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The New Plague in America: The Denial of Reason

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 2/11/2015 John Tsilimparis
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I don't consider myself a conservative or a liberal, a republican or a democrat. So when I vote in the presidential election next November 2016, I will vote for the candidate who best resembles the unique combination of both realist and progressive because I firmly believe it's what our country desperately needs.
We all know what a progressive is but what about a realist? The definition of a realist is a person who is well-informed and can look at things as they are and deal with them in a practical manner. A person who has the ability to recognize the problems of a particular situation and who makes plans based on facts to rectify them. But most importantly, a realist is one who is prone to literal truth and rationality.
Progressive and realist thinking is not just an alternative political or social position. In my modest opinion, this position feels more like an urgent and essential response to a crisis of anti-knowledge and a "dumbing down" of our cogent thinking.
At this point, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton (I am personally not crazy about either one of these two candidates) are the only two viable candidates with a chance to win that intelligently address the important issues facing this nation today and moving forward into the future. The important issues such as climate change, gun violence, healthcare, racism, immigration, women's issues, all must continue to inspire vital discussions that help us adapt to the unavoidable current of change. If we fail to adapt, we may literally end up with our heads under water in the near future due to melting polar ice-caps or a modern civil war may break out over the interminable gun law debate and who knows what else.
Progressive and realist thinking means we are respectful of the shifting complexion of our world and instead of holding it back and thinking of it with resistance and fear, we contour our dialogue and subsequent decisions with proper actions. And, these days, especially after watching the comedy show of the Republican debates complete with temper tantrums, pissing contests and bad hair, all I hear is an inexplicable lack of worldly awareness and an attempt to idealistically regress this country back into the dark ages.
If you take anything from this article, take with you that progressive and realist thinking means honest AWARENESS and a genuine concern for our future generations, for their children and grandchildren. Awareness means respecting the scientific facts and not dismissing them. It means reading the signs on the wall, connecting the dots, etc. Progressive and realist thinking also means cultivating acceptance and ultimately compassion for everyone regardless of race, sexual orientation, gender, mental illness, etc.
German philosopher, Immanuel Kant spoke of a concept that all humans have a utilitarian obligation which he called the "Categorical Imperative." Kant claimed that we are beholden to follow a standard of rationality based on responsibility. In this ethical system, he says, "there is an unconditional moral law that applies to all rational beings and is independent of any personal motive or desire." So, this urgency I speak of is our calling to open up our minds, initiate the "awareness" that I mentioned before and consider how our lack of reason is in a sense detrimental to the human race. We cannot just sit back and expect God or time or the tooth fairy to fix things.
However, detractors of progressive and realist thinking, such as fundamental conservatives and other powerful yet insecurely minded groups, are in such profound denial that they have practically deserted their ability to process knowledge logically. They seem to think with their emotions instead of their intellect. Emotional reactivity is not what we want in the white house in 2016. Emotional reactivity is not how we are going to create new laws that are appropriate to the changing landscape of the modern era. Emotional reactivity is fear based and when fear is involved, people recoil into catastrophic thinking and resist progress.
An excellent article written by David Niose published in Psychology Today last June, talks about the "anti-intellectualism or the abandonment of reason" that is crippling our nation. It talks about how fundamental conservative thinking is blinding us to reality.
He says that "America is killing itself through its exaltation of ignorance." He gives an example by quoting Georgia Republican Paul Broun, who stated that, "God's word is true...evolution and the big bang theory are lies straight from the pit of hell." Holy Shish-kebab!
We even have a presidential candidate from the aging and creaky Republican Party, Ben Carson who claims that evolution is just a theory despite the obvious scientific proof that it's a well-known fact. In all fairness, perhaps he's simply not well informed about the legitimacy of the theory of evolution despite being a doctor and because of his faith, he is drawing conclusions based on innocent passion.
But the worst part of his psycho-ideology is that he also suggests that Satan was behind the theory of evolution. Yes, Satan as in the devil -the little red man with horns, a tail and a pitchfork. Yeah, that one.
He said, "I personally believe that this theory that Darwin came up with was something that was encouraged by the adversary."
