Ignorant Ignorance

I hate the word “ignorant”.

As I understand it, the word should refer to someone who lacks knowledge or understanding about a particular, or various, subjects; however, the way I hear the word most often is when it refers to someone who has a different opinion than the one who uses the word.

“Anyone who says that homosexuality is wrong is ignorant.”

“Anyone who denies the existence of God must be ignorant.”

“The election proves how many ignorant people live in this country.”

The list could go on forever. The reality is that no matter what you believe about something or no matter how well informed you are about a subject — there are people who would quickly label you ignorant just because they disagree with your stance on that subject.

The problem seems to be that no one listens to each other anymore. We have our views and opinions and instead of listening to what other people have to say, we straw man other people’s arguments and then call them ignorant. We very rarely hear opposing views the way they are presented, instead, we look at our opponents worst arguments and laugh about how foolish those who believe such things are.

Sometimes, it seems like everyone (including myself) believes that we are geniuses among the ignorant. “If only everyone had seen the world the way I have, then everyone would agree that I am right.”

It’s rather insulting when you think about it.

But we see and hear this all of the time, don’t we? I see this in the homosexuality argument quite frequently. People talk about it like if it was already settled and anyone who believes that homosexuality is wrong is just a homophobe and a bigot. Without getting into that issue, I can tell you that I know a lot of people who are very open-minded and intelligent who find homosexuality wrong and do not believe that homosexual couples should marry. Simply pretending like this controversial matter is over and naming the other side ignorant completely ignores what probably half this country has to say.

For some reason a lot of people have a difficult time admitting that perhaps both sides of an opinion can be informed and rational.

Oftentimes we see this  in the conversation about the existence of God. There are Christians who I have heard say: “Anyone who doesn’t believe in God is ignorant and blind.” On the contrary, I have heard atheists countless times claim that anyone who believes in God is not only ignorant but “irrational”.

Really? Are either arguments even remotely fair?

I can understand how someone can be an atheist — I get it. How can there be so much evil in the world if there is a God? How does it make sense scientifically? The list could go on. But can you not at least grant the fact that I am not irrational just because I disagree and decide to believe in God?

On the flip side, is an atheist really ignorant? No! Most of them are very well learned and intelligent.

The reality is that the majority of people that I have met are far from ignorant. Most people are not irrational, bigots, racists, homophobes, close-minded, or stupid. Yes, there are the crazies out there (and every side of every argument has them). But most of the subjects we debate today are highly contested for the very fact that they are difficult and complex subjects that lack an easy answer. Perhaps it’s time we stop looking at the other sides of issues as ignorant and start listening to what they actually have to say.

We all might learn something for it.

 

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5 responses to “Ignorant Ignorance

  • pinkagendist

    That phrase “find homosexuality wrong”- is so spectacularly uninformed from a scientific perspective that it can only be called ignorant.

    • Andrew Sinift

      Honestly, I do see that I needed to be more careful with my language and wording here. I actually have never met anyone who believes homosexuality itself is necessarily wrong. Though, I do know many people who do not encourage homosexual relationships and vote against gay marriage.
      My point, however, is not to argue for one side or the other on this or any other issue. I just want opposing sides of any argument to respect those who have opposing views without considering them to be any lesser of a person.

      • pinkagendist

        There is however a problem that’s at the foundation of this debate.
        One side is fighting to be allowed to be whomever they are, sexuality being an integral part of an individual from the time puberty arrives and a person discovers physical/sexual attraction.
        The other side is fighting to interfere with the rights of free citizens to live their own lives as they choose.
        You see, everyone should be free to choose their own path in life. Whatever contracts you sign, business or personal, are to do with your life. I have no right to impose my vision of the world on your life. Whether one day you sign a pre-nup or not, should be totally up to you. Can you imagine a world where people were campaigning to interfere with the rights of other citizens to sin pre-nups? It’s absurd. Marriage only concerns the two people getting married.

      • Andrew Sinift

        In hindsight, I would not have used the homosexuality discussion as a point in my argument because it sidetracked what I was trying to say about arguments in general. I honestly agree with what you’re saying here about human rights; however, there are other people who would contest you on some of these points — folks who are rational and certainly not ignorant.
        The reason that I did choose to use this as a point is because I’ve noticed that in a lot of discussion and media about this issue, it is talked about as if the debate is closed when there is still a very significant portion of the population who disagrees. That concerns me — especially when words such as “ignorant” and “bigot” are tossed around labeling the whole of the other side rather than a select few.
        What you have presented here is a solid argument for your side — that’s great! My point is that when another individual presents an opposing view (on any subject) that it should be listened to, considered, and discussed without simply labeling the opposing view as ignorant (ad hominem fallacy). Most of the time when that happens, we only look at the opponents weaker arguments without seeing where they stand as a whole (straw man fallacy).
        Coming back to this issue, I know too many people who are very loving and open-minded (even those with close homosexual friends) who vote against gay marriage. They are not ignorant or bigots and they should be given equal time and consideration for their arguments. It’s the same way for a lot of issues that are too easily dismissed.

  • Rebeca Jones

    “But most of the subjects we debate today are highly contested for the very fact that they are difficult and complex subjects that lack an easy answer.” Very well said, Andrew. Alas, it seems that civil discourse is a dying art. Sigh.

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