bow trying to be something it isn’t.

Religion belongs in our science rooms about as much as me in my suit and tie belongs in a room of NASCAR fans watching the Daytona 500. That is to say, not at all.

The problem is with people who are ignorant (willfully or not) of science and/or have a religious agenda and they are trying to sell it as a viable alternative to science. Religious teachings are fine in the context of a Sunday school or, I dunno, church. You can certainly study the Bible or the religions of the world in a classroom setting. My problem is when you start trying to shoehorn religious belief and ideas in a science classroom.

Intelligent Design or, more accurately, creationism is the anti-thesis of science. Scientists theorize and experiment to learn about the world and the universe around them. A scientist can’t simply say, “I can no longer comprehend this concept. A miracle must have occurred.” With creationism, any questioning about the belief system is categorized as sinful. In science, questioning, testing and peer review is what you are supposed to do.

Science doesn’t care one iota about religious or philosophical thought. Both subscribe to the idea of truth, but one uses observed evidence and peer-reviewed testing and experimentation to discover the nature of the universe and the other uses a really old book of dubious origin by unknown authors.

When I go to a medical doctor, I want someone who has studied medical science not someone who has studied philosophy or the nature of faith. Sure, having a knowledge of philosophy is great when faced with moral choices, but it won’t help me get a heart transplant.

I bet when someone needs help the first thing you do isn’t to get down on your knees and pray, but to call 911. See, you are much more practical then you give yourself credit for and the world is much better off because of it. Science is practical and real. ID is made up bullshit that doesn’t belong anywhere except maybe at church, but only when it isn’t used to directly counter the scientific i.e. reality based world.

America is lagging behind in science education because religious fundamentalists push through their agenda of fear and willful ignorance to tired and scared school boards and principals. We have a president who has real problems with stem cell research strictly because of religious points of view. I find this repulsive.

Ignorance can be fixed by the desire to learn. Change ignorance to knowledge, don’t be stupid and recognize willful ignorance when confronted. Or, you know, the Flying Spaghetti Monster will touch you with his noodly appendage.