I’m not particularly enamored of Richard Dawkins, for the most part. I admire the efforts of damn near anyone whose goal is to make science and reason – as opposed to faith and “morality” – the cornerstones of modern society; but his zealotry on behalf his own atheism is often a bit too close to what it aims to oppose. However, when he’s right… he’s right.
Writing for the Washington Post, Dawkins takes current GOP frontrunner Rick Perry to task for his evolution-denialism; but in the big-picture he’s really calling out the strain of anti-intellectualism (masquerading as “anti-elitism”) that has infected the modern “conservative” movement in American politics. I find this passage particularly inspiring:
“What is unusual about today’s Republican party (I disavow the ridiculous ‘GOP’ nickname, because the party of Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt has lately forfeited all claim to be considered ‘grand’) is this: In any other party and in any other country, an individual may occasionally rise to the top in spite of being an uneducated ignoramus. In today’s Republican Party ‘in spite of’ is not the phrase we need. Ignorance and lack of education are positive qualifications, bordering on obligatory. Intellect, knowledge and linguistic mastery are mistrusted by Republican voters, who, when choosing a president, would apparently prefer someone like themselves over someone actually qualified for the job.”
To me, regardless of whose saying it, that sums up damn near everything wrong with not only Republican politics but American society in general – we’ve allowed “normal,” “average” and “common” to be seen as not just benign traits but POSITIVE ones. A society that equates someone who attains greatness – particularly intellectual greatness – as somehow being LESS qualified than a “normal” person or a “common-sense” approach is a society that is doomed.
Are we to be a people of Knowledge, and continue forward into the future? Or will we be a people of Belief, consigned to the ashbin of history alongside whatever arcane superstition we refuse to relinquish?