I read an article a few days ago discussing a recent Gallup poll conducted last month. The poll asked Americans whether they believed that humans developed over millions of years with G-d’s help, that humans developed over millions of years independent of G-d, or that humans were zapped into their current state of existence within the past 10,000 years. 46% (n=1012) said that the last option was closest to what they believed was truth.
I don’t want to make this about what canonized Jewish or Christian scripture actually says about the timeline of mankind’s creation, even though I could discuss that topic ad nauseum (but just FYI, it does not contradict long-term evolution anywhere). Instead, I would like to talk about stupidity.
It’s a harsh word. Even the most self-deprecating folks don’t call themselves “stupid.” It’s a word most often used to describe other people; usually people who disagree with the person using the word. It is not “I am right and you are wrong,” but rather “I am right and you are stupid,” which is funny, because stupidity is theoretically an intrinsic quality which cannot be helped (like a genetic disorder), while being wrong is a choice which the “right” (i.e. “correct”) person might be able to help correct. There is nothing “wrong” (i.e. “immoral”) with being stupid.
And I see this statistic and my immediate thought is, “Wow, there are so many stupid people out there.” And my next thought is, “Huh, I’ll bet all those people think I’m stupid.”
I once told a friend in college that I didn’t believe that people were generally stupid. With the exception of those with actual mental handicaps which alter their higher brain functions (things you can find in medical textbooks), most people we tended to think of as “stupid” are not really stupid at all. They live different lives and are very intelligent when it comes to the set of things with which they have to deal and about which they have to know. They come across as “stupid” to our community only because they have a different knowledge set, and it’s human nature to see yourself and your community as “right” and everyone else as “wrong.” My friend seemed very impressed with my optimistic perspective, mostly in how kind and forgiving it was.
It’s about ten years later now, and I find myself asking, “Man, are these people stupid or what?!”
The U.S. Census Bureau claims there are 311,591,917 people in this country, which to me means that if we can trust Gallup, 143,332,282 citizens of the United States of America have either a) not heard about the scientific evidence in support of the concept and theory of human evolution; b) heard about the scientific evidence supporting human evolution but have chosen to deny it based on beliefs founded in culture and tradition; or c) become quite well-versed in the scientific arguments for and against evolutionary theory and, after much research, counsel, prayer, and scriptural vetting, have determined that there are too many unanswered questions and logical holes to tip the balance in opposition to the perfectly reasonable idea that the Biblical “sixth day” corresponds to a time period roughly between six to ten thousand years ago when G-d almighty formed mankind independently from the other taxological primates.
I’m really hoping it’s mostly “a,” “c,” or some mix of the two. But the thing is, in every case, it really could be “a” or “c,” and immediately labeling 46% of the population as “stupid” is simply egregious. Heck, even if it’s mostly “b,” perhaps there are perfectly understandable reasons why someone might choose to deny scientific evidence (even if it’s the “wrong” [i.e. “immoral” and “incorrect”] choice), and there is a big difference between being misled and being stupid.
But my reacting to a statistic by judging almost half of the population of my country as stupid… that’s pretty stupid.