A conservative news and views blog.

Location: St. Louis, Missouri, United States

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Anti-Intellectualism or the Love of Truth and Liberty?

Timothy Birdnow Christopher Chantrill has an article up at American Thinker where he discusses the "anti-intellectualism" of the American People. His conclusion is that America is not anti-intellectual (I concur) but that there is a balance between reason and faith and tradition that intellectuals overthrow by pushing pure rationalism, a balance that the American People don't want disturbed. I agree only up to a point. First off, what is an intellectual? Is an intellectual a person who seeks the truth, who seeks rationality at all times? This is demonstrably false. Many who are considered in the class of intellectual believe in things without proof or reason; Marxism comes to mind. The most casual observer who has read Marx should see the leaps of faith taken by Marx, yet intellectuals the world over continue to be bedazzled by his reasoning, a reasoning that ignores fundamental aspects of the human condition. Take Marx's theory of labor; he sees no value in anything outside of the labor it takes to produce it. Now, that is surely a superficial and really just plain idiotic view of the value of things, as so much more is involved; the intellectual efforts expended, the relative scarcity of the thing, sentimental values, etc. Yet here we see Marx considered an intellectual. Why? Because he has told everyone he is an intellectual, that's why. It is more a self-identification than an actual state. If nothing else, the failure of Marx should have falsified his views, yet he is still taken seriously in intellectual circles. It has nothing to do with the truth. Intellectualism is a cultural construct. Atheists, who see themselves as the vanguards of intellectualism, actually call themselves Brights and accuse those who have faith of being ignorant anti-intellectualists. That it requires an equal leap of faith to reject the existence of God as to accept Him is vehemently disputed by the Atheist, yet isn't it more logical to be agnostic rather than atheist? After all, if one does not find evidence for something it does not mean it isn't true. If that were the case then black holes, say, didn't exist until Man found evidence of their existence, whereby they suddenly created themselves spontaneously. No; they were always there, we just didn't know it. A lack of evidence does not constitute proof of nonexistence. But the atheist confidently asserts that to be the case, and characterizes any who disagree as somehow anti-intellectual. It involves a specific kind of reductivist logic, too; concepts such as Natural Law and deductive reasoning are considered superstitions by the intellectual. It presupposed a materialist view of reality, that only what is seen or touched has any impact on reality and on the mind of Man. As a result, such factors as imagination, love, courage, duty are all underplayed in the intellectual worldview as they are not quantifiable. That is a big part of the problem with intellectualism; they see things in a terrible black and white fashion, or in so many shades of gray as to be meaningless. There is no sense of proportion to the intellectual. Take welfare; the sledgehammer approach in the War on Poverty did nothing but exaserbate a problem that existed. Why? Because the intellectual looked at poverty and said "it is caused by lack of wealth" and then commenced to redistribute wealth so as to make the poor have more. But poverty is as much a state of mind as it is a lack of wealth, and the poor simply became poorer and worse off as the welfare state destroyed their fragile families and cemented them into permanent dependency. The intellectual could not understand that there were spiritual issues in play, emotional issues. People need a sense of purpose in their lives. People need to learn to behave in such a manner as to produce, as to shepherd and manage things. Just giving them a handout only destroyed whatever dignity and self-worth they held in their minds, and so poverty became worse. The intellectual could not see the shade of gray. Here is a classic example of the failure to face reality that intellectualism spawns. New Harmonie Indiana was founded by a German religious society, the Harmonies, who made a success of the place. They sold out to a utopian intellectual named Robert Owen, who subsequently drove the community into the ground by putting "intellectual" schemes into practice. The intellectuals were chock full of theory but couldn't face the fundamental realities of running a farm community. And that is as much at the roots of American "anti-intellectualism" as anything; too often the self-styled intellectuals are completely incompetent as managers. There is often a huge divide between theory and practice, as any practical person is aware. I've watched This Old House on television, and then tried to do what they made appear so easy; it usually ends with my calling a team of professionals to fix the disaster I have wrought by following the theory. Once I tried to change a showerhead and ended up with a plumber remodeling the entire bathroom as a result of the damage I caused. There is something in this world, refered to in physics as entropic decay, or in popular terminology as Murphy's Law. Things don't go according to plan. You have to adapt, and intellectuals often refuse to do so. The theorists have wonderful ideas that often fail in practice, because human beings simply don't know or understand all the variables. If nothing else, the human mind and spirit are an integral part of the equation, and that cannot be adequately taken into account. It's not just about reason as one leg of an American tripod, as Mr. Chantrill sees it. Don't get me wrong; he has his teeth sunk in and is taking a good whack at it. I have great respect for him. But I think he is falling short here. He mentions Global Warming, which is a perfect example. A number of influential scientists advocate this theory because they have created extremely complicated models which suggest it is so, and then the information they plug into the models "verifies" the models. But it is all intellectual manipulation; none of it comes from real-world observation or experience. The reality is that the real world has contradicted most aspects of these models, but the intellectuals continue to speak about Climate Change as a reality because their models say it is real. Any who argue that the models should be falsified based on real world observation is characterized as anti-intellectual, because he or she is going against recognized "experts" and their complex modeling systems This is the opposite of the welfare black and white simplistic vision; the intellectual has gone too far here, creating a fanciful theory that he is loathe to abandon despite the failure of it to comport with reality. So we have a serious lack of 20/20 vision in intellectualism. Americans understand this, and it is for that reason that they refuse to accept the pronouncements of the intellectual class as Mosaic Law. It is true, too, that things change as new things are learned. Intellectualism leads to faddishness. Remember the oat bran craze? This was fueled by studies that touted the magical benefits of oat bran. It wasn't long before new research showed that, well, oat bran is fine and all, but not really that beneficial. Oat bran is one thing, but we have had this in other areas where the stakes are far higher. Remember the nuclear winter hypothesis? It was the result of bad or politically biased science, and yet it helped to advance the nuclear freeze movement. Had it not been exposed as wrong it could well have had a profound impact on world events, perhaps leading to the ultimate victory of the Soviet Union in world dominance. But because some self-styled intellectuals claimed a limited nuclear exchange would cause worldwide freezing, many wanted the nation to dismantle her nuclear deterrent. Turns out the whole thing was bogus. We would have surrendered for nothing. So intellectualism is often overturned by the facts, yet we are continually told America must ignore tradition, ignore horse-sense, ignore faith, and follow the benevolent dictatorial pronouncements of our self-styled intellectual betters. Americans understand that this is folly. When my brother was a baby he became quite ill with a condition known as Pyloric stenosis. He couldn't keep food down, and was losing weight. My father, the second son in his family, had likewise suffered the condition, and had been operated on as a child. My mother took my brother (the second son) to the pediatrician who told her it could not be pyloric stenosis because that only affected firstborns. My mother insisted, and the doctor gave in to my mother, claiming she was just a "nervous mother". My brother was whisked into surgery almost immediately after being admitted to the hospital. What did he have? Pyloric Stenosis. The expert was wrong, Had my mother listened to this expert my brother would have died. So Americans take the intellectual class with a grain of salt - and well they should. Americans have always known how to think for themselves. It is the places wehre there is no freedom where people let others do the thinking for them. A free people can and should think for themselves. So the next time you have a liberal bemoan the anti-intellectualism of the American People, ask him why he hates freedom and loves slavery. Only a slavemaster would approve of a world where people are told how and what to think.

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