American Insanity: God, UFOs, Ghosts, ISIS and Climate Change


The United States is an insane nation. It is composed of a toxic cultural legacy that breeds superstition and lunacy. Some argue the parochial nature of American society is rooted in the frontiersman tradition of “Western Expansion.” For instance, Canadian anthropologist Ronald Wright notes that America has always embodied an ideological tension between Enlightenment values on the one hand, and frontiersman values on the other. While the remnants of these ideologies remain, the scope has changed: Americans now encounter Global Warming as the dominant existential crises, and international terrorism, in response to American Empire, the dominant political crisis of the 21st century.

AMERICAN BELIEFS

Indeed, it has been widely understood within the scientific community that biological evolution is a reality, not a belief or myth. In fact, the very idea that one animal could descend from another finds its origins in pre-Socratic Greek society, with philosophers such as Anaximander and Aristotle. During the 17th century, new forms of modern science rejected these approaches, focusing more on the natural laws of the physical world. Our understanding of this process continues to evolve with time. However, a fundamental concept remains: Human beings come from the natural world, not incalculable, cosmic-Gods.

After one-hundred-plus-years of universal public education, discoveries in science and political reforms, US citizens continue to hold disproportionately skeptical views of science. For instance, Gallup’s Beliefs and Values survey shows, “More than four in 10 Americans continue to believe that God created humans in their present form 10,000 years ago, a view that has changed little over the past three decades. Half of Americans believe humans evolved, with the majority of these saying God guided the evolutionary process.” In fact, these numbers are off-the-charts when compared with other Western nations.

Americans hold equally idiotic convictions about UFOs. According to ABC News, “Thirty-six percent of Americans, about 80 million people, believe UFOs exist, and a tenth believe they have spotted one, a new National Geographic poll shows.” Additionally, the study reveals that 55 percent of Americans believe, “Men in Black-style agents threaten people who report UFO sightings” and over 75 percent assume Aliens have visited planet Earth. In like manner, a HuffPost/YouGov poll reveals that 45 percent of Americans suppose “ghosts, or… spirits of dead people can come back in certain places and situations.” Moreover, the poll concludes that over 28 percent of Americans simultaneously suspect they have been in the presence of ghosts during some point in their lives.

Surely this information should send a chill down the spine of those interested in creating a more rational society, with its ideologies and understanding of the physical-world based on empirical data and scientific-principles. When examining the modern political/cultural coordinates in the US, one must take into account the fact that Americans have a long history of mythical beliefs and anti-scientific bias. These historical trends have created quite an anti-intellectual culture, which, unfortunately, remains with the nation today.

MISPLACED FEAR

Americans not only live in a very irrational society, they live in an extremely scared society, with fears ranging from immigrants and young black men, to Biblical prophecies describing the “end times.” Consequently, when faced with supposed “terror-threats,” Americans react predictably to the non-stop propaganda machine of mainstream news reports, videos and commentary. To illustrate, last month NBC News reported that Americans are as scared of ISIS, as they were in the wake of 9/11. Even more, the poll shows 61 percent of Americans agreed that, “The United States taking military action against ISIS is in United States’ interest, versus 13 percent who don’t.” What fundamental lessons have Americans learned since 9/11? In short, none.

The ability of the mainstream press to ignite fear, rage and concern within American society is truly a magnificent achievement on behalf of the ruling class. Of course, American-fear has a long history, ranging from the Red Scare to Y2K. On the other hand, since 9/11, Americans have been increasingly bombarded with non-stop reports, documentaries, newscasts, Hollywood films, books, magazine articles and radio broadcasts focused on international terrorism. Undoubtedly, the collective psychological effect has been ruinous.

One could argue that the increased sophistication and decentralization of communication technologies provide Americans with alternative media sources, but then how does one explain the fact that Americans are as scared today, as they were in the aftermath of 9/11? Do Americans not have more media options today than they did in 2001? What’s even more interesting is the fact that this time it only took a couple of beheading videos to spark American intervention, whereas 9/11 involved the collapse of the twin towers, an attack on the pentagon and a downed-aircraft in Pennsylvania–all told, resulting in the deaths of over 3,000 people.

Of course, environmentalistsscientists and the natural world understand that Climate Change poses the greatest threat to life on the planet. Interestingly, roughly the same percentage of Americans who believe in witches and astrology, 29 percent, also are skeptical of the science surrounding Climate Change. One can safely assume the two groups share significant overlapping beliefs/disbeliefs, which begs the question: how can activists, scientists and politicians engage with a segment of American society which is increasingly disinterested in acknowledging scientific facts?

CONSEQUENCES

Misplaced fears, parochial ideologies and backward beliefs concerning witches, magic, astrology, ghosts, evolution, immigrants, foreigners, the natural world and religion, has helped create an unaccommodating political culture in modern-America. Almost half of American society now holds some sort of irrational view of the world-at-large. To many, these trends are unacceptable. Indeed, some point to younger generations’ views on such issues. However, a declining belief in God should not be confused with a declining belief in superstitions.

Clearly, humanity is quickly gliding toward total ecological destruction, much of which is a direct result of American Empire, capitalism and militarism. Meanwhile, as Americans fear ISIS, extraterrestrial abduction and various astrological phenomena, the natural world weeps from being devastated in the pursuit of profit and power. When citizens of the most powerful nation in the history of the planet hold beliefs akin to those held in the Middle Ages, the inevitable outcome is more war and havoc.

