November 02, 2010

In this day and age, to be too highly educated -- or even to be tarred as highly educated -- is the kiss of death to a political career.

This pattern is often explained as a broad dislike of elitist attitudes: yet nearly all of those cited as having such attitudes are firmly entrenched in academic careers with no desire to venture into the political arena. Why should they? Thus far, they have had absolutely nothing to gain by it.

(Although that has changed in the past, and may yet change again.)

More relevant, I suspect, is a suspicion of knowledge that has not been channelled into appropriate (practical technological or medical) directions: and most especially of knowledge which touches upon human nature. We "know" too much of human nature to be easily convinced of anything different. We are so certain of our own free will that we cannot accept any suggestion that our choices may not be as independent as they seem. We cling to such truisms as core values of self-identity.

And so we fear and hate knowledge which threatens our self-identity we cannot comprehend. We fear and hate those who challenge the root of our being. Especially we fear what might transpire, should those truisms ever fail.

Consequently, whatever the cost, we must reject any finding which challenges the bedrock upon which we have built our self-identity.

Rejection is easiest when it begins by building distrust of the sources. Fairly easy to build, this: not least since those who have the background to comprehend and evaluate necessarily become lumped in with those whose work they are evaluating. This particular manifestation of confirmation bias thus builds distrust precisely along the fault lines of previous knowledge. To have the knowledge to evaluate is automatically to be suspect.

In the end, the only way to escape becoming pulled into the circle of those to be distrusted is to conceal one's own education and set aside one's understanding until it can never threaten core identity again with unwanted knowledge that goes against what everyone already "knows".

Only then will you be electable.

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