The Watering Hole, Monday, June 6, 2016: Can American Democracy Actually Work?

I want to believe. I want to believe that democracy can work in America. But can it? Can it really?

Although it was originally posted more than two years ago on Alternet, Raw Story reprinted an article that makes me wonder. It seems humans will believe what they want to believe, facts be damned. People who thought there were WMDs in Iraq clung to that misperception even harder when shown an article correcting that story. People who thought President George W. Bush banned ALL stem cell research still believed that even when told only a partial ban was put in effect. (No new stem cell lines could be created for research, but research was allowed to continue using the 60+ lines then in existence. Which isn’t nearly enough.) These were examples making conservatives look bad, but political leaning has nothing to do with it. It’s true of all humans, regardless of political philosophies. Facts simply don’t matter. But Education does. If you’re taught the truth about things when you’re younger, you’re less likely to believe false things when you get older. Kids grow up believing what their parents teach them to believe, which is fine if the parents aren’t complete idiots. But if they are, by the time kids enter the public education system they’re already off to a bad start. It would help if schools were allowed to teach actual critical thinking skills, as people would learn how to verify new information and not just accept it because it confirms what they already believe. But as the study shows, that seems to be the essence of the problem. We do not seem to be wired to process information this way. At least, according to how the scientist interpreted the results. There was no measure beforehand of how well the participants could use critical thinking skills, and therefore may have had pre-conceived ideas (however false) but couldn’t process the new information in a way that would make them change their opinion. Hence, the tendency to cling harder to what they previously believed to be true.

Religion may also be responsible for much of this. And not just Christianity, but organized religion of any kind. Particularly in America, we have a lot of people who claim religion is important in their lives, but who don’t even know basic facts about their own religion as well as atheists and agnostics do. But the areas in America where religion is least important are also the areas where literacy rates tend to be higher. Religion requires no critical thinking, and discourages questioning what one is told to be the truth. And while there have been men (almost entirely) who were allowed to explore questions about faith, their answers were heavily censored and only allowed publication if approved by the religious leaders. In other words, not a lot of objectivity, and essentially just an addition to what people are being told to believe. The approved philosophical writings were used to justify why what you were being told is the truth, which is what the study seemed to indicate happens even with so-called smarter people. People still believe what they want to believe and use their reasoning to justify it afterwards. The problem is, there are way too many people in this country who believe provably false things like the Sun revolves around the Earth, and a large percentage who don’t know the Universe began with some kind of large explosion (as opposed to being brought into existence as is). Even more frightening is that more than half do not understand or believe in Evolution. How many times have you heard someone (often a religious conservative) say, “If we’re descended from monkeys, how come there are still monkeys?” (Evolution doesn’t say all monkeys turned into humans. Evolution says humans and monkeys share a common ancestor.) If you can’t start with the most basic of factually correct information, how can you possibly make a well-reasoned decision on which direction to take our country? If you think voting for someone who actually believes the Earth is less than 10,000 years old is going to solve our nation’s problems, then you’re one of the problems.

As I said before, Education can help, especially when started at an early age. As soon as children learn there are natural explanations for the way the Universe works (even if we don’t fully understand them yet), and that it’s not all attributable to an impossible Being with severely psychotic tendencies who kills at a whim, there is hope for Democracy in this country. And a better life for all, too. Studies have shown that elsewhere in the world, the highest standards of living tend to be found in the least religious countries, and the poorest in the most religious. America seems to be the exception. We have both a higher-than-average standard of living and yet are among the more religious countries in the world. But that will change if more Americans grow up believing nonsense before they are taught to think for themselves. Otherwise we just end up with another generation that doesn’t have enough sense to realize someone like Donald Trump is too ignorant and unqualified to run this country. And because he loves the poorly-educated, he’ll create more because they love him so much. And the Great Experiment known as America will have finally failed.

Please don’t let anyone you know vote for Donald Trump. You’ll just be voting for the end of America.

This is our daily open thread. feel free to discuss whatever you wish. Just don’t vote for Donald Trump.

23 thoughts on “The Watering Hole, Monday, June 6, 2016: Can American Democracy Actually Work?

  1. Excellent summation, Wayne. Also the perfect explanation as to why the right wing so clearly prefers propaganda to legitimate education — the more people who can actually think and comprehend the nature of reality by and for themselves, the fewer are the Republicans who will ever be elected to public office. Ain’t no money and power in that.

    • “The bleakest finding was that the more advanced that people’s math skills were, the more likely it was that their political views, whether liberal or conservative, made them less able to solve the math problem.”
      So apparently it didn’t matter who was doing the math in this study. My own mind says that political leanings weren’t an issue in the skin cream example but of course it certainly was with the gun control.

