If you were an alien observer of earth, possessed of little or no knowledge of human history, you might conclude that some “IQ-killing plague” had spread across North America, hitting some states and communities worse than others, which is not, after all, unusual where plagues are concerned.
Rather than embracing progress and the life progress bestows upon humanity, those stricken begin parading around with crosses and Bibles, and in place of the Ark of the Covenant, AR-15s; they are loaded down for a Bronze Age holy war, convinced that there is no crime for those who have Christ – or have at least heard of him.
This disease theory would be a reasonable diagnosis, a working hypothesis to explain why humans suddenly choose to disregard all the scientific advances made since the Bronze Age, and embrace gross superstition in their place, to throw off the empowering cloak of knowledge and huddle in fear of the dark instead.
Examples abound. The virus-free, retaining their knowledge of science, know that the Pacific Ring of Fire causes volcanoes and earthquakes on both shores of the Pacific. But the plague victims are afflicted with an aversion to science written or spoken and so cannot avail themselves of the nearly limitless resources to be found all around them; they see such occurrences as too coincidental to be plausible, a certain sign from an irate if undemonstrated God.
The alien might wonder what could cause humans, humans who are in possession of the science necessary to understand how they are affecting their planet’s climate, to choose to disregard such knowledge for superstitious explanations having to do with an angry deity who uses climate to punish his recalcitrant flock. The un-afflicted would be wondering the same thing.
Speaking of flocks, if birds fall dead out of the sky, the cause of death cannot be something as mundane as nature or something caused by humans. That, too, must be a sign from God. The alien observer in possession of this knowledge would be flabbergasted. Had this species truly harnessed the power of the atom and achieved space travel?
So averse to science and technology, not to mention logic and common sense, are those afflicted, that our alien would find himself wondering how they remember to drive their cars or punch the keys on their computers. How they can find websites devoted to superstition but not those dedicated to science is a source of wonder to him.
And so the alien, unversed in religious extremism, posits disease as a cause. There would have to be some reason, after all, why facts in general suddenly meant so little to the plague victims; that would explain why the crazier and more illogical the explanation, the more likely it was to be believed, despite the presence of facts which easily account for the phenomenon.
The alien observer would know that humans find dinosaur bones and can easily place them within a chronological context. Yet because the existence of these fossils violate unsubstantiated human belief, a belief created in a long-ago era when science had not yet been invented, the scientific evidence has to be suppressed and the conclusion advanced that these dinosaurs co-existed with humans.
The disease, whatever it’s vector, seems to our alien observer to be responsible for a free-fall of IQs.
The alien might possibly be able to read a New York Times editorial dated January 18, which stated:
Galileo’s achievement was the end of geocentrism, but it was hardly the end of ignorance and magical thinking. When obstinacy places reason under siege, as it does to this day — when fundamentalism defames biological science in the classroom, or the politics of denial prevent action to deal with a changing climate, it helps to recall our debt to a man who set a different example more than 400 years ago. It took just a wooden tube and some polished lenses, a critical and inquisitive mind, and four points of light that didn’t behave the way they were supposed to.
Clearly, plague-free humans are as perplexed as the alien.
The alien would see that diseased humans are casting humanity’s hard-won achievements aside and not only that, demanding all healthy humans do the same. The alien might conclude this is because the disease-ridden do not want to be different. If everyone is made to be like them, they will feel better about themselves. Or they might conclude that the disease not only drastically lowers IQs but causes the infected to be driven to spread their disease, a sort of zombie apocalypse.
The alien, if possessed by a sense of humor, must be amused to learn that latter explanation had also occurred to the un-afflicted on earth. But that brings him no closer to a diagnosis; even facts can be amusing, or heartbreaking, and sometimes both. The alien, fearing contamination, would likely turn his craft around, to disappear into the stars, calling for a quarantine of this unusual planet and its neo-Luddite plague, happy to escape to a place where up was still up, instead of down.
We humans, left behind, with no recourse but to face down this most deadly of scourges, must battle on, and somehow win through to a New Enlightenment, where those who murder happily for Jesus are put in mental hospitals where they belong, their crosses and AR-15s melted down to form the bars on their doors and windows.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.