An example of what happens to scientific concepts when “let loose in Normdom”.
More essays on the Tinker and Marital Hospitality. (Tinker is apparently the name of someone who trades odd jobs / marital advice for a place to sleep for the night.)
Neoteny is the way animals evolve by retaining in adulthood certain youthful characteristics that benefit them. Christ died young to link neoteny to love and make old men share “god” equally with their wives and children. A Tinker uses neoteny to solicit hospitality [sublimated parenting] from married couples. Youthful charm, developed by two thousand years of Christian iconography and a thousand years of literary Romance, protects the Tinker during short visits to family sanctuaries, where are enacted stories or episodes of cultural and personal memory: the gods, kings, parents, saints, and heroes of history, Arthurian legend, Shakespeare, Frazer, Raglan, Campbell, Freud ― and television.
Together hosts and Tinker are Holy Trinity and Virgin, center of the universe, microcosm of democracy and the liberal arts, and fictional broadcast to our species both past and future of the faith of memory, the hope of marital sentiment, and the charity of youthful imagination.
(The Author – his words) sailed to Tahiti right out of university, built and lived in a log cabin in West Virginia and taught composition and literature at various two and four year colleges. His only research has been life-long devotion to The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books. He is married and has three grown children and two grandchildren.
Aye, yai yai!
This is so characteristic of the “gobbling up” of whatever “science terms” trickle down into neurotypical pop-culture, where psychological neoteny preserves the childlike magical thinking of religion and New Age religion. The utter lack of realism, critical thinking, and modern education leave neurotypicals prey to any fantasy that comes their way.
From BBC Future: 1/6/16 “The man who studies the spread of ignorance.”
A new era of ignorance
“We live in a world of radical ignorance, and the marvel is that any kind of truth cuts through the noise,” says (Robert) Proctor (Stanford). Even though knowledge is ‘accessible’, it does not mean it is accessed, he warns.
“Although for most things this is trivial – like, for example, the boiling point of mercury – but for bigger questions of political and philosophical import, the knowledge people have often comes from faith or tradition, or propaganda, more than anywhere else.”
Proctor found that ignorance spreads when firstly, many people do not understand a concept or fact and secondly, when special interest groups – like a commercial firm or a political group – then work hard to create confusion about an issue. In the case of ignorance about tobacco and climate change, a scientifically illiterate society will probably be more susceptible to the tactics used by those wishing to confuse and cloud the truth.
Consider climate change as an example. “The fight is not just over the existence of climate change, it’s over whether God has created the Earth for us to exploit, whether government has the right to regulate industry, whether environmentalists should be empowered, and so on. It’s not just about the facts, it’s about what is imagined to flow from and into such facts,” says Proctor.
Making up our own minds
Another academic studying ignorance is David Dunning, from Cornell University. Dunning warns that the internet is helping propagate ignorance – it is a place where everyone has a chance to be their own expert, he says, which makes them prey for powerful interests wishing to deliberately spread ignorance.
My worry is not that we are losing the ability to make up our own minds, but that it’s becoming too easy to do so – David Dunning
“While some smart people will profit from all the information now just a click away, many will be misled into a false sense of expertise. My worry is not that we are losing the ability to make up our own minds, but that it’s becoming too easy to do so. We should consult with others much more than we imagine. Other people may be imperfect as well, but often their opinions go a long way toward correcting our own imperfections, as our own imperfect expertise helps to correct their errors,” warns Dunning.
From PHYSICS TODAY: 4/4/14
At Politico, a recent “special report” began, “Taxpayers in 14 states will bankroll nearly $1 billion this year in tuition for private schools, including hundreds of religious schools that teach Earth is less than 10,000 years old, Adam and Eve strolled the garden with dinosaurs, and much of modern biology, geology and cosmology is a web of lies.”
At Stanford University, Robert Proctor studies how such ignorance gets produced. More than a decade ago, he proposed a name for this research field: agnotology.
At the Los Angeles Times, a recent column by Michael Hiltzik began:
Robert Proctor doesn’t think ignorance is bliss. He thinks that what you don’t know can hurt you. And that there’s more ignorance around than there used to be, and that its purveyors have gotten much better at filling our heads with nonsense.
Proctor, a professor of the history of science at Stanford, is one of the world’s leading experts in agnotology, a neologism signifying the study of the cultural production of ignorance. It’s a rich field, especially today when whole industries devote themselves to sowing public misinformation and doubt about their products and activities.
The tobacco industry was a pioneer at this. Its goal was to erode public acceptance of the scientifically proven links between smoking and disease: In the words of an internal 1969 memo legal opponents extracted from Brown & Williamson’s files, “Doubt is our product.” Big Tobacco’s method should not be to debunk the evidence, the memo’s author wrote, but to establish a “controversy.”
When this sort of manipulation of information is done for profit, or to confound the development of beneficial public policy, it becomes a threat to health and to democratic society. Big Tobacco’s program has been carefully studied by the sugar industry, which has become a major target of public health advocates.
It’s also echoed by vaccination opponents, who continue to use a single dishonest and thoroughly discredited British paper to sow doubts about the safety of childhood immunizations, and by climate change deniers.
Psychology has provided much of the deceptive- fraudulent “science” that expedites ignorance, and furthers predatory the acceptance of misinformation that floods media, advertising and pop-culture! (me)
Hiltzik wrote before Politico posted its special report, but his column touched on ignorance about evolution too: “Citing the results of a 2012 Gallup poll, Proctor asks,
‘If half the country thinks the Earth is 6,000 years old, how can you really develop an effective environmental policy?'”
After Hiltzik wrote, a Columbia Journalism Review column appeared under the headline “WSJ editorial page brazenly ignores Toyota’s own admissions.” Citing his piece, it charged that the Wall Street Journal opinion editors are conducting the cultural production of ignorance. Diane Ravitch cited Hiltzik and Proctor in her blog posting “Understanding the propaganda campaign against public education,” later republished by Bill Moyers of PBS.
Now that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has issued what the New York Times editorial board calls “its most powerful and sobering assessment so far,” the Times editors wonder if “deniers will cease their attacks” on climate science. Whether or not the term agnotology shows up in further such media discussions following the IPCC’s report, it has been around for some time.
When reporting in 2003 that Proctor “in 1999 became the first historian to testify against the tobacco industry,” the Times mentioned that he “describes his specialty as ‘agnotology, the study of ignorance.'” In 2005, Stanford held a conference on agnotology. Naomi Oreskes’s talk carried the title “Deny, Deny, Deny: How to Sow Confusion over Climate Change.” Times columnist Paul Krugman did a brief posting on agnotology in his Times blog in 2011, addressing birtherism, the belief that President Obama wasn’t born in America. Agnotology has a Wikipedia page with 21 documenting footnotes.
Author: Steven T. Corneliussen, a media analyst for the American Institute of Physics, monitors three national newspapers, the weeklies Nature and Science, and occasionally other publications. He has published op-eds in the Washington Post and other newspapers, has written for NASA’s history program, and is a science writer at a particle-accelerator laboratory.