Tuesday, November 22, 2005

When Did Stupidity Become Acceptable?

Time was, it wasn't okay to be happy about your stupidity. Times have changed.

I work at a bookstore, and I see the new acceptability of stupidity frequently. The most memorable example I can think of was a woman who brought in her daughter, who had to read a book for school. We walked through the entire store, and the mother was quite helpful to her daughter, trying to think of things she might like.

The daughter, on the other hand, was the most pugnaciously stupid person I'd seen in quite some time. She started off by saying, in a tone of pride (!) - that she never read anything, except for school. As we walked through the teens section of the bookstore, she refused to consider most of what her mother and I showed her. The reasoning, as far as I could fathom, was that if the books were any good, she wouldn't enjoy them. (I'm not reccomending East of Eden or anything. Think "Travelling Pants.")

I was really surprised by the adamance of this incredible stupid girl. But apparently, a lot of people feel free to be stupid, indeed see it as a kind of cynical wisdom. For example, Scott Adams of Dilbert fame:
Many of your comments suggest that there are plenty of credible scientists on the topic of Intelligent Design and evolution. Some people asked who I would consider credible....

I would consider credible anyone who didn't have a preconcieved notion or a financial/career incentive.
When you're talking about the cause of life itself, I submit that no one can pass that test (especially people who write books on the topic). That has been my point all along.
Okay. So if you've got a career/financial interest in a subject, you can't be credible. Let's analyze this a moment.

How does one become informed on a subject in our society? I don't mean informed for a lay person, I mean how do you become an authority on a subject? Well, for something like human evolution you have to spend years at expensive schools learning about a subject. This is a substantial investment, that is to say you have a financial incentive in your own knowledge. Even if you don't pursue this as a career, by informing yourself about a subject, you've been disqualified as a "credible" person in Scott Adams' eyes.

It gets even worse if you actually pursue biology as a career. Suddenly, your entire future as a scientist is dependent on your career incentive to develop knowledge of evolution.

So, according to Scott Adams (who I stopped reading long ago) the only way to be credible is to not have spent any time or money educating yourself.

When did it become acceptable to be this stupid?

1 comment:

odograph said...

Do you suppose Adams might differentiate those who have a financial incentive to study an area, from those who have a financial incentive to support a certain conclusion?

FWIW, I've been a few discussion with "free market types" who are distrustful of surveys of individual happiness in industrial society.

It might be an interesting question, to what degree these surveys can be trusted ... but when the argument "people are obvisously happier, even if they don't say so" comes from people defending "the system" for a living ...