Anti-Intellectualism

I came across an interesting post on anti-intellectualism, courtesy of Tom Morris, one of my daily newspaper-substitutes.

Having read a little Ayn Rand and found it profoundly boring, notwithstanding its cultural value as a cocktail party badge of literary intellect, I’m not sure I’m qualified to talk about either intellectualism or stupidism. But there were two passages in the post I want to address.

First, one on Presidents as men of the people:

“Incidentally, it’s likely that one of the reasons America currently has one of its worst presidents ever is that, by being less educated and articulate than Gore or Kerry, he appeared ‘more in touch’ with the common man (of course, one should then wonder if you really want the village idiot in charge of the most powerful nation in the world… but I digress.)”

I’m no Bush fan, nor am I am Bush basher. I think he could do a lot better and I think he could do a lot worse. I will admit that he has moved towards to bad end of the scale as Iraq starts looking more like Vietnam II than Falklands II.

But Bush is not the best example of the common man in the White House. That would be Jimmy Carter. And while Jimmy Carter appeared to be a peanut farmer from Georgia, he also may have been the most intelligent president of my lifetime (I am a big Jimmy Carter fan).

So being a man of the people is more about your demeanor than your IQ. You can be brilliant and a man of the people- it’s just that the navel gazers can’t get past your accent to see it. You can also be a complete dumbass and come across as erudite.

I happen to believe that, while you certainly don’t want the village idiot to be your leader, you also don’t want the guy with a pocket protector full of slide rules.

And then one on religion and the educated:

“There are several sources of anti-intellectualism. Religion is an obvious one, of course, since being intelligent and learning makes one less likely to accept arguments from authority, and to question unproven assertions. An intelligent, learned man has no need for religion – therefore, we don’t want any intelligent, learned men (to paraphrase The Fountainhead’s Elllsworth Toohey).”

While that was a quote from a book that I described above as boring, I feel compelled to point out that I don’t buy the fact that intelligence and learning are inconsistent with religion and faith.

The essence of faith is to believe what you cannot prove. If you question it, if you can make the argument that it is logically impossible, yet you still believe it- that is faith. The more capable you are to question it, the stronger your faith is when you conclude that you believe it anyway.

According to this Pew Report:

“Secular individuals – those who say they are agnostic, atheist, or say they have no religious affiliation – are a significant portion only of Liberals: 22%. They include 12% of Bystanders and 9% of Disaffecteds, but otherwise constitute no more than 6% of the other groups.”

That’s a lot of educated people, both liberal and conservative.