Whenever I go into Waterstone’s, I always get at least one glance at the so-called “smart thinking” section, and as you might expect it’s filled with books about science, but they share this category with books about politics, economy, and popular ideology. They’ve got books by Richard Dawkins, Charles Darwin and Michio Kaku in the same group as books by Noam Chomsky, and an assortment of left-wing authors. Back when I was in school, there used to be separate shelves for politics, science and economy, or at least that’s how I remember it. To me, it seems like the store seems to have given in to the common mentality that scientific thinking and left-wing philosophy are automatically intelligent. By that logic anything else must be balderdash, except that’s not entirely true.
The modern mentality appears to be that science is the new religion, and liberalism the new conservatism. Of course, it was bound to happen. They both offer a path to enlightenment that requires you to have some form of trust in it, and its advocates. In today’s world, science is assumed to have all the answers, and people who don’t trust it are generally assumed to be morons. A thousand years ago, it was thought that God knew everything, and since the church claimed to know the word of God, anyone who didn’t trust or follow the church was shunned, and sometimes condemned as a heretic.
In a liberal society, most conservatives are often labelled as morons. Often, this is purely because of the political narrative of the times. The common folk have shifted towards liberal values, and so the conservatives must be evil (and in fairness, there are many conservative politicians who really are evil). In the past, conservatism would have been considered smart thinking, and liberalism was considered the domain of the working poor. At this point, what we would now call “smart thinking” is merely a difference in narrative. For me, it’s getting to be a worrying case of people using legitimate ideas and philosophies to make themselves sound intelligent.
It has often been argued that modern society is getting dumber, often in a very debatable context (often pointing only to America as an example). In my opinion, that would certainly explain why science is touted so highly by anyone who wants to look smart, but the problem is that most people like science only because of the flashy facts. They never think about the little things, or about the various kinds of sciences that don’t sound as attractive (arachnology, urology, and neuroparasitology come to mind). When it comes to science, I think most people don’t love science as much as it can seem. They just look at its butt while its walking by. Somehow, I think it’s the same with left-wing politics.
Another problem is that most people aren’t listening to real science. They’re listening to scientific theories that have been deliberately sensationalized for the purpose of drawing mass appeal. That is what we would call “pop science”, and it usually manifests in the form of news outlets reporting studies that sound either too good to be true, or too exaggeratedly terrifying to be real. You usually find this being trotted out on morning news shows desperate for filler material, and it’s bad when you consider that many viewers have continually confused pop science with real science, and even after it’s proven false, people continue to believe newer and more bizarre claims passed off as scientific studies.
At this point, I could probably make the argument that people tend to take things out of hand, and this case, science has been put on the same pedestal as God, and established theory the new holy writ. The only difference is that most of the Western world don’t go about killing those who disagree with us. However, I think we should ask ourselves – is it really smart thinking just because it sounds like the right thing? Furthermore, is it really smart thinking if it’s just popular philosophy? I realize that I may have opened more questions than I answered here tonight, but these are questions I’d prefer people to answer themselves, because if anything, smart thinking would require one to think independently.