McCain and Palin — The Certainty of the Know-Nothings

Jacob Bronowski’s family were murdered at Auschwitz by people who could not imagine being wrong.  Bronowski was a mathematician and scientist, a man of immense culture, curiosity and humility. He was a man of such learning that he knew  perfectly well how fallible we are, and how prone to error.

Bronowski, like my friend Henry Glanz, fled Poland as a child, just as the cloud of absolutism fell over Europe. Just like Henry, he ended up in England, and subsequently, in both instances, their parents were murdered by unlettered louts pumped up on political certainties.

Bronowski went on to excel in the sciences and the arts: the science of biology and the art of mathematics.  Henry went on to make shoes.

In 1973, Bronowski made a wonderful BBC series called the Ascent of Man, in which he followed humankind’s ability to develop rational thought.  He intertwined art and science in his narrative as he explored all human history, and eventually found himself contemplating the problem of certainty.

In this episode, entitled Knowledge or Certainty, Bronowski finds himself in Auschwitz, standing at the sludge pond containing the ashes of a million people, including those of his own family.

In answer to the shallow and terrifying certainties of people like Palin and McCain, I can think of no more powerful voice than that of the erudite and humble Dr Bronowski.

I have nothing to add to his words.


Incidentally: Leo Szilard

Elsewhere: Darwin

11 thoughts on “McCain and Palin — The Certainty of the Know-Nothings

  1. Certainty is certainly a terrifying thing. Dubya (for example) always tried to pitch steadfastness, certainty & unity as signs of bullish strength and vigour. Anyone nagged by doubts, inconsistencies, and hesitation was painted as a weak, flip-floppin’ pansy. It makes you want to get violently sick.

  2. Anybody who changes their mind or position in US politics, even in the face of new information, is labelled a flip-flopper.

    This is a timely and moving link, Bock. Thank you for posting it.

  3. Fústar — I agree with you wholeheartedly. I have always noticed that people’s certainty is in direct proportion to their ignorance.

    Sam — I’m glad you spotted it. There’s a lot of relevance to what’s going on worldwide in Jacob Bronowski’s words. Check out the original series and the accompanying book if you can.

  4. Nicely put. In my own scribble I wasn’t really comparing McPalin to the Nazis but hey if the shoe fits, kick someone to death with it.

  5. Nicely put. People have a habit of being arrogant. People have a habit of taking science as fact, whereas it is simply the best model we have at this time, not to belittle it, but it is just a model.

  6. BOCK you find so many seeming obscure but relevant film footage stuff so easily, perhaps, disclosing information which you’d imagine would be common knowledge, but not so?

  7. The revelence is even more poiniant when you think that the big bankers in the US funded Hitlers rise to power and so actuallly bankrolled the holocaust. These banks are of the old banking family variety, Rockefeller, Morgan & Co. Their decendants are still shaping the global economic model, or the bankrupt the world fund as I prefer to call it. One of them is even the president of the USA !

  8. What a tremendous and important film. I had heard of it but never seen it. Thank you for posting this.

    The internet and blogs have been so beneficial to my recent education. I must add this to the list of things to watch and read.

  9. I did. I’ve bookmarked it and am poring through it. It’s a gem of a thing to have discovered. A great answer to the question “And where shall wisdom be found?”

    Thanks for the link, Bock – a seam of pure gold.

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