26 votes

Anti-science and alternate reality in the USA

Does anyone know what the origin of all of this anti-science and alternate reality that has been happening in the USA over the past decade?

20 comments

  1. [4]
    cfabbro
    (edited )
    Link
    I would tend to trust /r/AskHistorians more than any other random people on the net about this. So here are some similar questions from there that were actually answered by flaired users: What is...

    I would tend to trust /r/AskHistorians more than any other random people on the net about this. So here are some similar questions from there that were actually answered by flaired users:

    What is it that has allowed anti-intellectualism to continue in the 20th and 21st century in the United States, when there's been such a strong push for everyone to receive a college education?

    What are the roots of anti-intellectualism in the United States? What is its history?

    p.s. As for my own answer, the documentary The Brainwashing of My Dad covers this subject quite well IMO, at least when it comes to the history of right-wing media and advocacy groups. And it's available on Prime Video (for free in the US). Just a heads up though; The trailer doesn't do it justice, since it makes the movie out to be incredibly sensational when it's actually rather serious, dry, and academic, full of sit-down interviews with people like Noam Chomsky, David Brock (Media Matters founder), Claire Conner (author of Wrapped in the Flag), etc.

    14 votes
    1. [3]
      suspended
      Link Parent
      So, based on your first (and second) linked response from r/AskHistorians it appears that religion (in this case Judaeo-Christian) has had a substantial role in this? I'll have to take a closer...

      So, based on your first (and second) linked response from r/AskHistorians it appears that religion (in this case Judaeo-Christian) has had a substantial role in this?

      I'll have to take a closer look into Claire Conner's work later (and thank you for bringing this up).

      Preliminarily, I am going to take a more serious look into my personal involvement with academic Biblical scholarship and its dissemination across the Internet.

      4 votes
      1. [2]
        cfabbro
        Link Parent
        Yes, but I would clarify that by saying more specifically "evangelical Protestants and other Biblical literalist sects had a substantial role in this"... and also argue they still do.

        it appears that religion (in this case Judaeo-Christian) has had a substantial role in this?

        Yes, but I would clarify that by saying more specifically "evangelical Protestants and other Biblical literalist sects had a substantial role in this"... and also argue they still do.

        9 votes
        1. suspended
          Link Parent
          Thank you for the clarification.

          Thank you for the clarification.

          5 votes
  2. [2]
    skybrian
    Link
    It doesn't seem to be US-specific, nor is it limited to the last decade. Conspiracy theories and nonscientific beliefs are common in many countries. It might be that the US was somewhat free of...

    It doesn't seem to be US-specific, nor is it limited to the last decade. Conspiracy theories and nonscientific beliefs are common in many countries. It might be that the US was somewhat free of them for a while, but I'm skeptical; it seems like wishful thinking. During the cold war there were conspiracy theories about communists, for example, and a lot of people were worried about fluorinated water.

    One thing I've read recently is that in France, much of the population believes in homeopathic medicine. The government just stopped paying for it on January 1, and there is a lawsuit.

    There seems to be a literature about conspiracy theories. Some papers find correlation between conspiracy theories and authoritarianism, which would make sense because authoritarian governments often engage in conspiracy.

    And in a way, the popularity of conspiracy theories in black communities shouldn't be too surprising since people really are out to get them. Sometimes conspiracies are true.

    It seems like people are more worried about conspiracy theories these days, though. They were always there, but it was easier to ignore them as a minority view.

    One possibility is that people were more worried about religious beliefs before, things like cults and anti-scientific religious beliefs. It used to be a major subject of debate.

    That's faded, so now conspiracy theories are more visible.

    7 votes
    1. petrichor
      Link Parent
      This hasn't gone away, by the way - it's just had to vie for attention with the latest "news" of vaccines causing autism and/or being a government mind-control plot (less so during the pandemic)...

      and a lot of people were worried about fluorinated water

      This hasn't gone away, by the way - it's just had to vie for attention with the latest "news" of vaccines causing autism and/or being a government mind-control plot (less so during the pandemic) and homeopathic remedies / anti-viral MLM essential oils (more so during the pandemic).

      5 votes
  3. joplin
    Link
    As others have said, it's not new and not unique to the US. There's a really good book by Michael Shermer called "Why People Believe Weird Things" that goes into depth about the topic in general....

    As others have said, it's not new and not unique to the US. There's a really good book by Michael Shermer called "Why People Believe Weird Things" that goes into depth about the topic in general. It explains the various logical traps that people fall into and why, and why it's also so hard to get some people out of them.

    6 votes
  4. [4]
    vord
    Link
    My personal thought is that the world has gone a bit bonkers, so while we were always susceptible to bonkers thoughts, it's now getting some level of intermittent reenforcement. Suppose I went...

    My personal thought is that the world has gone a bit bonkers, so while we were always susceptible to bonkers thoughts, it's now getting some level of intermittent reenforcement.

