We live in an era of constant debate in every aspect of our lives. Those that sew division among us say that objective truth is no longer so. It’s one of the greatest crises humanity is experiencing.
The rise of anti-intellectualism, that is to say the disdain for those that have high experience or credentials in a particular area, is unfortunately not a new phenomenon. Throughout history, there have been periods where rapid scientific discovery pushed against mad traditionalism. These pushes against scientific progress are often fueled by religious belief but not always. A notable instance of this is related to the discovery that the Earth rotates around the Sun and not the other way around. Early astronomers such as Copernicus and Gallileo were viciously attacked by the ruling power at the time, the Catholic Church. Eventually, as society grew and expanded, the Church’s power weakened but not supremely. When we get to the 1800s, we have Charles Darwin who postulated that organisms evolve from one another in an endless train via natural selection. He did not receive unanimous praise for this idea and even today, among people who don’t attempt to understand science (anti-intellectuals), it is still contested, even though there are mountains of evidence to the contrary. The question of course is why? Why would someone when presented with a clear explanation of a phenomenon, instead of modifying their world view and moving on, they would rather dig their heels in and scream? It’s borderline psychotic.
We get to the late 20th and 21st centuries where science is rapidly developing. Humanity is discovering more and more things about our universe and these discoveries are made by scientists whose primary purpose is to uncover knowledge that is just sitting out there, waiting. On the other side of this discovery, you have political motivators, ignorant loudmouths, and anti-intellectuals. These are your climate crisis deniers, your anti-vaxxers, your flat-earthers, those that still believe that there are only two genders or that heterosexuality is the only form of sexuality that exists. These people go against modern discourse. We go back to the question of why. The answer is not simple.
These people generally fall into one of three categories: the political deniers, the science deniers and the religious deniers. The political deniers stem their criticisms of scientifically modern ideas from political talking points usually based on faulty research, aimed at getting a particular response and sometimes a strong movement going in favor of one side of a debate. The science deniers are still stuck in their sixth-grade science class, thinking that gender and sex are the same thing (which to be clear, they aren’t) and that homosexuality is unnatural (which to be clear again, it isn’t). There are mountains of research, but the science deniers won’t have it even when it’s put right in front of them. The religious deniers believe that their religion is the deciding factor for everything, not just in their life, but in everyone else’s lives. They can’t fathom a metaphysical philosophy of how the world is structured other than their own and they often leak this mindset into the political and science denier’s mental environment. They think that all decisions should be made in accordance with their religion even if it harms other people.
What is to be done about anti-intellectualism? There are two options. One, we can attempt to educate those that will have it, or two, do not give them an inch. Those that are committed to misunderstanding you do not deserve your time, and this is not a bad thing to do. Tribalism is not some deadly superweapon to polite society. If anything, it’s the antidote to chaotic society. Not all ideas are equal the way some would have you believe. Ideas that actively harm or inspire harm to others or society have no place in polite society and do not deserve respect. That is the bottom line.