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Santorum spreads stupidly February 12, 2012

Posted by shaunphilly in Culture and Society, Religion, Skepticism and atheism.
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So, it’s no secret that I despise people like Rick Santorum.  I mean, the guy is pretty clueless, homophobic (but I repeat myself!), and the couple of times I met him he creeped me out as few have.  He’s smarmy, slimy, and pretty consistently socially conservative.

I’ll give him credit for at least being pretty consistent (in today’s political climate, that actually is a virtue), and being conservative is not necessarily bad in itself…right?

So, in reading a post on Friendly Atheist today about a speech Rick Santorum recently gave, I bumped into a quote by the man himself that went as such:

I always say that if your faith is true and your reason is right, you’ll end up at the same place. Why? Well because God created us, created the universe, created reason. And, of course, why would God create something where your faith would bring you one place and your reason would bring you another if your faith is true? Right? [Scattered applause.]

I also believe as a public official that you have a right to speak to people of faith and no faith. You have to present a reason why you want to advance a certain public policy. Not just because, “that’s what my faith teaches me and that’s why I believe it.” That’s fine, but from the standpoint of public policy, it’s insufficient, because you need to appeal to people who may not share your faith.

That is actually quite an interesting idea.  I think I agree…with Rick Santorum.

Of course, he goes the opposite direction as I do with how we implement this idea, but at least he recognizes that if reason goes a different direction than his faith, there is a problem.  Also, many people seem to believe that their faith is sufficient for implementing policy.  You would be surprised (or not, if you have been around religion enough) how uncommon that point of view is.

So, I don’t want to address specifically what he says about public policy and religion per se.  I just want to say a few words about the relationship between faith and reason, and perhaps a few things about intelligence and conservatism.

I don’t think Rick Santorum is stupid.  I also don’t think he’s particularly intelligent, enlightened, or has a good grasp of sufficient perspective in order to be a good leader for either the United States or any group of people.  His views on Islam are pretty extreme (which is fine; so are mine I suppose), but he seems to fail to recognize that much of what he says about Islam could be said about Judaism and Christianity.

I don’t know specifically what his “reasons” are about Christianity, nor how he meshes reason with his faith, but it is clear that he disagrees with me about how religion and faith relate.  Where I see them at necessary odds, he seems to think that reason and faith do lead to the same conclusions (or at least can do so) as he is a practicing Christian who said the first paragraph above, where he implies that reason is a good tool to employ.

I am skeptical at his ability to think critically, as well as many of the other conservative candidates, and I wonder whether the vast majority of his fans are not, well, complete idiots.  The ones I have talked to seem to be just that, despite my desire to believe that most people are basically smart if not misguided and ignorant.  Sure, I’m sure a few fairly intelligent and educated people like him, but they seem to be an exception rather than the rule.

So, what of intelligence and political conservatism? I mean, there has been some talk of it recently (here is a quick post by a colleague of mine about the recent studies hitting the news), and if there is any legitimacy to the idea that bigotry, low intelligence, and right wing politics are significantly linked then, well, should liberals use this?  Is it truly arrogant to think of ourselves as better educated, intelligent, and therefore more likely to have better opinions if we are liberal-leaning skeptics who know something about critical thinking?

Or is it just more ammunition for people calling us arrogant jerks?

Personally, I don’t care if people think me arrogant.  If I’m wrong, demonstrate that I am wrong and I’ll try and change my views accordingly.  But in conversations with racists, libertarians, and conservative theists over the years I have found myself feeling smarter, better educated, and better informed than my interlocutors.  Is this bias or is it something different? Is it a little bias, but mostly difference in intellect and education?

I just don’t know.  And if Hamby is right in saying that

When the science demonstrates that liberals are in fact more intelligent and tolerant, they sheepishly retreat to their labs, unwilling to publicly admit the characteristics that made them skeptic scientists in the first place, and virtually unmovable in their refusal to admit the logic demanding more intelligent liberals in office.  Far from a “liberal conspiracy” to take over the country, there is arguably an unspoken agreement to cover up the growing body of evidence that there is a scientific difference between the parties.  It’s far too boorish and elitist to point to our own studies demonstrating how smart we are.

well, then perhaps we liberal-minded skeptics should not be quiet about feeling smarter than bigoted conservatives, right? I mean, if it is true that conservatives simply think themselves superior (due to the Dunning-Kruger effect, perhaps) and so they barge through our culture with ignorant and simplistic ideas which do damage while cautious skeptics sheepishly pull back, unsure of our own adeptness, then this spells disaster for our culture.

It means that the truly intelligent and capable people tend to be self-critical and shy while less capable and less intelligent people charge through the world leaving destruction and stupidity in their path.  Destroying educational institutions, insisting upon their privileged religious worldviews, and calling any skepticism of their power, authority, or conclusions oppression, lack of patriotism, or treason.  What a nightmare!

If all this is true (and it is indeed a colorful example of liberal porn), then it amounts to a real problem for our political landscape for many years to come.

All I can say is that I hope that this view is not accurate.  I hope this is but pure fear-mongering, hyperbole, and another example of the polarity of our political climate gone mad.

But if it’s true, that uncertainty above is just another intelligent, educated, and capable liberal pulling back rather than trudging forward in the fight against the dangers of conservative politics.

My head hurts.  I’m going to go read some Nietzsche or something….