Send a Tweet
Most Popular Choices
Share on Facebook 8 Share on Twitter Printer Friendly Page More Sharing
Exclusive to OpEd News:
OpEdNews Op Eds   

The Honest Pursuit of the Truth is a Moral Virtue

By       (Page 1 of 3 pages)   1 comment
Follow Me on Twitter     Message Andrew Schmookler
Become a Fan
  (31 fans)
When Smart People Say Dumb Things

A recent issue of Time Magazine, dedicated to exploring the trends of our time ("What's Next?" October 24, 2005), presents a panel discussion featuring some very bright people.

At one point in the discussion, Malcolm Gladwell (The Tipping Point, Blink) says: "Does the debate over evolution matter? Isn't it really a nondebate?"

To which David Brooks (New York Times columnist) shortly adds: "I think the debate is unimportant for [the reason that] 40% of people in the country don't believe in the theory of evolution, and yet we seem to march on regardless."

Yes, we sure are marching on""marching onward toward an abyss.

And while the disbelief in evolution may not be directly connected with that march toward disaster, there is a deeper connection to explore. For while there may be no big problem with this rejection of one science's most important and thoroughly substantiated ideas, the habit of thought that permits such rejection has played a major role in endangering American society.

It's another case of needing to connect the dots to see the figure buried beneath the surface picture.

Aristotle Was Right: Virtue is a Matter of Good Habits

It's an idea one usually hears from conservatives-- that we hear that virtues need to be practiced consistently, that what one does in one area of life will impact that life more generally. It is they who tell us, for example, that what we do in our imaginative lives -e.g. what movies and TV shows we choose to consume""will affect the sensibilities we bring to life more generally.

But the habit of practicing intellectual integrity in arriving at one's beliefs is just as important.

Thus, we are now in a tailspin as a civilization because, among other things:

** Our leaders took us into a war based not only on lies, but also on their arrogant assumption that they already knew all they needed to know. So they pushed away good counsel and information from experts, charging ahead not only into a war of their own choosing but also into a disaster of their own making.

** Two-thirds of those who supported their recent re-election held several crucial beliefs about that war whose falsehood had been determined by commissions of inquiry and widely announced in the mainstream press. They chose instead to believe what their authorities (including dishonest news media they trusted) told them, and what was emotionally more satisfying to believe.

** As a nation we spend the most on health care, but have nearly the worst health statistics, of any industrial democracy. And this waste proceeds because we as a society cannot bring ourselves to ask basic empirical questions, like: does the experience of other countries offer evidence that there's a better way than ours to organize a health care system?

** As the earth's climate system descends toward possible disruption and ecological chaos, our current leaders have isolated the United States from the global society with their refusal to acknowledge and confront the problem. A surprisingly large proportion of the American people -a group, I would wager, highly correlated with the rejection of the theory of evolution-- chooses not to believe the overwhelming consensus among scientists regarding climate change. And as a polity we've been incapable of honestly addressing such questions as: what can we do to fulfill our obligations to the future while minimizing the sacrifice we must make in the present?

This list could go on and on.

Whether or not it matters, in itself, if people refuse to accept the basic validity of the theory of evolution -and I expect that it does matter""what surely does matter is a failure to develop the moral discipline of pursuing the truth honestly.

It matters whether people follow their authorities blindly or they develop the critical capabilities to think for themselves. Perhaps it's fine to give the Bible unquestioning credence, but unquestioning trust in the declarations of political authorities can be dangerous.

Next Page  1  |  2  |  3

(Note: You can view every article as one long page if you sign up as an Advocate Member, or higher).

Rate It | View Ratings

Andrew Schmookler Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Andy Schmookler, an award-winning author, political commentator, radio talk-show host, and teacher, was the Democratic nominee for Congress from Virginia's 6th District. His new book -- written to have an impact on the central political battle of our time -- is (more...)
Go To Commenting
The views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.
Follow Me on Twitter     Writers Guidelines

Contact AuthorContact Author Contact EditorContact Editor Author PageView Authors' Articles
Support OpEdNews

OpEdNews depends upon can't survive without your help.

If you value this article and the work of OpEdNews, please either Donate or Purchase a premium membership.

If you've enjoyed this, sign up for our daily or weekly newsletter to get lots of great progressive content.
Daily Weekly     OpEd News Newsletter
   (Opens new browser window)

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

Why Do Conservatives Like Colbert? Article Plus Critique

Mel Gibson's Rant as Profound Clue

To Anti-Obamite Lefties: It Doesn't Matter If You're Right

How Important is the Loss of Friendship?

# 8 Beliefs that Make Liberal America Weak: Barriers to the Source of Moral and Spiritual Passions

Power and Corruption: Just What Is Their Relationship?

To View Comments or Join the Conversation:

Tell A Friend