What distinguishes Dark Age thinking from modern thinking is superstition, conspiracy beliefs, and magical thinking, rather than reasoning, rationality, logic, and scientifically demonstrated reality. It seems unlikely that Dark Age thinking will go away anytime soon. What will determine whether we descend to a new Dark Age is the prevalence of this type of thinking in the higher levels of government. The news is not good.
Jade Helm 15 is the latest in an endless series of military exercises, and is taking place in Texas and other states this summer. There is probably no time when the military is not busy with at least one similar exercise. But Texas conspiracy theorists got ahold of general maps for the strategic games (which are public records), and breathlessly revealed the stunning truth about Jade Helm 15: President Obama’s evil secret plans for world domination were finally coming to fruition, and the first stage would be military rule of Texas and enslavement of its citizens.
Now, that stupidity would have been placed in it’s proper kuku-basket except that the governor and several Republican presidential candidates decided it had the ring of truth. So we find that the governor put the Texas State Guard on alert, stamping the state seal of approval on something that should have been dismissed as just plain stupid. It never seems to have occurred to any of these conspiracy fools that secret takeover plans are not likely to be published in public records.
The prevalence of magical thinking
in government will determine our future.
When Jade Helm 15 is over and Texas still stands as the record holder for the number of threats to secede, what will be the conclusion of conspiracy theorists, and the governor? Why, there will be none. They will say nothing, having moved on to further flights of fantasy and magical thinking. After all, Obama plans to take away all our guns, and time is growing short. He has only 18 months to seize some 350,000,000 guns, which comes to several per second. That calls for a new conspiracy theory. The latest word on the street: our guns today, our bible next.
I keep hoping that the deluge of stupidities emanating from the right will subside, and the national discussion will turn to solving some of our many important problems. But I doubt it. There are almost daily items from right wing politicians and notables who still can’t bring themselves to believe that the president’s birth certificate from Honolulu is actually the president’s birth certificate from Honolulu, and who blame almost everything from global warming to train wrecks on gay marriage. It makes me wonder if, in the longer run, we are descending into a new Dark Age.
I keep hoping that
the deluge of stupidities
from the right will subside
It is difficult to kill conspiracy theories because driving the stake of reason into their zombie hearts doesn’t do the job. The mere fact that there is never a good reason for their being true doesn’t even slow them down. Take the classic warning that jet vapor trails are mind-control chemicals. Believers apparently missed the junior high science class explaining that water vapor is precipitated wherever heat meets cold, such as with tea kettles, or showers, or hot jets in the cold upper atmosphere. It’s apparently too much of a stretch to think that all jets, including private jets owned by people who presumably have no interest in mind control, leave vapor trails, or that over 75 years of mind control have so far failed to control one mind, or that global mind control would control all minds, including those of the dispensers of jet vapor, not to mention that nobody knows what mind control means or how it might be achieved.
By contrast, all that is necessary to disprove a scientific finding permanently is to demonstrate solid evidence to the contrary. Once that happens an incorrect theory can never recover. Now, it may take quite a bit of time for word to get around—look at Galileo—but that doesn’t alter the fact that an incorrect belief has been disproven by reality, by science. Quantum theory, as bizarre as it seems, has passed every test so far, and there have been many. Conspiracy theories, on the other hand, are unaffected by reality. Conspiracy theorists never realize their pet theory is nonsense. Rather, their attention is diverted by new conspiracy theories.
All that is necessary to
disprove science permanently
is to demonstrate its falsity.
Although one would hope that the prevalence of such magical thinking would diminish over time, several things work against this outcome. One is that the foundations of theocratic religion are built on similar magical thinking that otherwise rational people somehow accept as reasonable. Believers must actively defy reality in order to accept their religion as literally true. People who believe in an omniscient God with long whiskers, somewhere up in the sky, cannot allow any rational thought that denies that possibility, or any of the many other elements of religion—heaven and hell, angels, devils, life after death, and so on. Only the reality-challenged buy literal interpretations of this stuff.
Unfortunately, many of religion’s most ardent believers, those who insist that every contradictory word of the Bible is literally true, and is the undiluted word of God are—not to put too fine point on it—not the sharpest knives in the drawer, and some of them get elected. Not that they are evil, bless them, but their religion demands that they reject basic reality and accept an impossible fantasy. They are simply incapable of entertaining the possibility that the teachings of religion are best understood as symbolic lessons in how to live, that there are many impossibilities and contradictions in their book, and it wasn’t written by God.
This probably would make no difference if it got no further than the land where the 1930s Scopes trial is still seen as final proof that evolution is a lie, but the fact is that it is virtually impossible to be elected to any office in the US above dog catcher without a fervent declaration of belief in the Christian religion, with all that implies. So absolutely everybody elected to Congress professes this profound belief, and the most fervent of those stand ready to accept any politically convenient conspiracy theory. This has already led to a whole series of dismaying failures in Congress resulting from magical thinking, weak logic, and denial of science. Whether it will lead to a new Dark Age is uncertain, but it would appear that it’s not exactly leading in the direction of a new enlightenment.