I try to separate different categories of ignorance. People can be ignorant for all sorts of reasons, and I want to be careful when I accuse certain people of being ignorant. Although all human lives are equally valuable regardless of intelligence, no one wants to be ignorant or considered to be ignorant. So what kinds of ignorance are people morally responsible to avoid?
The first kind of ignorance is just mental retardation or lack of IQ. The mean IQ level is around 100 points by definition, and people can exist anywhere along the scale. God does not expect people who are born with a low IQ to navigate complex situations with perfect moral wisdom. He does not tempt people beyond what they are capable of withstanding, and someone with a low IQ is absolved of moral responsibility the same way a baby is.
The second kind of ignorance is a lack of information. People cannot know everything. It is simply impossible. An air-traffic controller couldn’t possibly know that a meteor would crash into the plane he told to fly south, and he wouldn’t be responsible for his mistake for simply lacking information. Circumstances did not possibly allow him to know that a sudden meteor shower would destroy the plane.
The third kind of ignorance is willful, self-delusion. This kind of ignorance is evil, for it is the direct opposite of wisdom. A self-delusion is a lie someone tells to themselves in order to keep their self-esteem high. For example, someone who lost the 20 meter dash could lie to himself that he would have won if the other athletes weren’t using steroids. Everyone could have gone through rigorous drug-testing, but the self-deluder will believe his own lies in order to preserve his self-esteem and sense of worth.
Self-delusion is the most harmful and hardest form of ignorance to expunge. Self-delusions are everywhere. I have some too, but the problem is that I don’t know what they are. A fish in the ocean doesn’t know he is wet, and I can’t possibly know what my self-delusions are until it is too late.
It is very ironic that philosophers are extremely guilty of the third type of ignorance, because the academic bubble isolates opposing viewpoints. The ivory tower is one big echo chamber, because academics need to appear consistent in their viewpoints or else they must admit that yesteryear’s graduates learned bad philosophy. Furthermore, the only asset academic types have to offer is their teaching, and anything that serves to undermine the value of teaching is viewed disfavorably by professional teachers.
This is why academics and scientific researchers cannot see eye-to-eye on the nature versus nurture question. Self-serving biases are built into their fields. Determinist scientists such as Dawkins, Sagan, Harris and the late Hitches will affirm that genes determine all human behavior, whereas academics affirm that genes have nothing to do with human behavior. Only education and nurture matters to teachers whose careers are built on it, and the direct opposite holds true for researchers who tinker with genes.
It is easy to accuse these groups of being biased. I am certainly guilty of erring, but the one thing I hope to avoid is hypocrisy. I may not live up to the standards of the Bible, but I won’t affirm that the rules somehow change when I sin. If nothing else, I won’t be a liar. Academia is full of liars who are barely aware of their own self-delusions.