The truth is that American democracy is now in danger – not from any one set of ideas, but from unprecedented changes in the environment within which ideas either live and spread, or wither and die. I do not mean the physical environment; I mean what is called the public sphere, or the marketplace of ideas.
It is simply no longer possible to ignore the strangeness of our public discourse. I know I am not alone in feeling that something has gone fundamentally wrong. In 2001, I had hoped it was an aberration when polls showed that three-quarters of Americans believed that Saddam Hussein was responsible for attacking us on September 11. More than five years later, however, nearly half of the American public still believes Saddam was connected to the attack.
From the Introduction of “The Assault on Reason” by Al Gore
As I discussed in my last post even among people who believe the earth is only 6,000 years old there is less concern today that their beliefs be logical, self-consistent and reasonable than there was in the past. In 1925 William Jennings Bryan argued in the Scopes Monkey trial that because he believed in the literal truth of the Genesis account of creation he believed that fossils told us nothing about the past. "I am more concerned with the Rock of Ages than the age of rocks," he famously said. Today the Biblical Literalists who designed the exhibits in the Creation Museum illogically believe both that the earth is only 6,000 years old and that dinosaurs existed. This would have to mean that the dinosaurs lived, died and the fossils from which we know about them were created from their remains all within a few thousand years – a much less logical and reasonable position than William Jennings Bryan’s.
The Republican candidates for president, many of them with multiple divorces, are considered by many Americans more “family-oriented” and concerned about the “sanctity of marriage” than all the Democratic candidates for president, with nary a divorce among them. Gay people wanting to get married somehow constitutes a threat to the institution of marriage.
Al Gore is right. Reason itself is under assault in America today.