If Americans ever hope to reverse their ongoing legacy of never-ending wars and environmental destruction, they must first reject superstitions, myths and ideological fallacies.

Vince Emanuele is a writer, activist and radio journalist who lives in Michigan City, Indiana. He can be reached atvince.emanuele@ivaw.org

5 Comments

  1. Mike Ruff October 14, 2014 3:37 am 

    This is fantastic writing. And last time I looked, Ancient Aliens is filed at the Westchester Public Library as nonfiction. I don’t know if superstitious thinking can be done away with in this culture. I try to help YECs understand evolution, but they won’t have it.

  2. avatar
    Vincent Emanuele October 12, 2014 3:50 pm 

    Really, the important point here is whether or not such belief systems impede our ability to organize American citizens. And, in fact, they do. Since Americans routinely gravitate toward lunatic belief systems, it becomes difficult to get them to focus on the scientific realities of the day: namely, global warming.

    Fundamentalist religious beliefs have clouded Americans’ ability to process scientific data. Hence the disproportionate numbers of Americans who don’t believe in evolution. All in all, these are troublesome trends.

    The point isn’t to “bash” others’ beliefs. It’s to recognize how said beliefs impose barriers to educating and organizing working-class/poor Americans.

    • Richard Bu October 12, 2014 6:14 pm 

      What I am opposed to is people who would substitute simplistic 18th century myths for simplistic religious myths. As I pointed out the scientific establishment itself rejected global warming for a long time. This was not because of a belief in astrology!
      I might add that none of us can provide scientific proof that it is possible to abolish capitalism and create a better society.

  3. avatar
    Vincent Emanuele October 12, 2014 3:31 pm 

    The point of writing this article was not to show people I, or anyone else, “knows-it-all,” but, rather to illustrate the disproportionately wild views Americans hold surrounding science/myths compared with other industrialized nations.

    Additionally, I’m not arguing that scientists are always correct. Indeed, the beautiful aspect of science is the fact that it can be tested, methods changed, with conclusions always reformulated. Mythical belief-systems do not afford such opportunities.

    Further, I don’t think the “left is all about submission to higher authority.” In fact, I think it’s quite clear that humanity as a whole continues to reject dominant authorities and systems of power. This process seems to be a consistent trend throughout history.

    Furthermore, I don’t think it’s a good idea to insult everyone else’s beliefs. However, if those beliefs are distractions (astrology/magic) or impediments to future organizing (fundamentalist religious beliefs/disbelief in the science surrounding global warming), then they must be addressed.

    If I’m understanding you correctly, it seems you’re conflating a discussion about ridiculous belief-systems, or what amount to distractions, with a critique of the culture and practice of various scientists and scientific entities. Yes, there’s a critique to be made of Richard Dawkins’ lunatic statement that, “Science’s greatest achievement has been to make nature jump through hoops on command.”

    I understand full-well that science has given us the Atomic Bomb, Industrial Pollution and Eugenics, but I don’t think a reactionary rejection of scientific principles will help that situation. As you mention, scientists and their various institutions operate within an extremely exploitative capitalist economic system. Hence their occasional “prostitution to wealth and power.”

  4. Richard Bu October 12, 2014 1:01 pm 

    added: Perhaps there are some minds subtle enough to get that the point of this ranting is that we don’t build a successful movement by acting like arrogant know-it alls, but by learning to empathize with the people we claim to want to reach. After all, we believe in some crazy, ‘unscientific’ things too…

    earlier: Oh and by the way, I’m old enough to remember that, once upon a time, there was this ‘crazy’ alternative viewpoint called ‘global warming’ and how the scientific establishment scoffed, rejected it, ‘explained’ it away. That was a major reason that the Club of Rome’s “Limits to Growth “ report in 1972 was dismissed and villified. I guess supporters of that ‘crazy’ idea should have just submitted to the wisdom of the scientific establishment and accepted the consensus.

    After all, that’s what the Left is all about, slavish submission to whatever the powers that be say, as long as it is dressed up in the appropriately ‘scientific’ authority. Am I right?

    First: What a good way to build a movement. Insult everyone else’s beliefs and then expect them to believe, or disbelieve, as you do! Of course we must take for granted, without further discussion, that the author has everything right- and actually does know all the laws of nature, or at least the important ones. Then certainly people will without hesitation accept all your political views! After all, aren’t we all inclined to believe the views of people who put down ours!

    As all ‘enlightened’ people know science as an institution never prostitues itself to wealth and power, to governments and corporations. Since we are all rational beings who never question the scientific establishment, we must therefore give up our opposition to nuclear power, or genetically modified foods, because most scientists do not oppose these things. Also the majority of experts in the social science of economics tell us that there is no desirable alternative to capitalism, so we must give up our attempts to create a socialist alternative!

    We wouldn’t want anyone to accuse us of being unscientific, would we?

    One of the biggest blind spots of the left is this need to treat science as the ‘big other’ which guarantees the correctness of our views, to presume to speak in its’ name while asserting ideas which the mainstram scientific establishment does not accept.

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