  2. Former President Clinton’s brother, Roger, was arrested in CA for DUI. So, naturally, the media has to report it as “Hillary Clinton’s Brother-In-Law Arrested For DUI.” This has nothing to do with HER, so they better stop saying it that way.

  3. ” “If we’re descended from monkeys, how come there are still monkeys?” (Evolution doesn’t say all monkeys turned into humans. Evolution says humans and monkeys share a common ancestor.”

    I have decided to stop the factual based rejoinder to that ridiculous Straw Man anymore… I am going with from now on:

    “We’ve built libraries and schools now, but for some reason there are still fuckwits”

    • Sigh… My little suburb just lost our library. I didn’t use it often, what with the entire total of human knowledge being available on line, but there are some things that are best conveyed by a big, heavy, book with glossy pictures. Now that it’s a two bus transfer ride to the nearest library I may never look at another atlas.

      • I still use mine – but the online library to my ereader…. somehow I think you are right – the experience of the big book is….going away

        • It is both sad and exciting. It’s exciting that we can transfer vast sums of knowledge with turning trees into paper but it’s sad that the whole experience of reading a proper book is becoming a lost art.

    • Kreist!
      Yes, we are absolutely certain that a Drumpf Presidency would end in a nuclear holocaust, but we’re going to toe the party line and vote for him.

      Idiot Republikkins.

    • Accident investigation, relatives, friends and eye witnesses.
      “Bob was the safest pilot I’ve ever known, he’d never have ran his airplane out of fuel or try to fly through a barn.
      Bob is dead.
      Bob was an idiot.

    • “Birds in general, and parrots in particular, are a whole lot smarter than most people realize.”

      I spotted the place where the line needs a slight but significant correction:

      “Birds in general, and parrots in particular, are a whole lot smarter than most people realize.”

      There. Done.🙂

      • Well, Frugal, since my plan for “optimistic Friday” turned out to be beyond my reach I have been trying “let’s negotiate Mondays”.

        How about…

        “The smartest birds are a lot smarter than the dumbest humans”? I like most birds, even the tasty birds I love to eat, more than I like most humans but that doesn’t mean that I want to piss off the humans I like!

        And don’t even get me started on cats! Banzai Kitty and I have been having a contest of wills. He started jumping up on my screens and ripping holes in them so I had the “brilliant” idea to get a roll of screen and hang it inside the proper screens so he could jump up on it without causing any damage the maintenance guys would have to fix. Well? He spends half his waking hours hanging off the “false screen” and now the people who live below me complained about the noise when he jumps down. I can’t blame them. He’s @20 pounds and makes a pretty good “thump” when he jumps down. I suppose I could just spend all my waking hours in bed so that he just lies next to me but that doesn’t sound like a whole lot of fun for either of us. I guess I just have to keep innovating.

        • Yes, the fact that I, too, am owned by a cat I do understand screens and stuff like that. Shadow has learned, though, that I don’t like screens with holes and so she leaves them alone, mostly. But the bottom line remains: neither of us have ever had a better friend, and that’s worth a lot. As you know.😉

    • 1. O.K. So the fundies are just fine with a philandering scam artist who has been divorced twice and engaged in many “yuuuuuge” affairs because he’s not black or female or a “librul”.

      2. The most offensive attack against Christianity in the history of the United States was the almost 2 centuries of discrimination against Catholics. This one actually had a effect on my life.

      Mom’s parents were Jews from Germany. They fled the antisemitism of Germany, and Europe in general, in 1924. They arrived in Pennsylvania, joined a Temple, and soon discovered that there was just as much antisemitism here. So? They moved to Minneapolis, buried their faith (They were agnostics anyway.), and joined a Lutheran church they attended a few times a year to keep the neighbors off their backs. Mom didn’t know she was Jewish until she was 35.

      The day after JFK was elected my grandparents decided to tell Mom about her heritage. They figured that electing JFK, a Irish Catholic President, was a indication that our country was mature enough that they could “come out”. They were wrong. Our country was not there in 1960 and it has, if anything, regressed since then.

      • This country never will ‘get there.’ Hate is taught starting with newborns, and, sadly, has become a contagion without end.

        And all that ‘hate’ shit was something I knew nothing about till I got to college. MN small towns were OK, back then at least, and in result I have a lot less ‘hate’-fueled baggage than does the average person I meet these days. For that I’m very grateful.

        But I do think Donald Trump is a total asshole. Among other things.

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