Our Quote of the Day is over 30 years old:

“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”

- Isaac Asimov, column in Newsweek (21 January 1980).

Category: Philosophy

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

58 Responses to “QOTD: Cult of Ignorance”

  1. Rouleur says:

    …nowhere is the GIB more pervasive than in the good ol’ USofA…

  2. Jeepers!! And who would have thought he’d be talking about the GOP one day.

  3. TripleSigma says:

    I like how anyone with an opposing point of view is deemed “igonrant”- get Isaac’s trash out of here.

  4. Chief Tomahawk says:

    “Squawk Box” on CNBC is now unwatchable. Joe Kernan and Michelle Caruso Cabrera spouting unchecked garbage nonstop.

  5. albnyc says:

    True then…true now. We do not learn.

  6. BusSchDean says:

    We need to redo our equations when it comes to knowledge and ignorance.

    Education ≠ Knowledge — Interviews of academics in the documentary “Inside Job,” Stiglitz fired from IMF by educated technocrats, enough said.

    Information ≠ Knowledge — Neither more information nor faster spreading information has improved our ability to sort what we know from what we don’t know, e.g., evolution, REALLY???

    Knowledge ≠ Ethical or even Legal Decision Making — Some current anger comes knowledgable leaders in business, government, and academia facilitating the crisis that hurt everyone.

    Knowledge REQUIRES context ≠ All knowledge is relative and debatable, tune any any talking head show.

  7. MorticiaA says:

    My reaction is mixed.

    On the one hand, this country – despite the major political parties doing their dead-level best to ruin it – still creates very intelligent and capable engineers, scientists, doctors, researchers, inventors….

    On the other hand, Jersey Shore remains on TV, and we’re obsessed with whether or not Sarah Palin is running for POTUS.

  8. Orange14 says:

    Actually it goes back much further and the classic tome is Richard Hofstadter’s Pulitzer winning “Anti-Intellectualism in American Life.” To bad the Hofstadter is not around today to write about the Tea Partiers; I’m sure he would have something cogent to say.

  9. Rogue Medic says:

    Intelligence means knowing one’s limitations. We have too many people who think they can fine tune the economy, or who claim that they are doing what others did when they claimed to fine tune the economy. When this ignorance leads intellectuals or idiots to think that there is a simple solution to complex problems they are equally unsound footing.

    “Explanations exist; they have existed for all time; there is always a well-known solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong.” H.L. Mencken.

  10. Rogue Medic says:

    Intelligence means knowing one’s limitations. We have too many people who think they can fine tune the economy, or who claim that they are doing what others did when they claimed to fine tune the economy. When this ignorance leads intellectuals or idiots to think that there is a simple solution to complex problems they are equally unsound footing.

    “Explanations exist; they have existed for all time; there is always a well-known solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong.” H.L. Mencken.

  11. Brett Tibbitts says:

    Wow, not sure how this quote adds anything to solving today’s problems…..seems far more emblematic of where we are today as a nation: “If you don’t agree with me, you’re ignorant.”

  12. wally says:

    ” No nation is permitted to live in ignorance with impunity ”
    -Thomas Jefferson

  13. Bruman says:

    Love the quote. Thanks for pointing it out, since I sometimes forget to look.

    (I like a lot of those quotes, BTW)

  14. ES says:

    One look at american schools is all you need to know that it is even more true today. A school will spend a million on a stadium, 300K on a coach salary but cannot afford teachers for smaller classes, no does it want smaller classes or qualified teachers. And coaches teaching other subject is just a disgrace. And should you say something about the need to cut the sports funding the parents are going into a war mode. Because, you know, how would you ever think to deprive their child of baseball practice. Would they now have to pay for it? Unthinkable.

    In the old USSR days I once went to a school were our “military readiness” instructor ( yeah, we had those in secondary schools, everyone had to know how to march properly and handle Kalashnikov, just in case you know) was also our art teacher. You get the picture. I think we spent the whole year drawing the same teapot.

  15. EMichael says:

    TripleSigma Says:

    October 6th, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    “I like how anyone with an opposing point of view is deemed “igonrant”- get Isaac’s trash out of here.”

    Exactly where in Asimov’s quote did you come up with “an opposing point of view” as determining ignorance?

  16. whskyjack says:

    Of course it does no good to mention this because it is such a part of our being that it just goes over the heads of most folks. Did you hear the big whoosh.

