Has too much religion, and not enough science, doomed the US as a civilized country?

By TheCriticalMind | 8 April 2022
Daily Kos

(Credit: Dreamstime.com)

When people contemplate the decline and fall of America, they usually find comparisons to the collapse of the British or Roman Empires. However, the decline of the Islamic world as an intellectual superpower also has lessons for us.

While the European world was stumbling through the dark ages, in the Middle East literature, science and mathematics flourished. This intellectual ascendancy is evidenced by the number of English scientific terms that came from Arabic. Words such as ‘chemistry’, ‘algebra’, ‘zero’, ‘algorithm’, and ‘zenith’. And the fact that 2/3rds of all the named stars have Arabic names is a tribute to the navigational skills of Islamic sailors.

But this scientific vitality mostly withered and largely disappeared in the 12th century, as the Golden Age of Islam passed into history. At the same time, the Islamic world became notably more religious. Historians debate whether this was cause or correlation. Regardless, the Islamic world has not contributed as much since then. Consider this. Only three Muslims have won scientific Nobel prizes (Physics, chemistry, medicine). In contrast, Jews have won 150.

America and its citizens have had an uneasy relationship with science and intellectualism. The country’s Funders were a group of men notable for their education and love of learning. Among them was Benjamin Franklin, one of the leading inventors of his day. We celebrated Edison and considered Einstein a rockstar. The country was an invention factory producing everything from color TV to nuclear weapons. Our world-beating universities instilled academic achievement in generations of both old families and new immigrants. The government underwrote scientific research. NASA put a man on the moon. And Americans, native or naturalized, won 40% of all the Nobel Prizes.

But despite this stellar record, many Americans have rejected the idea that science is an objective endeavor pursued by well-educated people and subject to peer review. The Theory of Evolution is not a guess. There is no controversy. It is as carved in stone as the Theory of Gravity. But that did not prevent states from banning its teaching in schools. Or at the very least, offering it as only one explanation of biological diversity.

So profound is the belief by stupid people that they know what they are talking about, Isaac Asimov observed, “Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”

Two social psychologists, David Dunning and Justin Kruger observed that people with low cognitive abilities and little education tend to overrate their abilities. Their eponymous observation is now known as the Dunning-Kruger effect. It is prevalent among the new breed of Republican politicians. Not that all GOP politicos are dumb. But the smart ones know their base is. And they cultivate the base’s ignorance for votes. In much the same way as religious leaders milk morons for money.

And it is religiosity that is at the root of America’s decline. I am not saying that faith makes people bad — or dumb. But religion is a powerful tool in the hand of charismatic leaders. A person in the grip of religious delusion is not a critical thinker. And when you combine that with appeals to racism, homophobia, and misogyny, you create the perfect Republican voter. An unthinking idiot filled with rage and fear.

To reinforce their grip on the masses, the ruling class bowdlerizes the educational system while dismissing smart people as ivory tower-living ‘elites’. The Nazis designed school curriculums to celebrate Aryan Germans while denigrating the Jews — while their propaganda also made villains out of communists, socialists, gays, and gypsies. Mao’s cultural revolution sent Chinese academics to the fields to farm until they died of starvation. And Stalin purged everyone at any whiff of suspicion they might prove a threat to the party.

QAnon is the logical result. As little as four years ago even Republican authorities dismissed its claims as crackpot nonsense. But now they have adopted them as an official policy of the GOP. Republican Senators questioning Judge Jackson, in a dog-whistle to their base, frequently referred to her supposed molly-coddling of pedophiles. It takes a disturbed mind to believe that Hillary Clinton along with her Hollywood pals and fellow liberal leaders are not only running a pedophile ring but are “adrenochrome harvesting” from children to create a drug that promotes youthfulness.

The Senate has now confirmed Judge Jackson to the Supreme Court, but 47 Republican Senators voted against her. Why? Because despite the rhetoric, she was eminently qualified. However, the GOP no longer believes that Democrats should have a political voice. The right has cast every American institution from the FBI to the IRS, to the military, to the Justice system, as an agent of the ‘deep state’. Gays have a plot. Schools exist to embarrass white children and indoctrinate them into socialism. And worse, militant atheists are working hard to rid the American people of religious freedom.

And the evangelical church, with its millions of brainwashed, is fighting back. In their imagination, they are striving to return America to some imaginary state of perfection. But their crusade is creating an army of scientifically illiterate zealots who are shredding the national bonds. The melting pot is ice cold. And a nation of immigrants sees today’s immigrants as an existential threat.

Baghdad, Iraq was founded on the 30th July 762CE. And within a generation had become the center of Middle Eastern learning. Its success was due to its religious and ethnic diversity. While mainly Arab and Muslim, it welcomed Jews and Christian scholars. The city, soon the world’s most populous, was known for its libraries and learning. But then religious strife and civil wars with other Arabs led to the city’s decline. And it was soon a backwater.

Could it happen to America? Sure. Why not? It happened to the British and the Romans.

What QAnon followers believe now – BBC News

Why So Many QAnon Believers Are Evangelical Christians

God Bless America: How the US is Obsessed with Religion | ENDEVR Documentary

Evangelicals: From Pulpit To Politics

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