In the Absence of Reason
By Charles Sullivan
-- -- Former vice president Al Gore has published a new book
called, “The Assault on Reason.” I have not read the book, but
the title, like Gore’s documentary film title about global
warming, “An Inconvenient Truth”, is compelling. I have never
been a supporter of Gore’s Plutocratic politics, but the titles
he has chosen for some of his projects are excellent.
The reason I find the title of Gore’s latest book so compelling
is that I have had extensive encounters with the assault on
reason. Like many of you, I encounter it daily and am often
exasperated by it. Were the results of these encounters not so
tragic, they might be seen as comical.
I earn a modest living by working in a small wood shop
specializing in architectural radial millwork. The owner, like
most of the employees, considers himself a devout Christian. He
is convinced that he is doing the will of his God. My coworkers
are good people, but they are sadly misinformed about the world
in general, and things political in particular. They have
subscribed to the mythos that the United States can do no wrong,
and that the actions of the government in the Middle East, and
elsewhere, are not only justified, but sanctified by god. That
is the thinking behind manifest destiny.
How so many intelligent people could arrive at such an erroneous
conclusion is not as mystifying as it might appear. It is the
result of an assault on reason that is sweeping the nation and
actively promoting ignorance and superstition in place of
rational and ethical thought.
The prevailing view among my coworkers is that science and
reason are shams because they undermine Christian orthodoxy, and
thus contradict their belief system. For them, this makes
science and reason not only anti-Christian, but the enemy of
faith. By exposing the fallacy behind religious dogma, science
and reason diminish the power of the religious hierarchy to
exercise control over the lives of the faithful multitudes.
Increasingly, however, critical self examination is being
censored by the authoritarians in control of the government.
The religious right has used Christian orthodoxy to infiltrate
our public schools and to obliterate the separation of church
and state. The halls of congress are teeming with born again
Christians with activist agendas, as are the courts. Politicized
Christians are abolishing science and reason and replacing them
with religious dogma and superstition. Once again history is
repeating itself because we have failed to grasp its lessons.
Some of my co-workers believe that the earth is little more than
two thousand years old, despite convincing evidence to the
contrary. There are trees in North America with annual growth
rings that go thousands of years beyond that. The earth,
according to the best empirical data, is thought to be about 4.5
billion years old. I share that belief—based upon extensive,
scientifically tested, peer reviewed evidence. I am willing to
change my mind about this if more compelling evidence comes to
light. Only the fossil record is written in stone.
The acquisition of knowledge is an incremental evolutionary
process that is formed layer upon layer, through generations of
human encounters with nature. That process must always be open
to change and critical self examination. Otherwise, it serves no
useful purpose, other than to concentrate power and privilege
and to control the population for nefarious purposes.
Knowledge is liberation. Dogma is enslavement.
One must examine the evidence, listen to the arguments, and give
them due consideration; and follow where the evidence leads,
even if it contradicts what one wants to believe. That is the
difference between religious dogma and sound science derived
from reasoned thought. This, I believe, is the point of Mr.
The religious right’s coordinated assault on reason has paved
the way for the onslaught of the new dark ages. It laid the
ground work for America to become what she is today, with still
more horrible things to come—unless we awaken and rise up in
powerful, unified opposition.
Centuries ago Ptolemy subscribed to the belief that the earth
was at the center of the universe. During the age of Ptolemy the
religious orthodoxy believed that man was a ‘special’ creation—a
direct descendant from god—that existed on a plain above the so
called ‘lower’ animals. This was the view held by the all
powerful church, and it was about as malleable as a piece of
granite. Religious doctrine was also civil law, which accrued
power and privilege to the religious hierarchy.
Those who opposed official church doctrine based upon
incontrovertible evidence to the contrary—men like Galileo and
Copernicus, were treated as heretics and severely punished.
Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake for contradicting widely
accepted religious doctrine.
Ultimately, however, the heretics proved to be right and the
church wrong. Thus humankind progressed in its understanding of
the cosmos by the persistent efforts of a small number of
dissidents and truth seekers. It has always been so.
The inability or refusal to reason, to seek truth and
understanding, inevitably leads to intolerance and intellectual
torpidity. We see the tragic consequences of this all around us.
Ignorance and superstition are replacing knowledge and reason as
the dominant cultural paradigm. Since reason and logic have no
effect on the adherents of dogma, encountering it is akin to
running into a brick wall many feet thick. There is no getting
through to the other side.
Occasionally, conversation at the shop centers on politics and
the moral justification for the U.S. invasion and occupation of
Iraq. The justification for the invasion: the Iraqis attacked us
when they flew those air liners into the Word Trade Center
buildings and the Pentagon. I have pointed out that the Iraqis
were not involved in those actions, but there is good evidence
that the government was.
The men with whom I had this discussion were utterly stunned,
even flabbergasted by this assertion. It was as if I had
renounced their god and was, like Bruno, to be burned at the
stake as a blasphemer. I offered to cite the evidence and even
provide source materials for them to peruse. Neither of them was
willing to examine the evidence. Neither would hear any of it.
