The Great Deceiver

On the importance of cognitive liberty and the paralysis of cerebral hygiene. Big Tech and progressives want you to turn off your brain. But true empowerment comes from acquiring a scientific mind.

Here’s how childish anti-Trumpers are. Trump suggested the pandemic was the result of a lab leak (which is almost certain now), but because it was Trump who suggested it, progressives were primed to believe the establishment claim that COVID-19 originated in a wet market in China. Trump derangement syndrome dispossessed folks of their capacity to reason. Remember when Democrats said they wouldn’t take the vaccine if it came out under Trump? There are reasons not to take these vaccines, but Trump being president is not one of them. I cannot imagine making up my mind on the basis of things Trump said. How sad that would be.

Last week an argument appeared on my Facebook newsfeed. It concerned the things in our lives that might make us worry, things we feel powerless to do anything about. By putting those concerns in God’s hands, and following God’s word and direction, we have less to worry about, the person argued. Faith in God translates to contentment and happiness. Those messages that contradict God can be dismissed out of hand. Indeed, why even have to hear them or thinking about them? After all, they may be the work of the Great Deceiver. Faith-belief in scientism performs the same function for progressives that faith-belief performs in the lives of the religious.

There are concerns in a progressive’s life that he feels powerless to change. COVID-19, for example, is a very scary thing—especially when you don’t or can’t understand it. By putting COVID-19 concerns in the hands of the CDC and the FDA, by following their word and direction about what to believe and what to do, and what not to believe and what not to do, the progressives has less to worry about. Messages that contradict the CDC and FDA can then be dismissed out of hand. Big Tech is to be thanked for limiting the proliferation of false preachments on the Internet, for protecting the innocent from the tricks of the evildoers. Trump is the Great Deceiver. Whatever he says alerts the progressives to the location of the truth, because the truth must lie in the opposite direction.

The regulatory agencies, legacy and social media, the culture industry—these represent something like a network of religious institutions. They tell the progressive what the truth is and pt him on the good and righteous path. They are also busy keeping track of the evildoers and keeping them at the margin of the good and righteous society by fact-checking their lies.

Long ago, the American pragmatist William James differentiated between the “once born” and the “twice born.” He described the once born as having a childlike faith in their opinions. Not just faith in the religious sphere. Adherence to any worldview without reason. We must add to this class those apologists who use their intellect to keep themselves from doubting. Once born practice is, in essence, thinking out of reflex or an act of rationalization. Once born persons enjoy a simple, uncomplicated worldview, one that does not cause them much anxiety. Indeed, their certainty in the convictions cushions the pains of the actual world—a world of uncertainty.

The twice born, on the other hand, may believe exactly what they would have believed had they not been born again, but they do so only after rationally examining their convictions, finding rational justification for them, and obtaining a fuller understanding of them. At the same time, the critical examination of belief causes them to give up many of their convictions, and this can be a great source of angst and anxiety. Twice born people are more likely to be unhappy and dissatisfied. They have to live with ambiguity. But they are also less likely to be zealots and bigots.

The twice born allows himself to consider the possibility that COVID-19 was the result of gain-of-function research that leaked from a lab. It’s the mark of the once born mentality to uncritically accept the claim from authority that COVID-19 occurred in nature. The twice born reads the research showing that hydroxychloroquine, Ivermectin, and other interventions are effective in preventing and treating COVID-19. The once born rejects that research out of hand because the authorities told him to. He does what others tell him to do. He doesn’t think for himself.

I could continue with many other examples, but I trust you get the point. Look, I understand the need to not worry. Worry is a terrible thing. I don’t accept the desire to fill that need by practicing the cerebral hygiene of faith-based thinking. You know what is truly empowering? The scientific mind.

Published by

Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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