The madness in his thinking is laughable yes, but, it's also another head-scratching example of this growing epidemic of anti-reason and illogicality that concerns me because many people in this country have responded to Mr. Carson favorably. He speaks to a scary flock of people that have also been bitten by the anti-intellectual disease. It's like a new zombie apocalypse only this time the virus that's killing everyone is absolute stupidity.
Niose also quotes another politician who tried to belabor the argument that climate change is a hoax, despite the confirmed and substantiated findings from reputable scientific organizations that climate change is a reality. Furthermore, in 2014, 74% of Republicans in the U.S. Senate denied the validity of climate change. Oy gevalt!
And more astonishingly, even politicians like ultra-religious, Sen. Rick Santorum and Gov. Jeb Bush contend the Pope should stay out of discussions about climate change. No way! Isn't the Pope something like the fundamentalist's avatar sent directly by God? Is he not the big kahuna when it comes to voicing the faith-based point of view? Now even religious conservatives can say "nope" to the Pope? What is this world coming to?
So, it seems that critical and forward thinking has been substituted by a naïve embrace of incomprehensible denial. It's remarkable to me that these climate change cynics are so frightened by this inopportune truth about our planet that they also fail to consider the long term effects of remaining idle over such an issue. They don't consider the world we are going to leave for other Americans. Do we want to be remembered as the generation that didn't give a hoot?
Niose also discusses how intelligent and balanced thinking as a cultural value has also been abandoned. As a society we have dropped the ball on responsible awareness for our future and cannot see the forest for the tress. He goes on to say that regarding the gun violence issue, "only rational public policy and informed thinking will allow us to enact new laws about restricting accessibility to guns for the people that should not be able to own guns." Sadly and ashamedly, we can't seem to enact any rational public policy despite the informed knowledge and statistics that would support the need for reform. The reason is because the irrational minds I speak of are too passionately engaged in an egocentric crusade of self-preservation. Living is easy with eyes closed.
Anti-knowledge breeds thinking that is motivated by panic. It doesn't matter what their IQ is, or what Ivy League school they attended. This is not about book smarts; it's about the ability to override your emotions and potentially rash decisions with your intellect and concrete facts. Anti-knowledge is a growing scourge, which can sometimes lead to violent reactions and as discussed, ill-informed responses -the kinds that cost us lives.
Another reason is that old-time religion plays a big part in the "dumbing down" of America too. In a modern era, the fact that we still have high ranking politicians and other influential people who are fanatical in their faith is downright dangerous. How dangerous?
A Gallup Poll released in 2014 found that 42% of Americans continue to believe in creationism and that God created humans 10,000 years ago in our present form. You may choose to call this faith and be OK with it, or you may reflect at the pathology behind it and tremble.
A perfect example of an anti-intellectual statement was made by a very sanctimonious President George W. Bush during his administration. We've all heard it a million times before and the dozens of other bone-head statements he made during his two terms as Commander in Chief, but it's worth underscoring again.
Before attacking Iraq with ground troops in 2003, President Bush said he was on a mission from the almighty and that "God told me to end the tyranny in Iraq." I beg your pardon? Sorry, but "God's will" is not and should never be a feasible foreign policy consideration. Lawmakers that still think we should incorporate religion into policy making efforts as we traverse as a nation into the future, is foolish and idealistic. But these people are out there and it happens.
Maybe it's just me, but it's very unsettling when the most powerful country on the planet still has politicians talking about foreign policy and other important issues in biblical terms and looking at the world structure in a good vs. evil design. Perhaps they feel so disconcertingly grounded in their divine righteousness that it appears to them like a holy war of good guys fighting bad guys.
Hence, all this craziness may indeed be due to this "abandonment of reason" that Niose speaks of. Or, perhaps not. But try not to read this article as a liberal or conservative. Think of heightening your awareness to the obligations we have to the next generation of Americans, to preserving the rights of all people and for us to stop massacring each other. Being civilized means we must preserve critical thinking and the natural human tendency to be curious.
And, come November 2016, consider not voting according to your party or political affiliation. Consider voting for the candidate that will help this country do the responsible thing.
Will you go progressive or regressive? Realist or idealist? You DO have a choice.

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