American anti-intellectualism is not so much about explicit hostility toward intellectuals or knowledge. Rather, it is more of a celebration of ignorance which manifests mainly through scientific and social illiteracy and the overlap in places such as politics.
Presidential hopeful Ben Carson said the Big Bang Theory is nothing more than a fairy tale. It is ironic how he calls the best explanation we have for the evolution of the universe based on scientific evidence a fairy tale in order to uplift Bronze Age creation myths based on nonsense.
Another hopeful, the infamous Donald Trump, said Muslims should be barred from entering this great nation of immigrants and Mexicans are sending over their drug-dealing rapists. Clearly such bunk views are not fringe if people seeking the highest office in the land are representing them.
Everyday people in this country think astrology is a serious way to predict one’s future, and conspiracy theories seem to get more attention than Saturn. People are upset with an abusive government, but think an amendment to change the Constitution is treasonous. People complain about taxes, yet cannot tell you what taxes are used for. People want to bomb the terrorists, but cannot tell you where on a map those terrorists are. People are ironically misinformed.
Presidential candidate Ted Cruz denies climate change and is the chairman of the House Committee on Space, Science and Competitiveness. Florida Senator Marco Rubio denies climate change while his state sinks. Let’s not forget Missouri Rep. Todd Akin and his claim the female body has natural anti-rape powers to “shut that whole thing down.”
If you thought it couldn’t get any worse, think again. Half of American adults in 2001 thought the Sun orbits the Earth and dinosaurs and people coexisted. Gallup polls have consistently reported around 40 to 47 percent of Americans endorse young-Earth creationism, meaning they think the earth is about 6,000 years old instead of the scientifically proven 4.5 billion. This is akin to thinking the distance between Los Angeles and New York is about 20 feet, because both are demonstrably false.
Major mechanisms for the propagation of ignorance in our society are the failures of the public education system. For example, it was found recently only half of public school science teachers clarify that human usage of natural resources like fossil fuels is responsible for climate change. Forces of ignorance are trying harder than ever to pervade the classroom, from teaching Moses was a founding father to teaching creationism in biology.
The point of education is to overcome ignorance, not endorse it. Our public education system needs fixing. There aren’t enough teachers, they don’t get compensated well enough and educators are far too often encouraged to cut corners to meet curriculum and testing standards.
Against the rest of the world, the American education system is incredibly average, and it is dangerous when we think it better to live with comfortable myths rather than face the facts of reality.
The people of this democratic nation must be scientifically and socially literate so our laws are based on publicly verifiable evidence rather than private prejudice. Democracy depends on an informed public—people who do not rely on special interests to tell them what and how to think.
Since the American public is so uninformed, the doors of our government are open to abuse. Americans give legitimacy to ignorance and misuse when they select scientifically and socially illiterate people for public office. Thus, we shan’t be surprised to witness America’s downfall as a world leader due to our neglect of the one guarantee for future economic prosperity: investments in science and technology.