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Fistians and Fuzzy Illogic

Fundamentalist Christians have taken to calling themselves evangelical Christians because "fundamentalism" excites deservedly negative sentiments. The name may have changed, but the problems remain the same.

I have decided to refer to rigid, right-wing, bigoted, Biblical literalist creationists as Fistians. These are the Christians who give Christianity a bad name because of their unJesusian lack of compassion and their obstinate ignorance in opposition to knowledge. (I considered coining the term Fustians, but opted to rhyme with Christians. I reserve 'fundamentalists' for anti-modernist movements in various religions. Besottism refers to a subset of zealots.)

Fistians and pseudointellectual advocates of intelligent design creationism share the religiosity-motivated credulity that typifies LAME thinking in the Misinformation Explosion Age.

David Colquhoun addresses this problem of intellectual dishonesty and fuzzy illogic in a Guardian Unlimited article entitled the age of endarkenment.

The past 30 years or so have been an age of endarkenment. It has been a period in which truth ceased to matter very much, and dogma and irrationality became once more respectable.
Colquhoun is author of the Improbable Science blog in which he expands upon his exposition of the reasons that we should be concerned about the "New Credulity.":

This matters when people delude themselves into believing that we could be endangered at 45 minutes' notice by non-existent weapons of mass destruction.

It matters when reputable accountants delude themselves into thinking that Enron-style accounting is acceptable. It matters when people are deluded into thinking that they will be rewarded in paradise for killing themselves and others. It matters when bishops attribute floods to a deity whose evident vengefulness and malevolence leave one reeling. And it matters when science teachers start to believe that the Earth was created 6,000 years ago.

In my opinion, the root causes of this problem of fashionable ignorance lies in a number of failures:
● the failure of educational systems to teach critical thinking skills and to instil a love of learning and truth-seeking.
● the failure of the media to make it clear which competing position is valid, rather than boosting ratings by pumping up the volume on issues that supposedly have no clear right side and wrong side.
● the failure of experts to insist that expert knowledge should not be discarded simply because it is opposed by a vociferous, jeering, ignorant rabble of the religiously motivated.
● the failure of those in power – such as Giorgio Dubaya Bush – to eschew endorsement of religiously motivated ignorance.
● the failure of polite liberals to point out the deluded and deceptive content of creationist pseudoscience and unfounded attacks on scientific knowledge.
● the failure of the lay public to doubt popular bandwagons and to realize that they must be cautious about what or whom to believe in this Misinformation Explosion Age.

And, very difficult or impossible to remedy:
● the failure of religious organizations to ensure that their ministers are well educated and not highly prejudiced.
● the failure of political organizations to ensure that those ministries that are tax exempt are not the religions that preach hatred, lies, and intolerance.
● the failure of search engines, websites providers, and publishers to assess the value of content (for example, search engines can determine whether a site is contaminated by spam and phishing, yet do not provide warning that content is false or unreliable.


Because peer pressure is not confined to teenagers, the public, as Madison Avenue well knows, will respond to that side of an argument that is presented flashily, passionately, repeatedly, and with the appearance of certainty.

The public, particularly that in America, has been deluged with messages from religion, which is treated with dare-not-criticize protection. As a result, America ranks alongside Iraq in its level of religiosity despite its position as the standard population (IQ=100) against which IQ scores are standardized.

However, the price paid for holding religious belief sacrosanct (if you will excuse the pun) includes the confusion of students, the deterioration of educational standards, and the near demise of critical thinking, knowledge, and rationality.

Most people reduce their efforts to the minimum necessary to meet expectations. So, if we permit continued dumbing down of standards and lowering of educational expectations so as to protect self-esteem, intellectual standards will fall still further. So long as we present the implicit and explicit message that truth does not matter and that every opinion counts, we will maintain the ever decreasing standards.

In nations that value education and intellectuals, politicians who live down to the "average guy" image are not elected to the most powerful executive positions. As the world has recognized with disdain, Giorgio, purchased Ivy League degree or not, would not have appealed to voters. More particularly, he would not have appealed a second time to voters were they able to detect executive deceptions.


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. . . launched (sans champagne, alas) 10/22/06