June 10, 2011

Conclusion shopping--conservatives and bad thinking

Saw yesterday that not only is Rick Perry thinking about running for President (since Newt is crashing and burning), but he is also pandering like crazy to the religious right by endorsing this prayer concert or whatever the hell it is.
Right now, America is in crisis: we have been besieged by financial debt, terrorism, and a multitude of natural disasters. As a nation, we must come together and call upon Jesus to guide us through unprecedented struggles, and thank Him for the blessings of freedom we so richly enjoy.

There is a lot that bothers me about this. First and foremost is the intermingling of politics and prayer, but more troubling to me is the bad thinking. I am reminded of how people processed the Minneapolis bridge collapse, or even the Japanese nuclear disaster--with many referring to them as "acts of God." They weren't. They were the products of human choice. The absolute same can be said about the debt crisis. This is not some act of God which humans are helpless to solve--it is the clear result of bad political decisions. Bad spending choices, and bad tax policy combine together to give us a debt crisis. If I were so arrogant to say what God thinks, I would speculate that he is looking at this and thinking, "fix it yourself. You created it."

I would actually argue that conservatives are mired in nothing but bad thinking right now. Facts seem to matter not at all to them. Facts about climate change, evolution, supply side economics--none of those things actually seem to penetrate the fundamentalist brain. All that matters is what you believe. When you believe that God can or should fix the debt crisis, you do, and you don't listen to mere mortals who point out that people like Rick Perry take federal money to shore up their budgets, while they cut taxes and cut programs for the poor and the sick. Facts, facts. Blah blah blah blah. What matters is what I believe, not what I actually know.

I was thinking about that yesterday when I read this story about Paul Ryan actually suggesting that we should default as a country (for the first time since America first borrowed money in the 1790s) in order to get our economic house in order. I have to say that I am really starting to question Ryan's intelligence. Either he is stupid or he is malevolently destructive.

But inside that Republican narrative is a fascinating bit of bad thinking. Several months ago, no one of Ryan's rank would suggest default was a possibility. That was left to the fringe. But a few financial people suggested it--just a few--and it took off among the wingnut right. The vast majority of thinking people think that defaulting is not only not conservative, but downright irresponsible. But Ryan and his idiots found one or two people to say it was ok to do--and that becomes their reality.

That is exactly how these same people process evolution and climate change. The vast majority of scientists who study these issues believe that evolution is fact and that humans are contributing greatly to our climate change. But the right finds one or two scientists who question, and those one or two become their reality. I would suggest that is a very stupid way to process complex issues, and a horrible way to formulate public policy.

But, as I said, when all that really matters is what you want to believe, then facts and evidence really don't matter. And that is sad--or would be sad if it weren't so damn dangerous.

1 comment:

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