"Why?" she demanded of me. This was after she had explained, in zealous detail, how evolution worked to one of her friends, and had the friend respond with a la-la-la-I-cant-hear-you-I'm-not-listening answer. "Why are people so stupid?"
"It's not stupid," I corrected. "You know she's not stupid."
The kid glowered and fumed. "It's stupid to believe that the world was created six thousand years ago. It's stupid to believe that evolution says we're descended from monkeys. It doesn't say that! It's stupid to believe that crud about bananas proving God must have created the world. That's stupid!"
"No, that's willful ignorance," I said. "Plenty of people don't want to know anything about evolution, or physics, or psychology, because they would have to change their worldview. You remember how we talked about how scary that is? How lots of people are scared? You know how you feel when you're scared?"
She glowered some more.
"For lots of people," I said, "and this is the sad truth, it's easier to stay ignorant, and so they do. They keep believing something that makes them feel safe. That seems okay, and lots of people say it is okay, they say what does it hurt? I'd say it was okay, too, except these things these people believe -- the religions -- they do hurt things. Right now they're hurting our educational systems. They're keeping kids in lots of our schools from being taught about evolution, for instance, which is the key to understanding modern science and critical thinking."
"It's also a lie."
"Well, they think it's not. But that's not the issue, exactly. The issue is, without a proper understanding of science, you can't do much else. If they deny this bit of science, which is at the center of the rest, they have to deny so much. Then they can't do any other kind of thinking, either, because they've got this walled off spot they have to spend so much time defending. Geology, physics, psychiatry, all of them are based on the sort of thinking they can't admit. So you've got, what, third to half of the country living in this false world -- "
"Moo," she said, which is what she says when I have talked too much. It is a hazard, if your parents are professors.
I grinned. "Okay. But it's not that your friends are stupid. They aren't. And quit attacking them. They've got a different worldview. Leave them alone about it."
"But they're wro-o-ong!"
"They think you're wrong. Do they attack you?"
She scowled: because they don't. In fact, her best friend defends her whenever zealous Christians come after her with tales of hellfire these days.
"Okay, okay," she muttered: visions of waterboarding, no doubt, dancing in her head.