Sane Clown Posse

I am stoked, amped, and giddy about marching with the Sane Clown Posse this Saturday at the Rally to Restore Sanity, and not because I love both sanity and over-the-top makeup. Which I do.

I want to remind people that intellectual curiosity amplifies wonder and that being informed enhances critical reasoning.

I’m going to try to find a way to make both those points positively at the rally, which is tricky, because I’ll admit I’m reacting against distressing indications that lots of people believe the opposite.

By now, you can guess that the Sane Clown Posse will parody the Insane Clown Posse, and probably the “Miracles” video, so I’ll say something about that.

I don’t consider the “Miracles” video political, but I think it gained its attention by echoing a polemic national conversation about scientific inquiry and “insiderness” that has overwhelmed this election cycle (and that started to dominate the conversation in 2004).

The people who question evolution by arguing that they’ve never seen a half-human half-monkey, who want to teach creationism in schools, and who suggest that magnets are miracles and that scientists are telling lies fear that scientific inquiry will destroy faith in a Christian God. The “Miracles” video specifically suggests that scientific answers to questions like “how do magnets work?” take away the wonder and magic of amazing things in the world.

That’s a big, abstract issue. I have questions about the scientific process, too, but they come from Thomas Kuhn’s work on paradigms, not from the church. That said, I know how magnets work, and I still think they’re amazing. I understand the social forces that led to the domestication of cats and dogs (another marvel in the “Miracles” video), and I’m still in awe that I get to keep what is sort of a tiny tiger in my apartment.

(On a very personal note: Understanding scientific truths makes me more inclined to have faith in divinity, although that’s certainly not true of everyone.)

If you believe that God is responsible for miracles, you can still get excited about science. If you engage in scientific exploration, you can still get excited about God. They do not have to be mutually exclusive. I want to celebrate the wonder that knowing things can inspire.

Knowing things can also inspire radical, critical thought. The “Miracles” video points (more loosely) to another aspect of this election cycle’s predominant conversation: The message that having political knowledge and experience means being an insider, and that ignorance of politics means being more likely to challenge the status quo and champion populist values in the corrupt land inside the Beltway.

Again: big, abstract issue, and I am as concerned as anyone about cronyism and stagnation and insider politics in Washington. But while I’m hedgy and vague about theology, I’m adamant about politics: Ignorance of the political climate is not a virtue. Knowing about the politics you want to change is a crucial step toward affecting that change. In order to reform a structure or system you think is hurting you, you first have to understand the fundamentals of how that structure operates.

In fact, I’m not sure I understand how a person could apply truly radical, critical thinking to something they’re ignorant of. It’s one thing to wish that a political system worked a certain way–you don’t have to have any knowledge of politics for that. It’s another entirely to be able to engage with a political system critically, and for that you need at least a basic understanding of what you’re engaging.

On Saturday, I’m striving to be a clown who expresses wonder at the things I learn and who thinks critically about the things I think I know. [Hackneyed conclusion tying Saturday to life in…3…2…1…]

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