Saturday, 26 March 2011
Palin and Bachmann - the blind leading the blind
I would like to share a glimpse into the the minds of two people I admire. Both believe that asking questions is more valuable than accepting things without further thought.
People sometimes accuse me of knowing a lot. 'Stephen,' they say, accusingly, 'you know a lot." This is a bit like telling a person who has a few grains of sand attached to him that he owns too much sand. When you consider the vast amount of sand there is in the world such a person is, to all intents and purposes, sandless. We are all sandless. We are all ignorant. There are beaches and deserts and dunes of knowledge whose existence we have never even guessed at, let alone visited.
It's the ones who think they know what there is to be known we have to look out for. 'All is explained in this text - there is nothing else you need to know,' they tell us.
We are perhaps now more in danger of thinking we know everything than in those dark times of religious superstition (if indeed they have gone away). Today we have the whole store of human knowledge a mouse-click away, which is all fine and dandy, but it's in danger of becoming just another sacred text. What we need is a treasure house, not of knowledge, but of ignorance. Something that gives not answers but questions. Something that shines light, not on garish facts, but into the dark, damp corners of ignorance.
(Excerpts from Stephen Fry's foreword - The Book of General Ignorance)
The greatest scientist have been wrong on this point or that - Newton on the nature of light, Einstein in his views of the uncertainty of principle - and it does not lessen respect for their achievements. Scientists expect to be improved and corrected; they hope to be.
The Moral Majority, however, speaks, it would seem, with the voice of God. How do they know what they know? Why, they themselves say so; and, since they speak with the voice of God, the Moral Minority is never wrong and cannot be wrong.
And it is these ignorant people, the most uneducated, the most unimaginative, the most unthinking among us, who would make themselves the guides and leaders of us all; who would force their feeble and childish beliefs on us; who would tell us what books to read and what not, what thoughts to think and what not, what conclusions to accept and what not.
And what does the Bible say? "If the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch" (Matthew 15:14).
(Excerpts from the essay "The Blind Who Would Lead" - The Roving Mind)
Stephen Fry celebrates ignorance as the gateway to acquiring knowledge and Asimov doesn't close the door to accepted principles being challenged and corrected. Both men believe in curiosity as a motivating factor for expanding the mind.
Many prominent politicians and talking heads have their minds closed to the possiblity of other viewpoints being valid at all. Their truth is absolute and should be imposed on the rest of the country. Hey, let's not stop there - their truth should be imposed on the rest of the world!
The list of such holders of absolute truth is long, but the ones that irritate and dismay reasonable, thinking people the most are Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann and Glenn Beck.
Two of them have ambitions to achieve higher office, so Stephen Fry's "Something that shines light, not on garish facts, but into the dark, damp corners of ignorance" would be good advice for the MSM: They should stop being dazzled by shiny objects and start shining a light on the dark, damp corners of Palin's and Bachmann's lives in order to deliver the electorate from ignorance.
The media has a duty to prevent the US from falling into the ditch.