I'm looking for a word or short phrase that encapsulates the desire to eschew new knowledge, whether it be due to a fear of change or possibly a fear of science or research as a whole.

An example might be a group of people looking to have their congressional representative allocate money elsewhere as opposed to scientific endeavors. They may claim that the "elsewhere" is of a higher priority or for the greater good, but they may really be acting out of ________ or because the group is a group of _________(s).

This example is not all-inclusive.

edit: There's a word or phrase I'm trying to think of that almost implies a sort of smugness.. A "my ignorance is better than your knowledge" kind of attitude.


11 Answers 11


Anti-intellectualism is a handy (and self-explanatory) term, particularly in American politics today. It has great currency in the news media of late, largely with regard to situations such as the one described in your example.

  • 4
    ...or Luddite. Though it is usually used for anti-technology, it can also be used for reactionary scientific thinking.
    – Mitch
    May 12, 2015 at 21:02
  • @Mitch - Hey!!?? We Luddites know more than most people -- that's why we know how bad things are!
    – Hot Licks
    May 13, 2015 at 1:05
  • The irony being that the actual Luddite movement wasn't anti-tech, rather it was anti-exploitative labour employment. They broke a bunch of industrial equipment in protest and they caught the unfortunate misattribution as a result @Mitch
    – kolossus
    May 13, 2015 at 5:43
  • While I don't like the style of this word quite as much as misosophy or philistine, it definitely satisfies the definition (as I described it) with the most precision.
    – ebwb
    May 13, 2015 at 14:38

There is a rare word misosophy defined as the hatred of wisdom or knowledge.

An example from OED:

Much of modern philosophy is in fact not at all a ‘love of wisdom’ but a hatred of it so that it should appropriately be called ‘misosophy’.

S. H. Nasr, Ideals & Realities of Islam, 1966

It is from the ancient Greek μισόσοϕος hating wisdom ( < μισο- miso- comb. form + -σοϕος , combining form of σοϕός wise) + -y suffix. [OED]

Additionally, you can call the person a misosophist.

Another similar rare word is misogrammatist, a person who hates letters or learning. [miso- comb. form + ancient Greek γράμματα ‘letters’, plural of γράμμα letter + -ist suffix].[OED]

  • That doesn't have quite the connotation I'm thinking of, but it does satisfy the question. If no other closer answers turn up, I'll accept this one and consider a better wording for my question. Edited question for, perhaps, more clarity.
    – ebwb
    May 12, 2015 at 20:31
  • @Waterbagel: How about "sweet ignorance" ?
    – ermanen
    May 12, 2015 at 20:37
  • Good, much like blissful ignorance in relation to @Area's answer.. But that describes more of a state of being rather than a group.
    – ebwb
    May 12, 2015 at 20:39
  • @Waterbagel: I think you could say "blissfully ignorant people" also but it might be too cumbersome. There is blissful ignorance effect along the same line.
    – ermanen
    May 12, 2015 at 20:53

Not precisely opposed to knowledge or intellectualism, but a close relative nonetheless is philistinism.

A philistine is one who is hostile or indifferent to culture and the arts. Adjective is philistine as in a philistine government.

This sense of philistine (no capital letter) arose as a result of a confrontation between town and gown in Jena (now in Germany), in the late 17th century; a sermon on the conflict quoted: 'the Philistines are upon you' (Judges 16). which led to an association between the townspeople and those hostile to culture. (Oxford Dictionary Online)

  • +1 Definitely a good word, and I look forward to using it as well. It's the right style of word I'm looking for, and if it had the connotation of opposing knowledge of well, it would be perfect. Thanks for bringing this one up.
    – ebwb
    May 13, 2015 at 14:27

This one just applies to your second blank: "... or because the group is a group of lowbrows."

Noun 1. lowbrow - a person who is uninterested in intellectual pursuits

Most of the “lowbrows” that I’m unfortunately related to are quite smug and happy with their close-minded condition.
(I’d officially suggest ”pretentious lowbrow,” but mine take it as a complement.)


You could coin a new word from the Greek roots: gnosiphobia. Failing that, you have the already known "obscurantist".

  • 1
    Obscurantism is about hiding knowledge from others, not about fear of knowledge.
    – Mitch
    May 12, 2015 at 20:06
  • @Mitch: True, though I bet that in the heyday of 19th-century anti-clericalism it got used my way as well. I was distracted by an incoming mail while trying to retrieve another word from the back of my mind, why don't you have a go? I think it's the same vintage, the time of Huxley and Freud.
    – David Pugh
    May 12, 2015 at 20:12

If you're open to expressions, people in given situation might say

ignorance is bliss (dictionary.com)

Not knowing something is often more comfortable than knowing it.

Note : This proverb resembles “What you don't know cannot hurt you.” It figures in a passage from “On a Distant Prospect of Eton College,” by the eighteenth-century English poet Thomas Gray: “Where ignorance is bliss, / ‘Tis folly to be wise.’”

As in:

"I don't wanna know where the money came from. Like they say, ignorance is bliss."

