Michael Pierce exhorts all those who subscribe to the future to stand firm against the forces of ignorance in this, his inaugural column.
I sure hope I’m not stepping on Jeremy’s toes here, but what I intend to talk about today is definitely political. It’s unusual for me to talk about politics, you know — I’ve always subscribed to the Opinions Are Like Asses* view of the topic — but this really isn’t a red-versus-blue issue.
What we in America fear most today is the spread of fundamentalism, the clouding of minds with infallible and inalterable dogma. Curious it is, then, that we have elected and continue to elect few into positions of power that are not themselves fundamentalists. This fact, of course, has had a profound effect on our culture and laws over our two centuries of sovereignty, but the nature of that effect is changing.
Once upon a time, in the formative years of this nation, there were enacted the “blue laws,” and they were among the first in a long line of religiously-motivated pieces of legislation. While the idea of restricting the sale of alcohol on the Christian sabbath day does chafe my libertarian hide, it’s a relatively inconsequential right to have taken, all things considered. However, even the Puritans of yore would have blanched, I believe, at the thought of blocking scientific progress or revoking the rights of others that might be objectionable to one’s personal religious beliefs, yet that is just what we see happening today.
We’ve watched as stem cell research has been shot down time and again, and abortion looks to be headed the same way; drugs are illegal while alcohol and tobacco are not. In any nation worthy of the freedoms we do retain, there’d be outrage, but there is not. In fact, the majority — at least, the voting majority — seems in favor of these restrictions on our liberties, and that is what is most frightening of all. For all of our futurist navel-gazing, what is the point of it if, in the end, the preponderance of the population is content to ignore science and reject dinosaurs and slowly turn our nation over to theocrats?
The Intelligent Design fight is just another front of this battle. It’s not a debate over the legitimacy of evolution, it’s a group of zealots trying to inculcate the youth of our nation by legislating religion — their religion — into the curriculum. It should be said, though, that they appear already to have won this fight: a 2003 Gallup poll found that nearly half of Americans believe “God created man pretty much in his present form at one time within the last 10,000 years.” Distressing.
Science has tamed nature, put men on the moon, and is well on its way to solving the mysteries of the universe, yet a majority of Americans still refuse to take stock in it. Even the modern conveniences — cell phones, cars, home appliances — have not swayed them (not to say they don’t take advantage of these things). Considering the political bent of most futurists, it’s ironic that we appear to have won the war and lost the peace.
We’ve shat the bed here, and we have slept in filth long enough; now it’s time to change the sheets. It is imperative that we declare war, not on religion, but on ignorance; not in the classroom (though it wouldn’t hurt), but on the streets. We need to stop tolerating the spread of misinformation and begin actively to disseminate truth in its place. Not everyone needs to be a Penn Jillette, shouting out arguments until hoarse, but everyone needs to do his part.
It’s tough to be a futurist today. We skeptics and free-thinkers are an imperiled minority. No, we’re not being stoned in the town square or clapped in irons, but our way of life is under attack. So far we have not mustered a counterattack, but I feel it’s high time that we did.
* “Opinions are like asses: we all have them, and they all look dreadful in white slacks.”