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I keep seeing stories about the ignorance of the general public. You usually see this sort of story around election time. The stories typically involve statistics about, for example, what percentage of voters can name the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. (It's John Roberts.) The point of the stories is that the average person is clueless.
While I agree with that point, how does it help the average person to know the name of the Chief Justice?

Another statistic I have been seeing lately is that ten percent of American voters think Obama is a muslim. Your first thought might be that this misunderstanding could influence who becomes the next president of the United States. But ask yourself if any of the people who think Obama is a muslim are likely to vote for a black Democrat under any circumstance. I'm guessing that the ignorance of those voters on that particular point will have no impact on anything.


Realistically, it doesn't matter if you think the sun revolves around the earth as long as you wear sunscreen. Most ignorance is benign. That's lucky because any individual knows a vanishingly small percentage of the things that other people collectively think is important.

If you step it up a level, and consider how many voters understand the complexities of international trade policies, or economics, or national defense, the stakes are higher. If the country gets any one of those things wrong, it's a disaster. But experts always disagree on the complex issues. When knowledgable people can't agree on the best course of action, there's no reason to think ignorance will get you to a worse place than knowledge. The only thing you can know for sure is that the ignorant people wasted less time reading about things that didn't help.

Amazingly, the government still functions, albeit inefficiently, in spite of all this ignorance. It does this simply by observing what didn't work last time and occasionally trying something new next time. Apparently that is enough to limp along. It works for ants and it works for us. Or at least I think it works for ants. I'm actually quite ignorant about ant behavior, but notice how it doesn't matter?


When it comes to picking our next president, I can't decide if I prefer the smooth-talking, inspirational candidate who promises to give my money to people who don't work as hard as I do, or the old, short, ugly, angry guy with one good arm who graduated at the bottom of his class and somehow managed to shag a hot heiress and become a contender for president. It seems dangerous to underestimate that guy.

 
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Jul 4, 2008
As usual, this is going to be a Turd Sandwich Vs Giant Douche election...
 
 
Jul 4, 2008
Well written, nicely worded post. But your constant harping on about those puppets is getting to be so.... YAWN! I have a sneaky suspicion that the comment rating mechanism is being used to provide data for more of your outlandish theories.

And Americans, like, hello??, spellcheck anywon? Uhuh? Wot lazi grammer to. When are you going to stop using sentences that like, begin with one topic but meander on about other things and also have an opinion about everything that SUCKS bigtime then suddenly.
 
 
Jul 4, 2008
bbarber3:

I am concerned that someone who is overly concerned about the nature of someone else's belief, cannot even spell Christian. And I am a committed (if pedantic) atheist.

I think that by this excessive judgementalism on this point you are passing judgement on yourself. After all, judge not lest ye be judged, and I think you are doing the judging here.
 
 
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Jul 4, 2008
Oh come on Scott, take a stand already. It is not the end of the world if it turns out that you did not get it right.

Ignorance is 'only' unimportant in matters that are too complex even for experts, which are unfortunately the issues that the government deals with most of the time. You're absolutely right there.
 
 
Jul 3, 2008
An interesting TED talk on ant colonies and how they organise themselves apparently without communication:

http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/deborah_gordon_digs_ants.html
 
 
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Jul 3, 2008
Never misunderestimate a Republican.
 
 
Jul 3, 2008
We are mere pawns in Darwin's evolution gig. We only need to be smart enough to pass our genes on, the rest is for show! Your comments about governmental officials can be boiled down to crony of the week/term/decade, only their families care what their names are. The true issues are masked by the spin media feeding us pablum.
 
 
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Jul 3, 2008
To SCBAKER:
"Umm, "people who don't work as hard as I do"? Do you seriously think that you work harder than everyone (or even most) of the people who earn less than you? Do you think those who make more than you work harder?"

Most people who work for themselves work harder than the average Joe (I only work ~46hrs a week). Hourly folks ( the largest group of workers) only work 40. I am sure that Scott is sure where he stands in that spectrum.

That said it distresses me that he is using his VOICE to subtly help push towards an Obamanation. It will drive business and capital overseas. And when he doubles the capital gains tax it will screw me on my retirement savings! Thank God for social security LOL.
 
 
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Jul 3, 2008
I have one problem with your commentary Scott. You said:

"But experts always disagree on the complex issues. When knowledgable people can't agree on the best course of action, there's no reason to think ignorance will get you to a worse place than knowledge."

My problem with that statement is that it presupposes that just because someone studies a subject, that they can make an intelligent assessment of the data. I have known people with "more degrees than a thermometer" who didn't really have an intuitive understanding of the subject matter. Remember the equation C=PhD.
 