    Jack

  17. DeDude says:

    @Triplesigma;

    Opposing views are not ignorance if they are based on something. Views that are not built on facts or rational analysis of facts are ignorant (whether opposing or concurring). Problem comes when people think that whatever they pull out of their dumb asses is as good as opinions of people who have studied an issue for years. Yes the experts can be wrong but not because you have a different idea that “sound better” to you. They are wrong when you can point to problems in the assumptions and facts that they use, or with the methods or logic in their analysis of facts. Unfortunately many issues are very complex and for the lazy it is so much easier just to reject ideas that they “don’t like” than to try analyzing it to find out if it is right or wrong.

  18. BusSchDean says:

    Of course I meant that some people doubt evolution, despite the overwhelming data. Pardon my typos.

    We may test Jefferson’s statement.

  19. ssc says:

    I no longer have the book, so the quote is not exact, from Tina Frey’s Bossy Pants:

    “Politics and prostitution are the only two professions I know of that inexperience and ignorance are priced.”

  20. “GIB” = ‘Global Idiot Bubble’, yes (?)

    ~~

    “Intelligence means knowing one’s limitations. We have too many people who think they can fine tune the economy, or who claim that they are doing what others did when they claimed to fine tune the economy. When this ignorance leads intellectuals or idiots to think that there is a simple solution to complex problems they are on, equally, unsound footing….” Rogue Medic, above (w/edits)

    good Point~
    ~~

    We forget, at the minimum, two things..1. Asymptotes exist, and 2. They’re a B*tch.
    ~~
    Noun 1. asymptote – a straight line that is the limiting value of a curve; can be considered as tangent at infinity; “the asymptote of the curve”
    straight line – a line traced by a point traveling in a constant direction; a line of zero curvature; “the shortest distance between two points is a straight line”

    Based on WordNet 3.0, Farlex clipart collection. © 2003-2008 Princeton University, Farlex Inc.
    http://www.thefreedictionary.com/asymptote

  21. “We may test Jefferson’s statement.”

    BusSchDean,

    you mean, We haven’t been?

  22. wmallon says:

    could you write a column discussing why H.Cain should never be allowed to speak publicly again? http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/2011/10/05/2011-10-05_herman_cain_to_occupy_wall_street_protesters_if_youre_not_rich_blame_yourself.html

    this guy is captain ignorance

  23. BusSchDean says:

    Mark E H: Good point!

  24. ToNYC says:

    The high road don’t go to Hell.
    Remove ignorants from your path as fast you see them.

  25. Transor Z says:

    -For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled.

    -I believe that a scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy.

    -It is in the admission of ignorance and the admission of uncertainty that there is a hope for the continuous motion of human beings in some direction that doesn’t get confined, permanently blocked, as it has so many times before in various periods in the history of man.

    -The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.

    Richard Feynman quotes

  26. theexpertisin says:

    Interesting comment from the late Isaac.

    I suppose the millions of Americans who read his works – some excellent, others trash- would be defined as “stupid” because they purchased Asimov’s work based upon his name on the cover and not the quality of content, as we did with Hemingway.

    No country has a monopoly on stupidity, although the French would disagree.

  27. Rouleur says:

    GIB = Global Idiot Bubble

    …yes, of course, Mark…

  28. bonzo says:

    >…false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”

    That was 1980. Now it’s more like “my ignorance is better than your knowledge”.

  29. Allocationist says:

    When I read the Asimov quote I too thought of CNBC “Squawk Box.” As Chief T posted, Kernan and M.C.C. are out of control and are being allowed to intimidate anyone, including Sorkin, who dares to offer a different point of view than their manifesto. I got tired of watching their arrogant bullying and rarely watch S.B. any more.

  30. theexpertisin says:

    Perhaps amongst the folks possessing world-class self esteem, admitting ignorance is preferable to being too smart by half.

  31. econimonium says:

    I read the quote and immediately looked at the “instructions” for the comments section. I see not many really comprehend it :)

    In the economic sense, I’m reminded of the people that keep screaming inflation is “just around the corner” (perhaps the corner they have in mind is 2018), that cutting taxes for people that make more than 250k a year will cost us jobs (I for one don’t hire anyone out of my personal salary that the 2k or so would change), that the lack of jobs is structural (when, clearly, the lack of demand is overwhelming), that somehow the Federal Reserve is the root of all evil (they aren’t and they’ve helped), that bringing the gold standard back would somehow magically solve everything (like it worked so well in the 1800s), that government regulations are a major cause of the lack of jobs (got news, I just opened a business branch in 6 weeks, 4 of which was constuction), and that banking has too many regulations (like it really worked out in that mortage market when we let them go or looked the other way, right?).

    But none of this fits with their political view of the world, so all the evidence and data MUST be wrong, manipulated, or we’re just being lied to by some “government agency”. That’s what this quote means. And you know who you are. Or maybe you don’t, but I fully believe that deep down inside, you do.

