Who knew?

What is key though is to understand that this is not just ignorance. Ignorance is just the first stage of Trump’s fairly advanced problem. He is not only ignorant but clearly unaware of his level of ignorance. This is compounded by a seeming inability to understand that everyone else isn’t equally ignorant to him. Those of us who are parents know the wonder of discovery experienced by small children. They find out there were things such as dinosaurs or close primate relatives called lemurs. As loving parents we indulge them, sometimes feigning ignorance of things we actually already knew to support a child’s joy in discovery.

But Donald Trump is a 70 year old man. And not a terribly nice man.

His ignorance is not endearing. We don’t need to lie to him to make him feel good about himself. Still it is good to understand his condition. Ignorance is just lack of information. But there’s something wrong with Trump’s brain – maybe cognitive, perhaps simple entitlement or just broad spectrum derp – which appears to make it genuinely impossible not to project his own ignorance onto everybody else.

–Josh Marshall, Trump and the Problem of Militant Ignorance

It’s worth asking the question: aren’t Trump voters just as ignorant as he is or as prone to projecting their own ignorance onto others? When Trump says, “Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated,” it’s easy to retort, “Everybody knew that health care was that complicated.” And you might even think that this is true. Who doesn’t know how nightmarishly complicated health care in America is? But I wonder.

When Trump projects his ignorance onto everyone else, it rankles those of us who already knew what he now knows. It’s vaguely offensive, and for many of the reasons Marshall describes. I mean, I know that I’m vastly too ignorant to be president of the United States, and it is a bit disconcerting to be offered daily evidence that I seem to know my history better than the man currently wielding the Tomahawk missiles. But then, I take seriously what William Faulkner once wrote: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” The only history Donald Trump cares about is his Twitter timeline.

In my experience, people who aren’t innately curious only educate themselves if they’re externally compelled to do so. A great many of them justify their ignorance by saying that whatever knowledge they don’t possess simply doesn’t matter in their own daily lives.

So I don’t think it’s entirely unfair for him to project ignorance onto others. The people who flocked to his rallies rewarded him for his ignorant expectorations with applause; the people who voted for him didn’t think his ignorance sufficient reason to disqualify him from the job that, thanks to them, he now holds. In other words, the people who made Donald Trump president are either as ignorant as he is or they don’t care terribly much about his militant ignorance. These are the people, I presume, of whom Trump speaks when he says things like, “But it’s not what you think.”

This isn’t “broad spectrum derp.” It actually makes intuitive sense. Why would the duly-elected president of the United States assume that the people who put him in office were more knowledgeable than he was? After all: if they knew better, why on earth would they have voted for him?

To betray our nature.

Anthropocene describes what we are doing to our environment, while posthuman is largely phenomenological, a condensed articulation of what it’s like to live in a world where we are constantly making and remaking ourselves, especially via biotechnology. And surely there is some truth in these points, but I want to suggest that the apparent disjunction obscures a deeper unity. A world in which we remake our environment and ourselves is a world that does not feel human to us. We do not know how to play the role of gods, and on some level perceive that to act as gods is to betray our nature.

–Alan Jacobs, Anthropocene theology

The tortoise, the hare, and American science

“Put simply, privatization will mean that more ‘sexy,’ ‘hot’ science will be funded, and we will miss important discoveries since most breakthroughs are based on years and decades of baby steps,” said Kelly Cosgrove, an associate professor of psychiatry at Yale University. “The hare will win, the tortoise will lose, and America will not be scientifically great.”

–Adrienne Lafrance, Scientists Brace for a Lost Generation in American Research

It defies logic.

Arthur Herstein, 74, a writer from Bowie, Maryland, said he was frustrated by Obama’s “over-the-top” vacation and travel expenses.

Still, Herstein said he doesn’t believe it’s the case that Trump is on pace to spend more on vacation and travel. He waved away a Washington Post story held up on a reporter’s phone.

“I believe that the story exists,” Herstein said. “But the facts in it can’t possibly be right. That absolutely can’t be right. How did Trump spend $10 million in one month and Obama spent $11 million in a year? It defies logic.”

–Jeff Stein, Conservative activists refuse to believe Trump is spending more on travel than Obama

Curiosity over partisanship?

In other words, curiosity seems to be the pin that bursts our partisan bubbles, allowing new and sometimes uncomfortable information to trickle in. Nothing else works like curiosity does, the authors point out—not being reflective, or good at math, or even well-educated.

Instead, they write, it’s “individuals who have an appetite to be surprised by scientific information—who find it pleasurable to discover that the world does not work as they expected … [who] expose themselves more readily to information that defies their expectations.”

