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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0 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 3, 2008
You'd think that Google would have an answer to everything but sometimes the simplest and most universal things---nada. Even the Wisdom of Crowds can,t tell you what no human knows.
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 3, 2008
Same old, same old. I can post as long as what I have to say is said in 25 words or less. Zen, isn't it? Some day bit rot or a gear shift in this black box will fix the problem the same way it did on that other fecking website.
Jul 3, 2008
Cynthia McKinney??? HA! You don't know her history? How about, introducing articles of impeachment for GWB? Remember that psycho Senator that attacked the Capital Hill police? That was Cindy. How about blaming Bush for Katrina, 9/11, and everything bad that happens to black people? Or how about that extremely important legislation she tried to pass to release the records of the Tupac Shakur and MLK investigations?

Not to mention the absolutely in-humane platform of the Green party itself ... And how does she expect to be big in the Green party when she trashes Al Gore as not being friendly enough with "negroes?" She's your candidate? Seriously?!

... ignorance truly -*is*- bliss ...
-2 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 3, 2008
Some of you seem to be assuming that as a fairly liberal guy, Scott would never vote for Obama. It seems in this case and over his last few posts that he is basically trying to justify voting for McCain. Although somewhat insulting to the man in this post, he has mainly said that the issues don't matter because noone knows anything about them and that he is pretty sure McCain will leave him with more money.

Also, the only issues he talks about are big ones that no president really has a better chance of being able to solve but leaves out any mention of extreme corruption in the Republican party that has lead to huge war profiteering, government money siphoning, loss of essential freedoms, and destruction of the overall Democratic process.

Remember, you're not electing a person, you are electing a party and all the baggage that comes with it. Hah, and look where your last couple failed elections have got you...
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 3, 2008
As long as we all behave like monads and honestly reflect the universe from our own unique point of view, it doens't matter that we don't understand M2. We are statistical samples and add up.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 3, 2008
Used to know what M2 was. Work with economists. Ask them. Empty shops=bad economy; chi-chi shops=overheated economy. Who needs M2? Even economists forget.
Jul 3, 2008
One thing a lot of people seem to foget is that there are more than two candidates running for President. Sure the two major parties get all the press but there are many more people running. The three big ones are:
Bob Barr - Libertarian
Ralph Nader - Independent
Cynthia McKinney - Green

For those conservatives out there upset that McCain got the nomination you might want to look into Bob Barr. He served as a Republican representative for a number of years before redistricting kicked him out of office. He has since become a member of the Libertarian Party which is very much in favor of less government (ie lower taxes).

For those not quite on Obama's side but not liking McCain you should look into either Ralph Nader or Cynthia McKinney. Nader has run multiple times before and likes to point out how the system is fixed against third party candidates, which is very true. He tends to lean liberal on most issues. Cynthia McKinney is a former Democratic Representative, although I don't know much of her history. Maybe those Clinton supporters who are upset she didn't win the nomination could switch to support Cynthia McKinney. Either choice could be a reasonable alternative to Obama.

The bottom line is that there are more than just two choices in this election that people should consider, it would just be nice if the media provided equal time to all candidates and not just the two major party candidates. By considering third party candidates you might actually find someone you agree with rather than voting for the "lesser of two evils" like most Americans do anymore.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 3, 2008
Can't post a GD thing to these fora.
Jul 3, 2008
I know almost nothing about cars or anything else with an engine in it. I know very little about how the human body works and I know even less about how to be a good cook. What makes me feel good about myself is hearing about people who don’t know who the second President of the United States was; who don’t know which state touches four out of five great lakes; or people who don’t know that the same person who wrote Romeo and Juliet also wrote Macbeth and Hamlet. I can sit back and confidently say to myself, “Well, at least I know more than that guy.”

How does it help the average person to know the name of the Chief Justice? Unless you are on Jeopardy!, it only helps if you want to sound intelligent at a party or in a bar. Even though it is useless information to have, it still helps people like me who couldn’t fix an engine if our lives depended on it feel superior in some small way, even if it is just for a second or two.

Oh, and by the way, I plan to use “Realistically, it doesn't matter if you think the sun revolves around the earth as long as you wear sunscreen” as my own clever witticism, giving you absolutely no credit at all. Thanks, I appreciate it.
Jul 3, 2008
Ignorance is bliss.

That's all most people need to know.
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 3, 2008
Hi Scott,

When I read "one good arm" I thought Bob Dole. I was ignorant to the fact that McCain can't switch hands and gain a stroke. Perhaps McCain will ask Dole to be his VP so he won't be out armed. Whine away Dave, I insulted a veteran and a person with a disability all at once.

I guess the point you are making is that there is nothing wrong with ignorance, most of the time. Works for me, I don't even know why.

Didn't someone once say "Ignorance is bliss". Maybe I'm wrong


PS: Have a Happy Independence day.
Jul 3, 2008

Earth does not revolve around the sun. If you add all the known velocity vectors of Earth we are headed in a straight line towards the Great Attractor. The velocity of our revolution around the sun is a minor part of this motion.

Reference frames are convenient, in fact the heliocentric reference frame is extremely convenient. But it is not reality. Geocentic reference frames are usually more relevant to our daily lives.

Jul 3, 2008
Sometimes knowledgeable people get shouted down by the media and mob. I think I saw some of that, along with some "attention misdirection," right before we went into Iraq - and then during and after and still today. Not sure who I should throw my shoe at about this - the media or everyone who knows what a Kardashian is but not Hamid Karzai. On second thought, I like my shoes. :P
Jul 3, 2008
That the average person cannot name the Chief Justice is directly related to their ignorance on the more important issues. If one does not care to be informed about one's government - even petty details like who is the top judge in the land - then why would one care to be informed on more "important" issues like foreign trade, national defense, et al? (Of course, you'd think people with such strong opinions one way or the other on Roe v. Wade would care to be informed about the name of the man that could possibly overturn it sometime in the future.)

