Why are Americans so gullible?

BW will be back sometime this weekend, but let’s see if we can get in a few more good discussions before her return.  The last few days I’ve been bothered by how gullible the American public is.  Usually, when I think about gullibility I think of truthers, or Code Pink ladies or leftist who honestly believe that if we are just nicer to the jihadists they’ll be nice to us.  But conservatives, whom I tend to think of as more thoughtful and rational are, at least at times, just as bad.

What sent me down this road was an e-mail I got from my Dad the other day.  It was one of those on-line petitions that was all in a panic.  It lamented that the Senate had passed a bill to give Social Security to illegal aliens who had never contributed to the system.  It urgently pleaded with the readers to sign their name to the petition and pass it on to everyone they knew.  The 1,000th person to sign was suppose to e-mail it on to the White House. 

Of course, the truth was that the Senate had passed a bill that would allow illegals who became legal to get credit for amounts they had contributedwhile working here illegally.  What bothered me was that the petition had been circulating for two years and had 873 signatures.  That’s 873 people, almost all conservatives, I’m sure, given the subject matter, who had signed their name to a public document without bothering to check and see if the underlying claim was even true.  It sounded to them like something a Democrat Senate would do, so they gullibly believe it without any further thought.  873 conservatives!  Ouch!

Just yesterday I got one quoting a fictitious column by Maureen Dowd as calling for an investigation into Obama’s Internet fundraising.  Now such an investigation might be warranted, but you know full well Maureen Dowd would never write such a column.  I get these all the time.  The flat majority of them are untrue and snopes.com has articles saying so in most cases.  Yet they continue to  circulate.  Among conservatives.  It makes me wonder if there is something too trusting and gullible general in the American psyche. 

Maybe I’m too gullible myself, but I’ve always thought of Americans as hard-headed realists.  Part of our success came, I thought, from our ability to think and act rationally and objectively — maybe even skeptically.  It seems we are losing that capacity.  And I can’t imagine that bodes well for America’s future.

Truths too dangerous to tell

In a comment to an earlier post, BrianE linked to a quite interesting article about possible genetic differences between blacks and whites.  The article is about a book the title of which probably tells you all you need to know, “Taboo: Why Black Athletes Dominate Sports and Why We’re Afraid to Talk About It.”  What is striking is the reaction of the critics who are, indeed, “afraid to talk about it.” As one critic (a college professor, of course) put it, “Some information has a more dangerous content than others.” In other words, some truths are too dangerous to tell.  The good professor even opposes efforts to find out the truth:  “Only bad things can come from research into racially based differences in sports performance.”

Personally, I have no idea whether there are significant differences between blacks and whites.  I have no idea about the science and, certainly, a good non-scientific case can be made to the contrary.  I know that there are many white volleyball players who can jump as high as black basketball players do.  I know that whites dominate in swimming just like blacks do in track.  I know there are as many world-class white high-jumpers and pole vaulters as black (though not as many good white long jumpers and triple jumpers).  

However, while there may or may not be real differences between blacks and whites, there are unquestionably real differences between men and women.  Men are bigger stronger and faster.  Women mature faster and live longer.  Oddly, no one suggests that by saying men are bigger, stronger or faster we are implying that men are less intelligent and that this is a terrible truth that should not be told.  If we treated the differences between the genders like we do differences (if any) between the races, there would be no Title IX.  In fact, there would be no girls’ teams at all.  There would be only one team in each sport, likely dominated by men, and we wouldn’t even be allowed to talk about it, just like we aren’t allowed to talk about the predominance of blacks in track, or basketball or football (or the lack of blacks in swimming, hockey or cycling for that matter). 

Does any of this make any difference?  I think it does.  The more we refuse to even consider scientific truth in any area, the less rational and mature we become.  Whether it’s differences between the races, the truth about global warming, the actual threat to America from Islamic extremists, the true state of decline of American capitalism, or whatever the subject, I think we should do all we can to discover the truth and face that truth squarely.  What do you think?