The Problem With Unfounded Beliefs
Ignorance on its own drives me nuts, but at least it’s a curable condition. Someone doesn’t understand a concept like magnets? BAM! There’s a wikipedia article to explain it to them! I don’t like math because I’m “bad at it.” POOF! My fiance starts quizzing me randomly during the day and all of a sudden it’s easier!
Unfortunately, a more insidious form of ignorance exists: willful ignorance. This is the type of behavior that leads to aging misogynistic senators making obscenely stupid comments about legitimate rape. Todd Akin doesn’t know jack shit about how the female body works, and damn it, he doesn’t want to! That would mean he’d actually have to have some sympathy for those who have had to make the extremely personal decision to abort a pregnancy and he would have to accept that other people don’t think that life begins at conception.
Another example in a similar realm is sex education. Studies (with real facts and data and everything!) have shown that abstinence-only education DOES NOT WORK. In fact, the states with abstinence-only programs firmly in place are leading the nation in teen pregnancy rates. And yet, advocates of this practice continue to expound on its virtues, again ignoring the reality of the situation because they “don’t believe in” sex before marriage despite this being the norm for most people, teens included.
Now, those were two examples of where people’s religion got in the way of their critical thinking skills. There are SO many more examples, but I want to move on to the other end of the ignorance spectrum- the OVERLY skeptical. This includes the anti-vaxxers, conspiracy theorists, moon-landing hoaxers, and Holocaust denialists. These people have actually thought themselves out of reality. It’s definitely good to have a health skepticism of most things, but again, CRITICAL thinking plays an important part in knowing when something’s bunk after reading up on it (homeopathy), or if something appears to be true because it has been studied extensively with a ridiculous amount of evidence backing it up (evolution). I know someone who isn’t vaccinating her child. When I asked her why (and asked her to please stop spreading lies about a disproved link between autism and vaccines), she replied with the typical crazy person “big pharma is bad!” argument.
Trying to have a discussion with someone who is willfully ignorant is like banging your head against a wall. They refuse to acknowledge reality, so don’t be surprised when your rational arguments fail. More and more, though, this type of behavior is becoming acceptable. Look at the shit job that the media is doing with fact-checking political candidates during interviews. As if it’s almost impolite to interrupt someone while they’re lying! The same goes for religion. Why is it considered rude to challenge a wrong belief because someone says “I just know it in my heart?”
So, why can’t I just live and let live? Why can’t I be ok with people just continuing to believe in bullshit? Well, as it turns out, unfounded beliefs are incredibly dangerous. I share with you now one of my favorite websites:
It’s a simple, informative list of non-reality based beliefs that ended in very real tragedies. I certainly hope anyone reading this takes the time to look over some of the examples of how people’s willful ignorance have harmed others and realize why we can’t be complicit in ignoring that these types of people are out there, and many of them vote.