I wonder what the productivity drag of creationism, New Age theories, chemical and radiation hysteria, and other anti-science is, measured in GDP percentage points.
Especially in the USA, the epicentre of air-head ideas. These morons are costing us prosperity.
A friend proposed Isaac Newton as a counter-example:
Do you subscribe to the theory that Isaac Newton could have been even more successful if he hadn't spent most of his time obsessed with alchemy and the occult?
It almost makes me wonder if having a society where nutso ideas like you describe are not uncommon is actually a strength. It's easier to embrace nutty ideas that turn out to actually be true (or at least more true than the ones they replace).
There was nothing crazy about Newton's breakthroughs, even at the time. He was one of the most respected of scientists and his outputs were embraced. Yes I think he might have achieved more if he hadn't also been a fruitcake. And yes I accept that there is a fine line between genius and insanity, and all the nutty stuff may be the price we pay for progress.
I don't think that means we should allow it to be taught to our children or disseminated on the web as fact, without pushback.
Our public are so misinformed now that e.g. they want us to simultaneously abandon nuclear power yet reduce global warming. It's hard to imagine anything more scientifically stupid.
Another online contact suggested I was being too hard on the USA. The USA is rapidly losing its economic primacy, and much of its creative genius now comes from foreigners drawn into the centre of the empire. The USA is still the mightiest nation on earth and yes it did get there with a whacko mix of ideas from Mormonism to snake oil. As above, perhaps that's the price we pay for creativity and genius.
It's just so wearying seeing the wasted effort spent defending evolution, or debunking alternate medicine, or funding experiments in e.g. corn ethanol and domestic solar power. If all the money spent on vitamin supplements were spent on clean water ... etc etc
Seems like our society would be more prosperous and effective with more rationalism.
I'll grant you that fuzzy thinking finds a home everywhere (German energy policies come to mind, and my own country certainly isn't immune) but nothing quite matches California for lunacy masquerading as rational thought. Thanks to cultural imperialism it then has far higher global visibility than from any other place.
The US dominance came from a brace of factors: vast resources, blinding growth, embrace of immigrants, optimism, free-market capitalism, pursuit of progress, military might, and an industrial powerhouse, amongst others.
But many of those factors are fading. The USA ceased to dominate world economic growth a decade ago http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_economy#Twenty_Largest_Economies_in_t... and China is steadily overtaking the USA http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2013/11/chinese-and-america...
Every percentage point counts right now in the maintenance of Pax Americana as long as possible. A bit less freedom of belief and pursuit of woo; and a bit more respect for science, technology, and progress would help.