Both men were visibly agitated at the thought that such evidence
may actually exist, and that it could be so easily produced.
They were afraid to confront the facts, or to be confronted by
them. Their entire belief system was at risk.
The very idea that the United States government might be
complicit in the death of thousands of its own citizens as a
pretext for war is still preposterous to most U.S. citizens,
despite the historical record that is suppressed in the
mainstream, but widely available from other sources. The sound
of so many minds slamming shut like a steel prison door is
One of these men tried to argue his point. He stated that there
is evidence for his views that are as good or as valid as my own
in regard to the demise of the World Trade Center buildings.
There is an important distinction that must be made, however.
There are arguments, there is evidence; and there are
One can argue the existence of god, but the issue is not likely
to be resolved by arguments and debate. There is no
incontrovertible evidence to prove or disprove the existence of
god. It is a matter of faith; what one chooses to believe on a
spiritual level, rather than empirical evidence obtained from
the physical realm.
There is the fossil record, which can be regarded as evidence
not only of the earth’s age, but also of evolution. Evolution
does not necessarily preclude the existence of god. The age of
fossils can be ascertained with reasonable accuracy through
carbon dating. One must decide how convincing that evidence is
and decide how much weight it deserves in shaping their belief
There are the principles of physics and thermodynamics, such as
Newton’s laws of motion, which qualify as immutable laws of
nature. Gravity is an example of natural law that is not, as far
as I know, in dispute by anyone.
The laws of nature are not affected by human arguments and
conjecture. They simply are. It is gravity that keeps us bound
to earth, whether we accept that fact or not.
The temperature at which steel melts and the heat produced by
specific fuels under known conditions is an example of natural
law. We know that the steel in the World Trade Center buildings
could not have melted from low intensity fires caused by jet
fuel, as the government purports. Even if those fires had burned
for months the steel towers could not have melted as a result.
Jet fuel simply does not produce enough heat.
Then there is the problem of building seven, which wasn’t hit by
a plane. Yet it too had unexplained low intensity fires of short
duration, and fell at near free fall speed within in its own
Even the untrained eye could see that those buildings were
brought down by controlled demolitions, which had to be expertly
placed weeks in advance. Fire fighters in the buildings
confirmed the sound of internal demolitions just prior to the
collapse of the buildings. Other visual evidence confirms their
assertions. The corporate media has suppressed this
evidence—propaganda through omission. Thus we know beyond the
shadow of a doubt that the government lied, and it continues to
do so with regularity. No surprise there.
There are reams of evidence for government complicity in the
felling of the World Trade Center buildings and the Pentagon.
But none of this evidence emphatically proves the government’s
participation in the murder of thousands of U.S. citizens. It
does, however, completely undermine the government’s
credibility. It leads to more questions that must be addressed
through objective scientific and moral inquiry, none of which
have been forth coming.
Why is the government covering up the truth about 9/11? Who is
Given what we know about history, the players involved in recent
events, and the existence of documents that called for a new
Pearl Harbor well before 9/11 as a pretext for war in the Middle
East, it is very plausible that the government brought down
those buildings, and murdered thousands of innocent civilians. I
believe that is what happened, but I cannot prove it
Following the collapse of the World Trade Center buildings, most
of the physical forensic evidence was deliberately destroyed,
and normal criminal investigative protocols were ignored.
The death of civilians means nothing to a government that
routinely murders civilians around the world, and sends its own
to kill and be killed for imperialistic purposes. The historical
record speaks for itself. Pax America is an old phenomenon, not
one that is peculiar to George Bush and Dick Cheney. It is a
phenomenon that is deeply rooted in plutocracy, corporatism,
racism, and capitalism—a fact that too many U.S. citizens are
terrified to face.
It is tragically sad that so few U.S. citizens are even willing
to confront the evidence and demand accountability. 9/11 and
subsequent events were made possible by a systemic absence of
reason in our culture. We behave as if ignorance somehow
protects us from reality. It does not. Eventually, darkness must
give way to the light.
Hiding our collective heads in the sand out of fear can hardly
be considered an act of courage or enlightenment. Indeed, it is
moral cowardice of the worst kind.
What we don’t know, and what we refuse to know, does us, and the
world, considerable harm. Reality has a way of intruding upon
our preconceived ideas. Hiding in fear does not make evil go
away; it assures its continuation.
Charles Sullivan is a wood worker, nature photographer, and
free-lance writer residing in the Ridge and Valley Province of
geopolitical West Virginia. He welcomes, but may not always be
able to respond to commentary at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Crossing the Rubicon: The Decline of the American Empire at the
End of the Age of Oil, Michael Ruppert
The New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions about the Bush
Administration and 9/11, David Ray Griffin
Oil Empire, www.oilempire.us/
Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to
Iraq, Stephen Kinzer
9/11 and American Empire: Intellectuals Speak Out, Volume 1,
David Ray Griffin
A People’s History of the United States, Howard Zinn
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