Sometimes facts are uncomfortable. Sometimes we don’t want to face the facts. And sometimes the facts are so bad that we hate them.
Recently more and more people seem to hate the facts so much they won’t accept them as true. When that happens we are in trouble. As Paul Krugman, an opinion writer in the New York Times and Nobel Prize winning economist said,
“Republicans spent most of 2020 rejecting science in the face of a runaway pandemic; now they’re rejecting democracy in the face of a clear election loss.
What do these rejections have in common? In each case, one of America’s two major parties simply refused to accept facts it didn’t like.”
Of course, many in Canada are the same. This is not just an American phenomenon. Many people claim that they don’t believe that wearing a mask to protect against the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 is effective or necessary even though the overwhelming scientific consensus is that they are wrong. Many people in the US claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen even though there is no evidence to support that claim and even though there is a lot of evidence that tends to debunk it. Paul Krugman said this about the die hard Republicans who still believe the election was stolen:
“the point isn’t that the G.O.P. believes untrue things. It is, rather, that the party has become hostile to the very idea that there’s an objective reality that might conflict with its political goals.”
It is like a strong religious faith. It cannot be overturned by any facts. Faith works that way. That is why it is so dangerous. In the US, as Krugman also said, “At this point, you aren’t considered a proper Republican unless you hate facts.” It seems to me it is the same with the coronavirus among the deeply evangelical right in southern Manitoba. When Kyle Penner, a Mennonite Pastor in Steinbach gently asked the faithful to get vaccinated because they wanted to see them in church again, he was called a “traitor against Christ.”
In the United States conservatives venerate Ronald Reagan pretty much like a saint. As Krugman said,
“The main point, however, is that under Reagan, irrationality and hatred for facts began to take over the G.O.P. There has always been a conspiracy-theorizing, science-hating, anti-democratic faction in America. Before Reagan, however, mainstream conservatives and the Republican establishment refused to make alliance with that faction, keeping it on the political fringe. Reagan, by contrast, brought the crazies inside the tent. Many people are, I think, aware that Reagan embraced a crank economic doctrine — belief in the magical power of tax cuts. I’m not sure how many remember that the Reagan administration was also remarkably hostile to science.
Reagan’s ability to act on this hostility was limited by Democratic control of the House and the fact that the Senate still contained a number of genuinely moderate Republicans. Still, Reagan and his officials spent years denying the threat from acid rain while insisting that evolution was just a theory and promoting the teaching of creationism in schools. This rejection of science partly reflected deference to special interests that didn’t want science-based regulation. Even more important, however, was the influence of the religious right, which first became a major political force under Reagan, has become ever more central to the Republican coalition and is now a major driver of the party’s rejection of facts — and democracy.”
In this blog I have been trying to show that too many of the religious people, though not all, have been content to cast reasoning and evidence based reasoning aside in favour of blind faith. I think that is very dangerous. This is being proved right now during this pandemic. Giving up on critical thinking in favour of faith is dangerous. We do so at our peril. But it is difficult for some people to avoid this tendency. As Krugman said, in reference to the crazy lawsuit that was launched by Texans to challenge the 2021 presidential election won by Joe Biden,
“For rejecting facts comes naturally to people who insist that they’re acting on behalf of God. So does refusing to accept election results that don’t go their way. After all, if liberals are servants of Satan trying to destroy America’s soul, they shouldn’t be allowed to exercise power even if they should happen to win more votes. Sure enough, a few days ago the televangelist Pat Robertson — who first became politically influential under Reagan — pronounced the Texas lawsuit a “miracle,” an intervention by God that would keep Trump in office.”
I am deeply troubled that a significant part of our population holds so tightly to their convictions that nothing —no conceivable facts–can shake them loose from their beliefs. When beliefs reach such a state, we are in deep trouble. It seems to me we have reached this stage. The rejection of facts by the Christian alt right has been conspicuous during this pandemic. We may yet pay a heavy price for it.
As one of my favourite poets, W. B. Yeats said, “The Best Lack All Conviction While the Worst Are Full of Passionate Intensity.”