The United ‘Sick Man’ of America Part 2

Here are the Four Horsemen threatening to End America’s Superpower Status

While hostility toward immigrants and xenophobia, discussed in the previous article, is the First Horseman threatening an end to American global supremacy, we now look at second: hostility to science and anti-intellectualism. The political polarization of America has engulfed and distorted science and reason to such an extent that even factual information has become a matter of opinion. The Covid-19 crisis made this self evident, but the damage has been ongoing for a while.

The US government and populace has been anti-science for quite some time. While the issue of climate change, for example, is accepted as a byproduct as human industrial activity by just about every other country on this planet, the United States stands alone in stubborn denial, purposely downplaying the threat of climate change and actively obstructing efforts to resolve it.

The US is unique among developed countries in other metrics as well. 40% of the population does not accept the scientific consensus of evolution, while an astonishing 77% believe in the existence of angels. Some 60% of Americans reject the scientific consensus on climate change. Said another way, the USA is home to ~180 million armchair climatologists whose out-sized self-confidence have deluded themselves into believing that they are more knowledgeable than the global science community spanning a century of research.

It should come as no surprise then, when it came to the Covid-19 outbreak, that the same country would also be filled with tens of millions of disease experts and virologists who downplayed the seriousness of the virus and lulled millions into a state of inaction until it was too late to reverse course.

While healthy skepticism is a great personality attribute, Americans need to learn to accept scientific consensus as fact and stop falling victim to Dunning-Kruger. In other words, we need to learn to listen to those who have dedicated their lives to a particular field, and give less credence to the person who did 17 minutes of research on Twitter.

It is perhaps not surprising that a country that is becoming increasingly xenophobic is also anti-intellectual, as these two character flaws go hand in hand; they both require us to let go of our ideological biases and accept that oneself, our family, and our culture, are not supreme and all-knowing. In other words, they are not absolute in their correctness. Acceptance of immigrants provides us an opportunity to learn new languages, experience new cultures, and illuminate new perspectives on subjects long-settled in our own minds. Similarly, the advancement of technology and academia (which itself is also disproportionally driven by non-Americans) requires us to adapt to change, learn new concepts, and refine or abandon older ways of understanding.

Just as science requires us to adapt our understanding of how life came to Earth through evolution, contact with other cultures/languages/people of various backgrounds require us to engage in a daily dialectical process that furthers the search for truth and reason. This should be applauded, not denigrated. The search for truth and reason is, ultimately, what drives good policy-making in a democracy, and a net positive for us all.