Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

“THE TRIUMPH OF BELIEF OVER REALITY”

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I read this article  just the other day, and it certainly has parallels to some of my recent thinking. It also supplied the title for this post. So,  I was in the bank the other day, and an old farmer was telling some acquaintance a new quote he had heard, some of my readers may have heard it before. “If you are not a liberal at 25, you have no heart. If you are not a conservative at 35 you have no brain.” He spoke it as if it were words of wisdom from Jesus himself, it had obviously impressed and amused him. (As an aside, it dates from only 1875 or so, so not Jesus.) I didn’t say anything because he wasn’t speaking to me. I’ve certainly heard if before, because I have been spending time in conservative social sites for decades, it’s a popular  saying.

Part of the reason I didn’t say anything, is that I didn’t know what to say. The statement is so sweeping and merciless in both its generalization and judgmentalism that it pretty much rejects any disagreement out of hand. Basically, the people who believe this statement are saying “I’m conservative, so I’m smart, liberals are stupid.” Disagree with it, why you just proved how stupid you are, you must be a liberal! And the ugly truth is that a lot of conservatives have come to believe this implicitly, they are smart, liberals are stupid.

Often still see it with Obama, conservatives routinely talk about how stupid he is. I’ve yet to hear one explain exactly what they mean by that. Obama got an advanced law degree from Harvard, with honors. Pretty sure a fair amount of smarts are needed to accomplish that. I mean, just listen to his speeches, one may disagree with what he is saying, but he is articulate and educated. Appartently many on today’s American right don’t see that, they hear him say things they disagree with, so they believe him to be stupid. Again, they believe it implicitly.

And belief is what it comes down to. The right has so normalized the belief that they are smart, anyone who disagrees is stupid, that social pressure and their political leaders have transformed and ingrained all sorts of opinions into beliefs. In fact what they believe and don’t believe has become their world view. They don’t believe in evolution. They believe in God. They don’t believe in climate change. They believe liberals are stupid. They believe in Trump. This is why his followers are so loyal, unlike so many other GOP leaders, he was able to convert political support into belief. Probably because unlike the politicians he swept aside in his march to the nomination, he’s a con artist. And if there’s one thing con artists do well, it’s believe in themselves. They believe in themselves so strongly that others are swept up in the con.

The problem, and the problem has been growing for decades, Trump is just the apogee of it so far,  is a lot of their beliefs are simply not true. And there’s almost no way to change people’s thinking once they have substituted belief for reality. Even when they are smart, and plenty of conservatives are quite smart, it’s really easy for a smart person to use false arguments and confirmation bias to make their beliefs impervious to fact and logical argument. And the rise of social media, talking heads like Rush Limbaugh, and Faux News has wildly exacerbated the problem.

When I was a young man conservatives and liberals disagreed on a lot of stuff, but at least the basic outline of reality was agreed upon. And debate was possible, at least among most people. There have always been extremists in all camps, but in the conservative camp the extremists have taken over. Even their view of liberals is divorced from reality. Very very few liberals want open borders, Soviet style socialism, or wholesale gun confiscation. Yet that and much more is what I see conservatives routinely characterize liberals as. How do you debate with people who not only have major reality testing problems, but supply both sides of the debate while they are at it?

Damned if I know, but I keep trying. That’s part of the reason I blog. Granted liberals have their own reality testing issues. Russiagate being the big one at the moment. And characterizing all Trump supporters as mouth breathing racists. Neither of those conflicts with basic science, neither of those are going to hurt anyone but the liberals themselves. Basic science denial like global warming denial or evolution denial,  yeah, those are going to cause big problems down the line. The former may be the death of us all, and the latter means raising children who are scientifically illiterate.

I don’t know how this mess is going to all fall out, but I’m not optimistic. To paraphrase: “Reality bats last.” Have a great weekend everyone.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: An imaginary reality. Credit: Unknown, Snappygoat image, Public Domain under US copyright law..)

Written by unitedcats

August 9, 2019 at 4:16 am

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