Friday, April 29, 2016

#090: Argument From Ignorance

“Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'” Isaac Asimov

When did ignorance become a point of view, Dilbert once famously asked. That question seems to become more poignant as more and more stupid people assume that their ignorance on a subject is equivalent to another person’s knowledge on the subject.

This sentiment is especially true considering how stupid people assume that vaccines cause autism because they don’t know how microbiology work, or that GMOs are poisonous “Franken food” because they don’t know how genetics works—or, in the case of this comic, that evolution is a ploy by Satan because they don’t know how biology works, or that libertarianism will lead to either a totalitarian dictatorship or Somalian-style anarchy because they don’t know how economics works.

There are many things that I don’t fully understand or comprehend. Quantum physics, for instance. I don’t even know how it differentiates from regular physics. But just because I don’t understand it, doesn’t mean that it isn’t real. It simply means that I don’t understand it. Fortunately, other people have studied it and they do understand it. If the reality of how the world works was contingent upon my understanding of it, then nothing would exist!

And yet there are stupid people who assume that they’re smart because they don’t understand how something works. Ken Ham assumes evolution isn’t real because, if human beings evolved from primates, then why are there still monkeys. Likewise, Michael Lind assumes libertarianism doesn’t work because, if libertarianism is true, then why aren’t there any libertarian countries.

They both assume that, since they don’t understand how something works, that it doesn’t exist. They either don’t realize (or rather, they simply don’t care) that other people have contemplated the exact same question and have managed to come up with a sufficient answer. They assume that their ignorance is not only equal to, but greater than, the knowledge of other people. But ignorance is never an argument. It’s simply ignorance!