–Olga Khazan, How to Overcome Political Irrationality About Facts

The battle after the war

I have come to believe that it is impossible for anyone who is regularly on social media to have a balanced and accurate understanding of what is happening in the world. To follow a minute-by-minute cycle of news is to be constantly threatened by illusion. So I’m not just staying off Twitter, I’m cutting back on the news sites in my RSS feed, and deleting browser bookmarks to newspapers. Instead, I am turning more of my attention to monthly magazines, quarterly journals, and books. I’m trying to get a somewhat longer view of things — trying to start thinking about issues one when some of the basic facts about them have been sorted out. Taking the short view has burned me far too many times; I’m going to try to prevent that from happening ever again (even if I will sometimes fail). And if once in a while I end up fighting a battle in a war that has already ended … I can live with that.

–Alan Jacobs, recency illusions

Caliban’s triumph

The academic left interrogated the discourses of “truth” and “reason,” revealed the aporias thereof, exposed the inner workings of the power-knowledge regime, all in the name of social justice. I remember vividly Andrew Ross’s insistence, twenty-five years ago, that it was actually perfectly appropriate and consistent for a would-be revolutionary like him to have a tenured position at Princeton: “I teach in the Ivy League in order to have direct access to the minds of the children of the ruling classes.” It turns out that the children of the ruling classes learned their lessons well, so when they inherited positions in their fathers’ law firms they had some extra, and very useful, weapons in their rhetorical armory.

In precisely the same way, when, somewhat later, academic leftists preached that race and gender were the determinative categories of social analysis, members of the future alt-right were slouching in the back rows of their classrooms, baseball caps pulled down over their eyes, making no external motions but in their dark little hearts twitching with fervent agreement. […]

Sauce for the goose, sauce for the gander. It seems that we’ve all now learned the lessons that the academic left taught, and how’s that working out for us? The alt-right/Trumpistas are Caliban to the academic left’s Prospero: “You taught me language, and my profit on’t is, I know how to curse.”

–Alan Jacobs, lessons learned

You don’t even need the pretense of methodology.

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it,” computer scientist Alan Kay once famously said. I’d wager that the easiest way is just to make stuff up and issue a press release. I mean, really. You don’t even need the pretense of a methodology. Nobody is going to remember what you predicted. Nobody is going to remember if your prediction was right or wrong. Nobody – certainly not the technology press, which is often painfully unaware of any history, near-term or long ago – is going to call you to task. This is particularly true if you make your prediction vague – like “within our lifetime” – or set your target date just far enough in the future – “In fifty years, there will be only ten institutions in the world delivering higher education and Udacity has a shot at being one of them.”

Let’s consider: is there something about the field of computer science in particular – and its ideological underpinnings – that makes it more prone to encourage, embrace, espouse these sorts of predictions? Is there something about Americans’ faith in science and technology, about our belief in technological progress as a signal of socio-economic or political progress, that makes us more susceptible to take these predictions at face value? Is there something about our fears and uncertainties – and not just now, days before this Presidential Election where we are obsessed with polls, refreshing Nate Silver’s website obsessively – that makes us prone to seek comfort, reassurance, certainty from those who can claim that they know what the future will hold?

–Audrey Watters, The Best Way to Predict the Future is to Issue a Press Release

Cognitive apartheid

Amanda Glaze

But, again, if you tell people their religious beliefs are obscured, you’re going to have a fight on your hands. What bothers me is the lack of understanding about what science actually does.

Science doesn’t consider God as a possible answer to any question whatsoever because God is a metaphysical construct and thus not part of the physical world. And science by definition cannot consider anything metaphysical or supernatural as an explanation.

Science is not out there trying to disprove the existence of God — we can’t even consider that.

I really don’t care what people believe as long as they understand the science.

Sean Illing

Let me push back on that for a minute.

You say that there’s a perceived conflict between being religious and scientific but that this is a false dichotomy. I think one can certainly be a religious person and a scientist, but can one be both at the same time?

Religions invariably make claims about the world that contradict what science says is true, and so to be engaged in science you have to sort of remove your religious hat, no?

Amanda Glaze

I think that’s right. I love the term cognitive apartheid. Look at people like Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, who is a Christian and says openly that he wishes that science would not contradict what the Bible says, but it does and he recognizes that, and he still chooses to be a believer.

Sean Illing

Neil deGrasse Tyson likes to say that the great thing about science is that it’s true whether you believe it or not. The trouble with this kind of scientific illiteracy is that it genuinely harms these students, who cannot succeed in a society based on science and technology if they don’t understand it.

Amanda Glaze

It’s crucial. And that’s why I tell people this is not a fight for evolution per se. I mean, evolution is a mechanism by which I work with people because if we can hit the most controversial points in the places where they are the most controversial, we can get to that level of conceptual change.

Then imagine what we can do in the places where it’s not as resistant, where it’s not as vocal, where it’s not as taboo. This is a war for science literacy.

Teaching evolution in the South: an educator on the “war for science literacy”