You Don't Say John E. McIntyre writes about language, usage, journalism & arbitrarily chosen subjects.

My country, 'tis of thee, a haven for cranks

The Baltimore Sun

As I read an article in the Denver Post, I realized just how much a luxury crank opinions are.

The article, “These Coloradans say Earth is flat. And gravity’s a hoax. Now, they’re being persecuted,” describes a group that is attempting to popularize the flat-earth theory. And as always with fringe groups unwilling to accept the conclusions of science, they smell conspiracy:

“ ‘There’s so much evidence once you set aside your preprogrammed learning and begin to look at things objectively with a critical eye,’ ” says Bob Knodel, a Denver resident and featured guest at a recent Tuesday meeting. “ ‘You learn soon that what we’re taught is mainly propaganda.’ ”

I call their crackpot views a luxury because they live in a society in which scientists monitoring satellites that orbit the earth will be able to warn them of tornadoes and hurricanes. They are like fundamentalists complaining about the programmed Darwinian propaganda in the public schools who will nevertheless accept treatment for their cancer that derives from that very Darwinian biology.

They remind one of the anti-vaccine parents living in a society with enough doctors and responsible parents to reduce the chances that their children will suffer the serious consequences of measles and other diseases. They remind one of the anti-GMO hobbyists in a society that offers groceries at Whole Foods, if you have the money.

And of course there are those who deny human-influenced climate change, who will still be denying it as the waters reach their chins. A few days ago that ass Tucker Carlson tweeted: “Forget about its poverty or exploding crime rate... the mayor of New Orleans is making climate change a top priority.” I remarked that that is not an eccentric attitude for someone whose city is below sea level.

As citizens in a free society, we indulge a wide diversity of opinion, as we should. People have a right to their beliefs, including the peculiar ones. But if we allow fringe views to shape public policy—to put creationism in the school curriculum or climate denialism in the scientific agencies, they we will begin to undermine that stable structure that permits the luxury of screwball opinions.

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