According to Amazon, a lot of people who buy Unscientific America are also buying another book that’s coming out soon, entitled Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free, by Charles Pierce.
On their face, these books may sound similar. And in fact, we probably agree substantively with Pierce in most of what he says about things like creationism (judging from the book’s description). I would go so far as to suggest that many readers of this blog would likely enjoy Pierce’s book, just as they would (I hope) enjoy our own.
Yet while it definitely gets people fired up, I would argue that it ultimately does little or no good to denigrate the intelligence of one’s intellectual opponents, whoever they may be–to call them “stupid,” “idiots,” and so on. Moreover, it’s rarely an accurate description on a factual level. As I’ve noted about vaccine refusal, for instance, high levels of education don’t seem to be any protection against this particular kind of “idiocy.”
We definitely have serious culture wars, we definitely have serious attacks on science, and we definitely have “scientific illiteracy” (which needs to be carefully defined). But I’m far from convinced that the root problems here have much to do with intelligence; rather, they turn on knottier matters like politics, culture, and religion. What’s more, if you really wanted to change someone’s mind, denigration of his/her intellect is the last thing you would ever do, for obvious reasons.
There’s much more to be said, but, well…that’s why we wrote a whole book about it!