Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Revival of Superstition in America

Dear Elaine,

Thanks for your email.

We are all rooted in our a priori identities - as unaware of certain suppositions as occupants of a skyscraper are unaware of the deep pilings that keep the building erect.

Enter Science.

In addition to "two kinds of people in the world" -- those who divide people into two kinds, and those who don't -- we are blessed with The Scientific Method, that high-water mark of Reason which enables us to probe our own fundaments (and everything else!) in order to reveal "what is," and to reveal the multiplicity of human types engaged in The Revelation. (In Greek, ἀποκάλυψις apokálypsis means "lifting of the veil.") 

Given the "coital" intimacy between people and things, what starts as an honest quest to probe "objectivity" tends to become an exploration of "subjectivity," including the unconscious roots of Psyche whose unfathomable "pilings" support the super-structure of quotidian personality. 

On the other hand, science deniers (almost always "conservatives") are so committed to belief in "individual responsibility" and "personal advancement through willpower," that to insure the survival of their Horatio Algier identities, they must reject all intellectual discipline that obliges deep exploration of psychological, social, political and economic "substrates," domains in which "willpower" and "responsibility" are seriously compromised by unconscious compulsion. 

It is reasonably accurate to say that "depth psychology" is an existential threat to unthinking religionists and unthinking ideologues and that these unquestioning ingenues therefore trash anything that threatens their reflexive religiosity.  

They have their inerrant Bibles and, by God, they've got the six shooters to protect them!

Recently deceased Chuck Colson described a central feature of this singlemindedness when he said: "I'd walk over my own grandmother to re-elect Richard Nixon." 

Ironically, the conservative quest to stonewall complexity and compulsion makes modern "conservatives" unusually subject to their own compulsions.

Unable to examine the roots of things, modern "conservatives" choose a schizoid existence in which ideological purity (in blind pursuit of power) is not just good, but The Only Good. 

Ignorant of facts -- indeed, obligatorily contemptuous of facts -- they vilify any scientific finding that challenges their bedrock beliefs. 

Evolution, anthropogenic global warming and the demonstrable calamity of predatory capitalism are all construed as "liberal plots" to mislead God's Exceptional People

In this decerebrate milieu, any findings that thwart biblical literalism or predatory capitalism are attributed to "hidden political agendas" when in fact these findings arise from the only method that can shine Reason's Light on blind belief and superstition. 

superstitious Look up superstitious at
late 14c., from O.Fr. superstitieux, from L. superstitiosus, from superstitionem (nom. superstitio) "prophecy, soothsaying, excessive fear of the gods," perhaps originally "state of religious exaltation," related to superstes (gen. superstitis) "standing over or above," also "standing by, surviving," from superstare "stand on or over, survive," from super "above" (see super-) + stare "to stand," from PIE root *sta- "to stand" (see stet). 

By "nature" superstitious people want to "stand over and above." 

By extension, they do not want to "under stand."

Nothing in the Impossibly Pure Ideologies of modern "conservatives" inclines them to "get down," "get dirty," "get real."

Yes, they will bend their knee to God but only after they've re-made "him" in their image.

They position themselves "on high" and from that lofty vantage feel justified in superciliousness - a splendid word from the Latin "super cilia" meaning to look upon the world from above one's cilia (or eye lashes). 

The fundamental impulse of "the supercilious" is to "look down their noses" at all the fools below them.

Ironically, those who find themselves sneered at and trickled upon are nearer the ground and therefore in excellent position to under stand. (Note that "humility" derives from the Latin "humus" meaning earth, the very ground that lies under everything, the ground on which under standing is built.) 

If you have not seen Michael Spector's (admittedly whiny) TED Talk, "The Danger of Science Denial," I encourage you to view it. 

Admittedly, Spector is fixated on quantitative measures, and therefore tends to overlook certain qualitative concerns.

But it is also true that the ongoing accretion of quantitative change becomes qualitative change.

Clearly, there is more to the world than scientific quanitification but as Aquinas observed in Tantum Ergo, humankind's point of departure is sensory knowledge, and that we properly rely on Faith only in those domains where sensory knowledge is unable to penetrate.  (My translation of the crucial passage -- "praestet fides supplementum sensuum defectui" -- is “give us supplemental faith where our senses are deficient.” Where senses are sufficient, faith is inappropriate.)

Pax vobiscum


On Sun, May 27, 2012 at 7:33 AM, EJ wrote:

Subject: Re: Ike on social entitlements
>> (I think you'll "enjoy" the two "One-Star" Amazon user reviews of "The Big Burn." They provide insight into the impenetrable ideological obsessions of the conservative psyche - <<

     Hey, Alan - I am worried that these are not simply the opinions of unrelated individuals, but a deliberate effort to discredit any other viewpoint.  Certainly, all of the open newsgroups that I (used to) read on the net have been infected and then rendered useless by relentless nay-saying by the rightwingers.  Before admitting that it is more effective to help people to vote out there in the real world,  I read  and posted daily to one group (soc.retirement) for 16 years.  It is 99% political, and, as the liberals gave up being conciliatory and docile, has for years been largely exchanges of bad temper.  As you would expect, the 'conservatives' there are always factually wrong, and never change their Faux-News approach to events, nor their sneering contempt for those who differ with them.  They are angrily, arrogantly dismissive of the truth that facts really do have a liberal bias.
Elaine J

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