posted on 6/7/2015 by the Salt City Sinner
“Americans are dumb,” the accepted wisdom in some circles goes. “They are ignorant, bad at science, bad at math, bad at reading and writing. They eat bibles and drink reality TV, and the only things they produce are 'collateral damage' in countries they invade and Michael Bay movies.” Harsh and reductive, dicks in "some circles!"
“Sure, listen to the liberty-hating commies in San Francisco and Manhattan,” goes the reply from other circles. “America is the greatest, freest, most awesomest country that God ever made. We beat the Nazis and the Soviets, went to the moon, and created the KFC 'Double Down,' a cheese-and-bacon sandwich that uses two pieces of fried chicken for bread. Seems pretty crafty to me!” Not presenting the best rebuttal, dumbasses in "other circles!"
The truth, as it sometimes does in reality and always does in whatever dimension Peter Wehner and other “centrist” Democrats hail from, lies somewhere in between these two polar versions of reality.
America has a rich intellectual tradition, in point of fact: not just of the go-to-the-moon or invent-the-internet variety, but in art and philosophy as well. We're the country that produced (by means of both the good and the bad in our present and history) James Baldwin, Mickalene Thomas, Herman Melville, Sleater-Kinney, Sherman Alexie, Robert Johnson, Kate Chopin, Johnny Cash, and Superman. Even the US' embarrassing rank among nations in terms of standardized test scores is more a symptom than a disease.
The disease in question, and one that is by no means unique to the US, is anti-intellectualism, which is the mistrust of and contempt for education, art, philosophy and science. Anti-intellectualism usually touts itself as a populist expression of the concerns of “the common people” as opposed to elites in education and politics – and while denigrating learning, art, and science is never a good thing, these concerns are not always misplaced.
Sometimes, however, these concerns are incredibly misplaced. It's of paramount importance to provide representation of regular folks within academia, art, and politics, but when it comes to, say, heart surgery, engineering, or nuclear physics, some level of intellectual rigor is a great way to keep things from exploding and people from dying. This brings us to one Antonin Scalia, Reagan-appointed Supreme Court Justice and rabid anti-intellectual par excellence. Justice Scalia is living, breathing proof that even the educated elite can be anti-intellectual morons.
Where to start with Scalia? There's the fact that he interprets the Constitution that he claims is static and immutable one way when the religious liberties of Christians are the issue and another way when the plaintiffs practice a traditional Native American religion. There's his deranged homophobia – he has called the LGBTQ equality movement a “trend,” compared homosexuality to murder and bestiality, and was one of the three justices who dissented from the majority in Lawrence v. Texas, the 2003 Supreme Court case that struck down Texas' sodomy law (“limited government” apparently only applies to helping the poor or regulating businesses – when it comes to moralistic laws that criminalize the conduct of consenting adults, Scalia has never met a law he considers an overreach).
|if Scalia made it all the way through Georgetown and Harvard Law without reading John Stuart Mill's "On Liberty," I'll eat my bright red "the Flash" superhero underwear on live television|
A representative statement of the intellectual rigor that Scalia brings to bear on complex legal questions in the highest court in the United States, a court that decides matters of life and death, liberty and imprisonment, and civil and human rights, comes to us from a Washington, D.C. book signing in 2012:
The death penalty? Give me a break. It’s easy. Abortion? Absolutely easy... Homosexual sodomy? Come on. For 200 years, it was criminal in every state.See? Jurisprudence isn't something you need to attend law school to learn, or clerk to get a better understanding of. It's easy! Lead with your gut and let the pointy-headed liberal dorks wring their hands all they like.
Last week brought us a stunning new demonstration of Scalia's mental firepower that may well put all his previous dumbassery to shame. Speaking to the graduating class at private Catholic girls' school Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart, Scalia said (and this was not in jest):
Class of 2015, you should not leave Stone Ridge High School thinking that you face challenges that are at all, in any important sense, unprecedented. Humanity has been around for at least some 5,000 years or so, and I doubt that the basic challenges as confronted are any worse now, or alas even much different, from what they ever were. [Emphasis mine]Hang on one hot New Jersey second, Antonin – “humanity has been around at least some 5,000 years or so?” Actually, YOUR HONOR, homo sapiens have been around for about 100,000 years in our current form. I mean, just the city of Byblos, AKA Jubyl, in the Levant (now Lebanon) is 7,000 years old, let alone humanity or human civilization.
Many people are calling Scalia's statement a “creationist dog whistle” – meaning a coded endorsement of Young Earth Creationism, the belief that the Earth was created as-is by the Abrahamic god around 6,000 years ago. Scalia's statement is not the only indication this is the case; he was, after all, the justice who wrote the dissent in Edwards vs. Aguillard, the 1987 Supreme Court case that determined that “creation science” is religious, and not scientific, in nature.
In the dissent, Scalia writes that teaching creationism and scientific fact side by side constitutes “a fair and balanced presentation of the scientific evidence” regarding how the universe came to be and how life on Earth began. The fact that Antonin Scalia, one of the nine humans entrusted with interpreting and judging the constitutional merits of laws in the United States, either doesn't believe in science (i.e., evolution, the fossil record, and radiocarbon dating) or is willing to blatantly pander to the morons that don't, should scare the living shit out of anyone with a double-digit number of brain cells.
This isn't plain and simple ignorance – before serving in the Nixon administration, Scalia was a straight-A student at the Catholic high school he attended, and graduated from Georgetown and Harvard Law. As I said earlier, Scalia is proof positive that educated elites can be as anti-intellectual as Tea Party, salt-of-the-earth types.
Indeed, modern conservatism as a movement is intensely anti-intellectual, despite the existence of conservative think tanks, conferences, and private universities. Ben Carson, who was a celebrated neurosurgeon for decades before becoming a Tea Party darling and now presidential candidate, has also expressed creationist views, despite the fact that a medical degree requires no small amount of biology, a discipline that rests entirely on evolution.
Anti-intellectualism in the U.S. Is not a new phenomenon, and there is nothing particularly new about its most recent iteration, and it's nothing less than what you should expect from, say, a wild-eyed cultist like Michele Bachmann or Joseph Farah. But coming from doctors, lawyers, and Supreme Court justices, in the year 2015?
That is something that should worry not only pointy-headed liberal intellectuals, but anyone who wants those in positions of authority to have a basic working knowledge of how the natural world functions.