This is how the world is supposed to work: When you say something false, and you are corrected on it, you recognize that you have to conform to the facts, not the other way around. If you really screwed up, (even if it was done without malice), you apologize, and you work to correct yourself. Anderson Cooper did what was right, and I appreciate it. If more journalists would follow his example, I’d be more impressed with what passes for news in this country.
The inimitable Fred Clark has a post up on the opposite behavior, and then explores how a conservative Christian goes about defending blatant liars. Because of issues like this, another glaring inconsistency in conservative Christian rhetoric has become increasingly clear to me: extremely conservative Christians are the real post-modernists.
(Digression: I am using post-modernist to refer to a specific genre of thought that responded to the modernist critiques of modernity by concluding that we can’t know anything for sure, it’s all relative, etc etc etc. Think of the Sokal hoax. I think that most of the academic disciplines have made great strides since the 1950s in responding to the post-modernists and re-understanding themselves and the world with much more nuanced epistemology and ontology at their core.)
Extremely conservative Christians (ECCs, for short – I don’t care if they call themselves fundamentalist, evangelical, or plaid, they’re a discernible subset) insist on young earth creationism and insist that it is really, literally, true. They also tend to like to wave their arms and shout until they’re red in the face about how evil, evil liberal learning and science are teaching our children that everything is relative, there is no basis for morality or ethics, we can’t know anything for sure. ECCs claim that the rejection of young earth creationism leads directly to what they call “post-modernism,” and which they claim is responsible for most of the behavior they don’t like – abortion, homosexuality, etc. ECCs insist that they are defending Reality and Truth from those who would willfully deny the facts.
In the ’80s, I saw a lot of these ECCs who were very wrapped up in Ken Ham’s kind of pseudoscience, and some of them were perfectly convinced that non-ECC science was a giant evil conspiracy pushing this silly “relativism” stuff as facts. But today, I see more and more ECCs who know – they demonstrably know – that science and young earth creationism cannot coexist. Some of them have stopped trying to hijack scientific methods and are blatantly stating that for them, the Bible trumps the facts.
These people are the real post-modernists. They claim that your worldview creates your reality, to such an extent that nothing science proves is relevant or applicable to them. Their original description of post-modernism was a straw man, because even the publishers in the Sokal affair had to be embarrassed. But now the ECCs have mutated into that straw man – they insist that physics can’t disprove them, and that deep down, physics can’t “know” anything.
They are the real post-modernists. And that, to me, explains a lot of why they are despairing and desperate. They know, deep down, that when you fight reality, in the long run, you lose.