    Suppose I went back to 1998 and said to a psychiatrist "Within the next decade the NSA will have setup a global computing network that captures all of the world's communication and a lot of every individual's movements to use for mass surveillance.". They'd put me on some pretty strong drugs thinking I was a schizophrenic.

    Seeing that come to fruition makes you wonder just how deep those rabbit holes go. Learning more about the various three-letter agencies via declassified documents also makes you question just how far off some conspiracies are.

    But also, as others mentioned, disinformation has been heavily leveraged for political means. It's always been that case, but it's easier to recognize as such now.

    6 votes
    1. [4]
      Comment deleted by author
      Link Parent
      1. [3]
        Kuromantis
        Link Parent
        Just 2 memes but you might like this and this.

        "There are two kinds of conspiracy theories - that the Jews are taking over the world via lizard-alien-based adrenochrome drugs in the water, and things the CIA has literally admitted to in a court of law."

        Just 2 memes but you might like this and this.

        3 votes
        1. [2]
          Sand
          Link Parent
          Meme 1 apparently doesn't know the difference between "conspiracy" and "conspiracy theory".

          Meme 1 apparently doesn't know the difference between "conspiracy" and "conspiracy theory".

          2 votes
          1. moocow1452
            Link Parent
            This is why "applied conspiracy" is a wasted degree. /joke

            This is why "applied conspiracy" is a wasted degree. /joke

            3 votes
  5. [6]
    krg
    Link
    We're all dumbasses and I don't think anyone has a true scientific outlook on... well.. things in general. "Anti-science" isn't a new thing. It's been around for so long. Probably, you've just...

    We're all dumbasses and I don't think anyone has a true scientific outlook on... well.. things in general.

    "Anti-science" isn't a new thing. It's been around for so long. Probably, you've just matured and have been able to see these things. It is definitely not specific to the United States of America.

    5 votes
    1. vord
      Link Parent
      We're all dumbasses, but some are more dumbass than others. (apologies to George Orwell) While it is definitely true, the glorification of anti-intellectualism is definitely not helping....

      We're all dumbasses

      We're all dumbasses, but some are more dumbass than others. (apologies to George Orwell)

      While it is definitely true, the glorification of anti-intellectualism is definitely not helping.

      Introducing philosophy and reasoning far earlier in the formal educational process will help tremendously IMO. I'm thinking like 2nd/3rd grade, as opposed to college, which was my first major exposure to philosophy.

      Being able to question the why of science is almost as important as the how.

      6 votes
    2. [4]
      suspended
      Link Parent
      Yeah. I've learned from other Tildes users about 'domain learning'. I believe that you are correct. Thank you.

      We're all dumbasses...

      Yeah. I've learned from other Tildes users about 'domain learning'.

      ...you've just matured and have been able to see these things

      I believe that you are correct. Thank you.

      4 votes
      1. [3]
        Autoxidation
        Link Parent
        I am intrigued by the book description. Where did you learn about this on Tildes?

        Yeah. I've learned from other Tildes users about 'domain learning'.

        I am intrigued by the book description. Where did you learn about this on Tildes?

        2 votes
        1. [2]
          suspended
          Link Parent
          This thread. I've since purchased and read the book and it's excellent.

          This thread. I've since purchased and read the book and it's excellent.

          4 votes
          1. Autoxidation
            (edited )
            Link Parent
            Thank you, I'll check this out. Edit: Hah! This is what I get for not going back and reading some topics I posted in.

            Thank you, I'll check this out.

            Edit: Hah! This is what I get for not going back and reading some topics I posted in.

            4 votes
  6. [2]
    Once
    Link
    One could argue that it has always been part of the american culture/identity, at least since the first European settlers in the 1500s. Kurt Andersen has written a book ( Fantasyland ) that...

    One could argue that it has always been part of the american culture/identity, at least since the first European settlers in the 1500s.

    Kurt Andersen has written a book ( Fantasyland ) that thoroughly analyses the history of "rejecting reality" that is so prevalent in the USA, and to some extent in many other countries.

    While the anti-science attitude was always there, it's true that it seems to be spreading much faster nowadays, and that is a real concern.

    Famous quote by Isaac Asimov (1980):

    There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."

    5 votes
    1. suspended
      Link Parent
      Thank you for that. I've ordered this book through inter-library loan. I'm looking forward to reading it!

      Kurt Andersen has written a book ( Fantasyland )

      Thank you for that. I've ordered this book through inter-library loan. I'm looking forward to reading it!

      3 votes
  7. reifyresonance
    Link
    I've been reading Post-Truth by Lee McIntyre, who points to... oil and tobacco companies as a cause. Sowing doubt about whether there is scientific consensus on topics. Also conservative talk...

    I've been reading Post-Truth by Lee McIntyre, who points to... oil and tobacco companies as a cause. Sowing doubt about whether there is scientific consensus on topics. Also conservative talk radio, and the general idea that non-experts can and should critique and question experts.

    5 votes