The impact of ignorance cannot be judged relatively. People that don't know the names of their leaders and representatives in government cannot be expected to make a well-informed decision in the voting booth.

I could not decide which side you were arguing, Scott, but since the title of the blog is "Ignorance is Underrated," I will infer that you are, say, "opposed" to ignorance. Which is good. It means that education is important to you and is something that you will consider when making your decisions come November. Our poor education system is at the root of our mass ignorance. If we want to improve this country - be less ignorant - it needs to start in the schools.

As long as the average 1st grader associates tomorrow's holiday with "neat fireworks" without understanding what the celebration is truly about, I believe we will be stuck with buffoons in D.C.

Which is probably how many of them - the buffoons - would prefer things. A well-educated voter is not nearly so easy to manipulate. Ignorance = job security.

Ants are easier to control than intelligent humans. Ants think the poison tastes great, so they carry it back to the nest to share it with everyone. All of them ultimately suffer as a direct result of their "ignorance." If you've ever had ants in your kitchen, you know what it's like to take advantage of this ignorance.

Intelligent humans, on the other hand, will (hopefully) question why the oh-so-tasty poison is being freely distributed among the masses. In general, they will (hopefully) not suffer nearly as much as the ants thanks to their ability to recognize the trojan horse. If you've ever had intelligent humans in your kitchen, you know what it's like to not have a hope of manipulating them into eating the leftover casserole.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 3, 2008
The tough thing to accept is that an ingnorant person's vote counts just as much as that of the smartest, most informed person in the country. You may research a candidate's views on all the issues, do your own investigation into his or her voting records, and spend a lot of time and effort to make the most intelligent choice possible.

But your vote can be countered by a dullard who votes for your candidate's opponent because he wore a really cool hat at a photo-op.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 3, 2008
This is probably way too technical for most geeks...but in fact the Sun does revolve around the Earth, and so does the rest of the universe if you pick the appropriate frame of reference. It just so happens the mathematics works out much, much easier if we humans demote ourselves to some place less than center. But then again that math was developed by us humans for our own purposes.

I especially enjoy the fact that we are spending billions of dollars at someplace under a mountain in France and Switzerland so scientists can know what happened in the first 10 to the minus 45th second after the big bang....although they won't be able to quite prove it.

Most of the rest of us commom folk just worry needlessly about things we can't control anyway. Like who is really in charge of the TV remote and why it always finds nothing but commercials.

Happy Hunting y'all
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 3, 2008
Sometimes I wonder if the comments you make are intended to bait a specific response, or if they are your true feelings. I tend to lean towards the latter.

After reading through your latest book, I also wonder if you are reading the comments here. Occasionally, you mention that you have read the comments, but other than that, my guess is that you more skim through the comments.

This article in particular tells us quite a bit about yourself. Liberal intellectuals love to pontificate about how intelligent they are, yet ignorant at the same time. It's as if you are saying "Look at me! I'm so smart, I can call my self ignorant! HA! Morons!"

In the final paragraph of your article here, you make positive comments about one candidates personality, and make negative comments and generalizations about the other. This brings me back to my original comment. Is that really how you feel, or are you merely sticking your finger in the ant mound to see how the little ants react?

I suppose, at this point, you are expecting to read "How dare you talk about a war hero like that! You monster! You hate America! You have no soul!" I would never be so cliche. Speaking to you like that would only affirm your belief that people from the conservative end of the political spectrum are ignorant neanderthals that don't understand the issues. What you have told me from this article is that in the less than 5 years of politicking from B. Hussein Obama, you believe he is a "smooth-talking, inspirational candidate" that supports public welfare programs, and that after decades of public service, John McCain is an uneducated "old, short, ugly, angry guy" whose only redeeming quality is that he lost use of only one arm while a Prisoner of War for 5 years. Thank Allah he didn't lose both arms less Scott Adams would believe John McCain is completely worthless.

That says a lot about you Scott.
Jul 3, 2008
The odd thing is that people collectively can be smarter than they are individually. Studies have been done where several hundred people are asked to guess the weight of a bull at a county fair. Though most of them guess wrong, the average of their guesses usually comes out pretty close. That's one thing that makes democracy strong.

What makes democracy weak is when you get people who are very good at mass marketing and can convince the masses of just about anything. Then what you get is not really a democracy at all but a plutocracy which is run by those with enough money to hire the mass marketers. Politicians are marketed to the public like fish sticks or corn flakes and it doesn't matter what they say or do, it's whether they tap their foot during the debate or whether they wear a flag pin.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 3, 2008
The problem with the general ignorance of the population (as it relates to democracy) is that politicians stop trying to sell themselves based on who has the best policies (which require some understanding) and instead resort to playing to the ignorant masses with cheap trick politics (Karl Rove... I'm looking at you).

This raises another point. When you see the polling numbers, there is often a bias one way or another based on education... if you know you are dumb why not just assume that on average the more educated are going to make better decisions then you and vote with them?
Jul 3, 2008
you talk about it in a voting context but I've always found the irony in public opinion polls, particularly the "x% of people surveyed [dis]approve of how president mcchimp's handling of the economy" - those should always be qualified w/: "but then 98% of those surveyed also thought M2 was a new sports sedan from BMW..."
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