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The Denigration of Competence
This is a Storyslinger original. On the second Tuesday of every month I send out original fiction stories or non-fiction essays. You can find previous originals (and everything else) in the Archive.
I’ll let you in on a little secret: sometimes science baffles me.
This is because I don’t understand it. But I don’t let that fact worry me. And I certainly don’t say “Science is dumb,” simply because I don’t get it. We can learn to appreciate science without understanding it. We can appreciate all the things science has done to improve our lives. And for those who excel in the sciences we should have the utmost respect. What we should never tolerate are the denigrators of scientific excellence.
Science puts astronauts into space and on the moon. Science launches GPS and communication satellites. Science builds cloud storage and streaming services. Science enables us to fly through the air miles above the earth in metal tubes with wings. Science lets me type this essay on a computer and edit it later on my smartphone and eventually publish it online where others can read it. Science has cured disease and protects us from microscopic things trying to kill us. Science even gave me the sail that allows me to cruise the waters of the Bay.
Science is amazing. So, why do some people insist on demeaning it and speaking out against it?
As a writer, I often find solace in other writers. One of my favorite science fiction writers, Isaac Asimov, wrote an article in 1980 that calls out this very same tendency for people to rail against science.
As he said more than forty years ago, modern culture continues to foster a distrust of experts. We have rebranded these competent experts as the “intellectual elite.” We make knowledge the enemy, replacing it with “The Truth.” And this so-called truth demands belief, not proof.
“There is a cult of ignorance...and there always has been. The strain of 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.
Asimov offers a very simple remedy: read.
The is no better way to help Storyslinger than sharing this post to everyone you know (or just everyone, even if you don’t know them). Whether you liked it or not is immaterial (okay, disclaimer: I actually care about whether you liked it, so drop a comment if you have some feelings)—but, anyway, share it because, who knows, somebody else might like it (too...instead)?
Trust me, I know it’s tough to fight back against ignorance.
You see, we can embrace the astonishing scientific advances of the past couple of hundred years or we can bury our heads in the sand—but make no mistake: despite the frighteningly amusing saying, ignorance is not bliss.
“It surprises me how easily people can be misled and how stubborn they are once they've accepted a lie.” —Peter Cawdron
In fact, our level of ignorance is equally proportionate to our ability to be conned. If you are ignorant, you are vulnerable. Ignorance opens the door to manipulation. Luckily for us, our ignorance is inversely proportionate to the amount of accurate information we have. If you put ignorance on one axis and information on the other, as accurate information increases, ignorance must and does decrease. Reading and absorbing accurate information, then, increases your competence.
The more competent you are, the more resilient you will be in a world full of challenges. Increased competence also results in an increase in our ability to identify those who belittle competence. Being aware of those sorts of people means we can either avoid them or engage them appropriately.
Okay, so there is something better than sharing (despite what your mother taught you), and that's paying for something that gives you value. Like Smokey Bear said, "Only you can prevent artists from starving!" or something like that. If you aren’t a subscriber—do that now! But then (and also if you’re already a free subscriber), consider upgrading. A paid subscription literally costs only 0.17¢ per day (0.14¢ if you opt for the annual subscription) and there are some extra goodies included. And that tiny sum keeps me in the black with this effort and enables me to write stuff for you to read. So, honestly, why be just a freebie? Click below!