Most people think they do not have time to consider issues carefully. They are sloppy thinkers. We value the cultivation of incisiveness, which is the art of considering details.
Details matter. In Constitutional law, for example, seemingly innocuous breaches of individual rights can lead to the destruction of the ethic of respect for minority opinions and lifestyles. For example, when Ronald Reagan said a prayer at the Republican National Convention in 1980, he breached the wall that had separated church from state. Many people count him as a hero for having done it. They think that the United States is a Christian nation and that politicians should operate from their sectarian religious beliefs, as opposed to their values. People may think that but it is not consistent with equal justice for all or respect for each person’s inviolable right to worship, or not, as she sees fit, free from government interference.
Now, partly as a result of Reagan’s action, “God bless you and God bless America” is mandatory language at the end of every presidential address. This practice is disrespectful to those of us who do not believe in a god and more important, it is a violation of the spirit of the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Most people do not want to hear that. They like the sound of it, it seems innocuous and for them, that is the end of the discussion, if they ever engage in any discussion.
Scientists cannot get away with that. Violation of a fundamental scientific principle may invalidate a researcher’s entire body of work. Ignoring one detail can upset an entire body of research.
We need not all express the painstaking incisiveness of scientists but if we hope to maintain the values of ordered liberty under a written Constitution, it is essential that we pay attention to the details that Americans have gotten into the habit of overlooking. In the education of our children too, and our adults, incisiveness is an essential value too often overlooked.1 Comments