  32. tagyoureit says:

    All this talk about knowledge means it’s time to bust out the Operation Ivy record.

  33. WFTA says:

    It was probably a delusion, but I used to believe that in years past, the informed opinion carried more weight than the uninformed. I know for certain that it is not so today.

  34. dougc says:

    The level of ignorance in 1980 America was ankle deep, in 2011 we are drowning in ignorance. The comedian (john Stewart) offers insight and the MSM offers comedy.

  35. Futuredome says:

    You have to remember, everything is intellectual. To believe in “economics” as such, is intellectualism. Paleo- cons/libs try to consistantly give a persona of some kind of rebel. But the truth is, they are the establishment of private credit mechanism. They disagree with some constructs of it, but their affirmations of the private credit mechanism is completely derived from the intellect no more than Monetarism.

    Anti-intellectualism would have had a major government response and moblization of resources into moving production forward. Because it is results based. Intellectualism gives you a “theory” on how something can move. For the “gold standard” types is keeping capital owners valuations sky high against the labors and business. Because they believe they alone move and shake economics. Hence, the gold standard must be international, or it doesn’t work. Something paleocons/libs will never understand. They live a intellectual fantasy.

    The “free market” is a intellectual fantasy. It does not exist in nature. Capital owners are not natural. Matter of fact, Capital ownership is a new feature in todays world. Something that came out of the enlightment’s need to destroy the natural aristocracy that continued down the path to Marxism. The goal of egalitarianism is strife with failure. It is the inquality of power that moves the world. Dictatorship of the Merchant that the paleo-cons/libs want would be as genocidal as Bolshevism itself.

    The Bourgeois be the Bourgeois. Let the Rock Star be the Rock Star.

  36. Petey Wheatstraw says:

    econimonium Says:

    “In the economic sense, I’m reminded of the people that keep screaming inflation is “just around the corner” (perhaps the corner they have in mind is 2018) . . .”

    Kind of OT, but to say that our money supply isn’t, or hasn’t been, inflated belies the reality. Where did all of the “cash” for QEs I & II come from? More importantly, where did it go? The decline of the dollar’s value can be directly linked to it’s supply.

    Our problem is allocation. The squeeze of the middle class.

    http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/print/4910

    Denninger also had a good post on the “financialization’ of our economy, and it’s reliance on inflation to reallocate wealth to the top :

    http://market-ticker.org/akcs-www?post=195434
    _______________

    Futuredome:

    Your comment is too intellectual.

    “The goal of egalitarianism is strife with failure.”

    Please explain how the middle class of 20th century America — and it’s attendant wealth for an unprecedented percentage of the population — came about, if not by relative egalitarianism.

  37. HarleyHoward says:

    As Dirty Harry said “I admire a man who knows his limitations.” Obviously the entrenched elite “intellectuals” don’t. Common Sense from the Heartland – http://howardwemple.com

  38. HarleyHoward says:

    I wish the “intelligentsia” would read (and try to understand) the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Federalist Papers, and Wealth of Nations. THEN try to tell us where the Founding Fathers are wrong or so misguided, and how that framework didn’t make us the greatest country in the history of mankind. Then they can try to explain how the Entrenched Elites haven’t pissed it all away!

  39. HarleyHoward says:

    While you’re at it, please tell me what Wall Street and the financial (banks) entrenched elites contribute to wealth creation. What do they add to society or the economy?

  40. HarleyHoward says:

    Also, news flash, the United States of America is NOT a democracy, it is a Republic.

  41. ThatsNotAll says:

    Nothing is more idiotic than repeating the errors of the past. So why do we have a growing fervor in Washington, lead by Democrats and the Fed Chairman, to start raise tariffs on trade. Smoot-Hawley anyone?

    Quite the irony when the ignorant reaction of so many self-professed smart people is to call Conservatives stupid. That George Will, he is some stupid guy, right? Maybe not.

  42. PaulF says:

    Sympathies to those weary of “Squawk Box”. For a smart alternatinve try Bloomberg Radio’s morning show “Surveillance” with Tom Keene and Ken Pruitt. Magnitudes more intelligent than the Fox-like rants on CNBC. Knowledgeable hosts and smart guests, including Barry Ritholz who was just on Wed. The price is right too – free from 7 – 10 am Eastern @ http://www.bloomberg.com/radio/ Highly recommended.

  43. wunsacon says:

    >> I wish the “intelligentsia” would read (and try to understand) the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Federalist Papers, and Wealth of Nations. THEN try to tell us where the Founding Fathers are wrong or so misguided,

    HarleyHoward, who says the founding fathers were so wrong or misguided? Your imagination seems to have run wild.

