It’s hard to quarrel with that ancient justification of the free press: “America’s right to know.” It seems almost cruel to ask, ingenuously, ”America’s right to know what, please? Science? Mathematics? Economics? Foreign languages?”It's gotten much worse since then of course. Now we have an entire political party and conservative movement that is nothing more than a cult of ignorance. As Paul Krugman puts it:
None of those things, of course. In fact, one might well suppose that the popular feeling is that Americans are a lot better off without any of that tripe.
There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.
We find ourselves constantly forced to debate, not about ideas and values and goals, and respectable analytical differences, but about the very bedrock of reality. We are forced to defend what are unassailable truth claims against people who are willfully ignorant. It is indeed tiresome.Why are there so few conservative scientists? It might be because academics, as a career, appeals more to liberals than to conservatives. (There aren’t a lot of liberals in police departments — or, contra Trump, the F.B.I.) Alternatively, scientists may be reluctant to call themselves conservatives because in modern America being a conservative means aligning yourself with a faction that by and large rejects climate science and the theory of evolution. Might not similar considerations apply to historians?But more to the point, conservative claims to be defending free speech and open discussion aren’t sincere. Conservatives don’t want to see ideas evaluated on their merits, regardless of politics; they want ideas convenient to their side to receive (at least) equal time regardless of their intellectual quality.