 
Jul 3, 2008
"Another statistic I have been seeing lately is that ten percent of American voters think Obama is a muslim."

I am more concerned that close to 90% (including Obama himself) think that he is a Christain. By his own words, he will tell you that Christ is not the only way to salvation. I think that by definition to be a 'Christ'ain you should believe that he is the only way.

Jesus said so himself in John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth and the life. NO ONE comes to the Father EXCEPT THROUGH ME" (emphasis added). Either you believe that Jesus is who he said he is OR you believe he is a madman, there is no middle ground.

Obama probably isn't a Muslim, but he is not a Christain either. Maybe he is aware that he is not truly a Christain but wants the American voters to think he is, that would concern me greatly (what else is he being dishonest about???).
 
 
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Jul 3, 2008
This is rather about today's strip. In SWITZERLAND evolution scientist's research shows that stupid flys lives longer, because increased neural activities taxes their systems.

So evolution doesn't always favor the smarter breed!

http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20080604/sc_afp/switzerlandscienceanimal_080604122103
 
 
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Jul 3, 2008
I loved this blog, and I'm sold, ignorance is underrated.

Still, who would you rather be stuck next to on a long plane ride, someone who thinks Obama is a Muslim, or someone who's intelligent and interesting?
 
 
Jul 3, 2008
My problem isn't so much ignorance in voting- its ignorance in action.

Exhibit A is the group of degenerate, knuckledragging, inbred hicks from Topeka, Kansas that like to protest funerals. Their motivation cannot be explained by any kind of rational conclusion- its pure ignorance.

Ignorance of their supposed faith.

Ignorance of the lives and values of those they protest.

Ignorance of simple common decency.

Being ignorant of big huge concepts is OK, for the most part. It the fundamental things like "don't protest at a dead soldier's funeral" that causes problems.
 
 
+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 3, 2008
>experts always disagree on the complex issues. When knowledgable people can't agree on the best course of action, there's no reason to think ignorance will get you to a worse place than knowledge.

This seems to be a theme that Scott keeps coming back to, and that really really worries. Me. Geologists disagree about the exact age of the earth. Evolutionary biologists disagree over exactly how evolution occurs. Astrophysicists disagree on exactly how planets, solar systems, galaxies, and (particularly) the entire universe formed. But that doesn't suggest that creationists (as one example of a largely ignorant demographic) have equally valid opinions on these topics.

Similarly, economists differ on the details, but agree on quite a few fundamentals of economics. (The gas tax holiday would not do what its supports claim, for example.) Experts on international relations differ on what a "best" course of action with respect to Iran or North Korea might be, but there are a huge number of approaches they all agree are idiotic.

There are an infinite number of ways to do things, and experts tend to be able to at least narrow the choices by eliminating huge classes of disasterous approaches. Want to see what happens to an economy when you really do disregard all of modern economics? Look at Zimbabwe.

Epistemological relativism is just plain dumb.
 
 
Jul 3, 2008
Obama is a muslim? Thanks for the info, Scott!

(Since you say people always misinterpret what you say, I thought I'd help out a bit))
 
 
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Jul 3, 2008
Umm, "people who don't work as hard as I do"? Do you seriously think that you work harder than everyone (or even most) of the people who earn less than you? Do you think those who make more than you work harder?
 
 
Jul 3, 2008
To djfelix:

Just to clarify Cynthia McKinney is not my candidate I was simply offering her up as an alternative to Obama. I have not done enough research on her to date to say much about her. I was aware of her attack on the Captial Hill security officer but that was it. She wasn't my representative so I had no need to keep up on who she was prior to her run for President.

As for your comment on how she expects to be big in the Green party because she trashes Al Gore, I don't know but they chose her to run for president back in May so apparently some of them like her.

Thank you for providing some background on what she has done in the past.

 
 
Jul 3, 2008
Looks like you have made up your mind already.
 
 
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Jul 3, 2008
Kanye West is right: George W. Bush doesn't care about black people. None of them are rich or vote for him.
His base: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mn4daYJzyls Notice he is wearing white tie. Speaking of the ignorance of the populace, do you know how many people in the USA even know that white tie exists?
 
 
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Jul 3, 2008
Pascal looked on the vast uncaring emptiness of the universe and was horrified--he rushed into the arms of religion. But ignorance, like the vastness of space, is insulation and security as well as risk. Apathy protects you psychologically and fiscally. Bloody-minded stupidity is a cunning rhetorical device.
 
 
 
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