Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Rushdie on Ignorance

At the beginning of the section of Hitchens’ biography that deals with his relationship with Salman Rushdie (one of my heroes), he notes that Rushdie once accused a British minister of having “a chosen ignorance, not the ignorance of innocence.” That brought a smile to my face, as it echoes the distinction I made in my 2007 speech on C-Span between what I called mundane ignorance and virulent ignorance.

There is ignorance that is merely a lack of knowledge or study; we are all ignorant of far more subjects than we are knowledgeable about. And then there is ignorance that is acquired as false knowledge, a set of myths and falsehoods that one ingests that give the illusion of understanding a subject when one does not.