  • That idiom is definitely on the right track, but I'm looking for something more like a noun or noun-phrase.. possibly an adjective that can be used to describe a group of people.
    – ebwb
    May 12, 2015 at 20:24

"Misosophy" is just the word I need for a story I'm writing! I really like the "gnosiphobia" suggestion. Another word one might invent is ""philamathis", Greek for the love of ignorance. A group of such people might be "philamathics"? You could cover all possibilities with "philamathignosiphobia" or "gnosiphobiaphilamathis"...Or, my personal favorite, a word I invented to describe certain people: "phalocephalic" ("phallus" + "caphaly").A group would be "phalocephalists", suffering from phalocephalitis, perhaps, since this sort of thinking/behavior tends to be contagious. I can call someone a phalocephalic in the most polite or uptight company, and never be accused of using "dirty words"....


In trying to justify "philamathics", I came across "agnatology" which sounds like your subject area. That led me to "negationism" but that feels more like official disinformation, not the smugness implied in your need.

More searching led me to "misology", the hatred of reason, argument, or enlightenment.


Reading along I noticed that you definitely are looking for a noun and for it to represent a specific group or groups of people. While Dan Islove's answer misses the mark and may even be offensive to some, I do believe that at least one group prevalent in America fits the bill roughly. As I provide their name, I'll also back it with reasoning based upon my own anecdotal experiences. We have a group or movement originating in the Protestant community called fundamentalism or just plain Fundamentalists. Here are some of the observable behaviors or traits that I have either witnessed first hand or obtained from what I feel were reliable sources.

  • They have a devotion to upholding supernaturalism as a cause of events rather than any other explanation whatsoever.
  • A literal translation is the only one that they will accept of the modern Bible. While completely agreeing that Jesus told parables to convey a teaching, they will at the same time argue that they are not allegorical and things happened exactly as described in the book.
  • They argue vehemently to uphold the supernaturalism of the Bible as the direct message from God. In order to do this they dismiss the historical evolution of the book whereby men and men alone decided which of the books make up the canon. They also are compelled to ignore or dismiss that there are multiple versions of it and passages differ in meaning do to the choice of words being used. In a case where you can present conflicting ideas in 2 versions of the Bible they will simply tell you that their is no contradiction and anyone suggesting it is confused.
  • For a group of people so devoted to a set of writings, they can be surprisingly ignorant about what is contained within them. For example they will often attribute certain stories ideas as being from the Bible, when they are definitely not. The details surrounding an Anti-Christ is one example. Descriptions of hell and punishment for various sins that actually came from Dante are also attributed to the Bible and you will not be able to provide anything that would convince them otherwise. They would not allow you to go over Dante's inferno and the Bible at the same time to show them. They already know the truth you see.
  • The flip side of the coin to that is that actual quotes from the Bible that do not support or totally contradict their own idea of how things are will be totally dismissed. You may even be told that it is absolutely not in there and even if you showed it to them, an excuse of some type would be made such as disparaging the version that you brought as not being "their" good book.
  • It goes beyond those quirks listed above. They are great practitioners of "home schooling" where they do not teach the general curriculum and do teach their own ideas that either cannot be proven or have been directly disproved.
  • To get beyond the evidence uncovered by archaeologists that very large animals once roamed the Earth that were never mentioned in the Bible and also disprove the 6000 year old Earth idea, they have actually made "Creation Museums" where they are trying to retrofit the Bible and use pseudoscience to show that indeed it was mentioned and how those very finds actually prove the 6000 year old Earth.
    • Science is scorned and belittled as worthless. Unless of course it makes a point that they wish to make. Then you see that science is absolutely right, but only in how it disproves the science upon which it is based in the first place.
    • College is actively discouraged as a pursuit. The Fundamentalists are one of the major drivers behind reducing funds for traditional colleges. They are great backers though of the charter schools and For-Profit schools that have arisen that more often than a traditional school have proven to be a poor provider of an education and or charge extremely high tuitions and very low job placement for those educations. The key reason is that by supporting those types of schools and colleges they can route federal and state education dollars to support their own fantastical ideas and philosophies.

There is more anecdotes and straight facts regarding the ideas and practices of Fundamentalists, but I believe that is enough to demonstrate that this is probably the noun that describes a group of people who celebrate ignorance and actively work to remain that way.

  • 1
    A single group of people, but this only applies to religion. I think the OP is looking for a word that describes ALL groups of people who eschew knowledge, religious or not.
    – Raydot
    May 13, 2015 at 20:13

It has been touched upon and gotten near the mark, I'm pretty sure the common term (or at least the one I hear all the time) is blissful ignorance.

Blissful Ignorance - unawareness or inexperience of something unpleasant

Collins Dictionary


This feels a bit like a shotgun approach, but:

  • conservatives (in the literal sense) would oppose because the new might not keep all the benefits of the old,
  • traditionalists would oppose because we've never done it that way (there's a slight undercurrent of smugness here, but also a slightly negative connotation)
  • neophobes are simply afraid of the new, no smugness here, (and frankly, is that even a proper word?),
  • myopic, blinkered or short-sighted people would oppose because they do not value a benefit that is long-term or in other fields,
  • luddites in particular oppose industrialization and technology.

(I have a sense that petit bourgeois could go in here, but that's probably a false friend with Kleinbürgertum, Spießertum and Biedermeier, which have a stronger socio-political connotation in German than their counterparts)

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