Recommended Reading: Fahrenheit 451

 Topic: Fahrenheit 451 & the Rise of Anti-Intellectualism

This week’s sermon is about the novel Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, published in 1953, and what it is really about according to its author.

This book is often misinterpreted as a warning against the evils of censorship, but Bradbury states that it is about the rise of anti-intellectualism in American society. He believed that the television would be the beginning of the end of our collective IQ’s, and if you look into our history, he had a point. People believe what they see on television, even when it is complete bullshit.  We are seeing an attitude of “my ignorance is as good as your knowledge” around scientific concepts that should not even be a matter of debate. Scientists and researchers who have spent their lives learning about something see their work dismissed in favor of the incoherent ramblings of some random actor that is only good at dressing up and playing pretend but has enough money and charisma to convince the public of any stupid thing he wants. “Internet influencers” use their platform to peddle mis-information daily with no accountability. People surrounded by evidence to the contrary continue to insist that the planet is flat, and somehow manage to publicize this belief without being ridiculed into an early grave.

As adherents of the Path, we are obligated to seek the truth amongst the bullshit. We learn new things, not to win internet debates, but to enrich and evolve our minds. We must also be willing to adapt our worldview when presented with compelling evidence that contradicts our previously-held ideas. We should actually avoid the term “belief” because it is hard to change a belief. We deal in ideas, which can be changed and shaped and compared against the evidence. This changeability can be frightening to some people: How can we trust anything we know? The most honest answer is that we cannot; what we know today may be wrong tomorrow, and that is okay! This is how we evolve as thinking beings. The Universe is a vast, complicated, messy place, full of contradictions and counterituitive information, and we basically have the mental equivalent of a paperclip to figure it all out. It is only natural that we will learn new things about our Universe by studying it, so there is no rational reason to be afraid of or otherwise resistant to that idea.

Another thing that we should be doing is consulting with actual experts when studying or doing research. You would not call a plumber to fix a flat tire, so you should not go to an actor for medical advice. Check your sources for bias or slant, although reality tends to have a built-in progressive bias, mainly because a lot of progressive ideas are actually based on reality. However, even progressives can be full of shit on a topic, so we should still be relying on the views of experts rather than entertainers or other celebrities.

When read through the lens of the dangers of anti-intellectualism, Fahrenheit 451 becomes a completely different book. Did you already know the intended meaning, or was this a revelation to you?


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