  44. kaleberg says:

    The US has long had an anti-intellectual bias. No one in the US argues that one person is a better baseball player than another, but as soon as you start arguing about who is smarter, or who might know more because they’ve studied the problem longer, suddenly no one is better than anyone else. This is actually something that unites the left and right in this country. The left wing doesn’t like to believe in knowledge, except, perhaps when it ines up with their politics. The right wing believes in knowledge, but it has to align perfectly with their politics. It’s been a pincer movement destroying our educational system.

  45. ToNYC says:

    @ Allocationist Says:

    One project in the fire is to replace Joe and M.C.C with a faux-voice (can’t pay the prima-donna originals since they are not corporations) Simpsons..when Jeff Grundlach or the like comes by it will be less distracting. Russ and Silvia are rock solid if you play the Continent early.

  46. Petey Wheatstraw says:

    Harley Howard:

    All it takes is a few intelligent and powerful people, appealing to emotion — which is the strong suit of the ignorant — to fan the flames of righteous indignation towards the “smart people,” for the wheels to come off.

    Can you explain how the “Common Sense from the Heartland” crowd has given up on science in favor of religion (something our founders never did)? Or how it is that they can’t manage to comprehend that the policies that created and sustain them are the very ones they want to trash? Please explain why they root for war against entire classes and/or cultures of people, despite facts that are contrary to their “understanding” of the issues? Can you explain how they preach Christianity out of one side of their mouths and hatred out of the other?

    The answer is that they are butt ignorant, and dangerously so.

    Who TF needs intelligence when you can rely on gut feelings, and then double down on the resulting failure by blaming others when your decisions blow up in your face?

    From what I can tell, there isn’t much value in what you assert to be common sense. It’s nonsense.

  47. gman says:

    The “ignorance” of which Asimov speaks has been astutely cultivated and nurtured by the best marketing,PR, advertising and think tanks money can buy! The american public ..being what Hofsteadter said the were..NEVER STOOD A CHANCE of being anything but dangerously ignorant.

  48. wunsacon says:

    >> The “ignorance” of which Asimov speaks has been astutely cultivated and nurtured by the best marketing,PR, advertising and think tanks money can buy!

    Yes…

    “Think tanks” = propaganda groups. They help shape public opinion while the lobbyist goes in for the vote.

  49. BobCarver says:

    @HarleyHoward

    Also, news flash, the United States of America is NOT a Republic, it is a Plutocracy.

  50. Aussi says:

    Maybe its just the American way of getting to the solution.
    Remember what Winston Churchill said:
    “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing – after they’ve tried everything else.”

  51. Aussi says:

    Petey Wheatstraw Says:
    October 6th, 2011 at 11:05 pm

    All it takes is a few intelligent and powerful people, appealing to emotion — which is the strong suit of the ignorant — to fan the flames of righteous indignation towards the “smart people,” for the wheels to come off.
    Can you explain how the “Common Sense from the Heartland”…..
    The answer is that they are butt ignorant, and dangerously so.
    Who TF needs intelligence when you can rely on gut feelings, and then double down on the resulting failure by blaming others when your decisions blow up in your face?

    From what I can tell, there isn’t much value in what you assert to be common sense. It’s nonsense.

    Well said Petey. Wasn’t Socrates murdered by the Common Sense Crowd of Athens 399BC for the “Impious Act” of questioning Ummm…common sense.

  52. bbt says:

    I seem to have heard someone say and I paraphrase, “Sometimes those with really really high IQs have the worlds worst judgement” Think I was listening to a podcast. I think they were talking about Roubin, Summers and Geithner.

  53. orvil tootenbacher says:

    not everyone is smart. or real smart like assimov. but you shouldn’t be shocked with righteous backlash if you treat “them” with an attitude that smacks of condescending contempt.

  54. ToNYC says:

    Common Sense and Thinking Differently work well in a world or micro-culture for that matter of good Morality and Ethics.
    Ignorance fails without the Good. Go get some and be come clean. Pack your trash.

  55. VRWC says:

    Skepticism toward “experts”…. especially the self proclaimed kind who are most adept at getting on TV…. is not ignorance.

    Nor is skepticism toward scientists who are better at convincing politicians of their “truths” than their fellow scientists.

    All men are ignorant…. just about different things….

  56. DeDude says:

    No skepticism is the opposite of ignorance if it is based in facts, solid arguments and logic thought. Problem is with skepticism that is basically based in that “it sounds wrong” or “it does not conclude what I want it to conclude, so it must be wrong”. Opinions should be based on facts and reality – and so should skepticism.

  57. ToNYC says:

    Skepticism is only a weak noodle to get the boat rocking. Occupation in silence speaks more loudly. Bearing witness to the crimes without becoming witless.