Smart is Not the Same as Good

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There is a bizarre connotation in our culture, almost as strange as “child, therefore perfect” which is “Smart therefore morally good.”

Unlike the first one, which I think comes from the idea of the holy fool in the middle ages and, more recently from Jean Jacques Rosseau and his insanity about noble savages, I have no clue where smart=good comes from.

What I can tell you for absolute sure is that I’m sick of getting into some moral argument, say “eating people is bad” and I get told something like “There is this ethicist who says we should do it, and he’s smarter than you.”

Blink, blink, blink.

What in the actual double dipped purple moron behind does one thing have to do with the other?

Since when did we stop believing in evil geniuses?  Granted most evil isn’t a genius. Most evil isn’t even particularly imaginative.

However, let me assure you, having known several people who are very smart that they are more prone to hating all humans and often themselves than others, not less.

Why? Well, because most very smart people stick out like a sore thumb, which means that they are usually picked on starting at babyhood. Which does not predispose you to loving the rest of humanity.  Which means you’re more likely to hatch plans to kill them in batch lots because they annoy you and — humans being tribal — you view them as “not human.”

Look, yes, most of evil is not really smart, as I said above. Evil geniuses are rare.  But “They called me mad, mad, but I’ll show them” is a cliche is because almost all of us have known someone who wanted to “show them” though usually, you know, not by holding the Earth hostage for a million dollars.

But we all know — I think, or at least I did, starting with college professors — people who are really brilliant and just the most evil creatures you ever met.

Just as we know people who are brilliant and near saints. And people who are brilliant and perfectly well-adjusted human beings who have never done anything remarkably bad or good in their lives.

The truth is that “smart” particularly in the sense it’s applied here, which is mostly “Has lots of credentials and big degrees that allow for interesting letters after his/her name” is actually of very limited application.  Sure, we like it, particularly in our own field.  I like to have commenters who are “Smarter” than I about history or language (though I don’t actually ask you what your credentials are, and I don’t particularly care.)

I appreciate that husband can calculate very strange stuff in about ten seconds.  So that, for instance, if I need to know if we can carry 300 bricks in the back of my car without popping every tire and/or handling so weirdly I go off the side of a mountain road (well, I transported the library makings — oh, yeah, I need to get a picture of that for y’all — from Connifer and it was a close thing) he can get this cross-eyed look, weighs a brick, and goes, “oh, sure, 300 would weigh x, and since your car can handle x and the axis of handling is y… you’re fine.” Or “Dear Lord, NO.”

But this doesn’t mean either of us can tell you how to sow your wheat.  Or how to build a wall, or even how to sand a cabinet, or sew a pair of pants.

Intelligence is one thing. Training is another thing. Morality is another thing. And specialized knowledge is yet another thing.

You with me so far?

You can be a brilliant physicist but suck at spelling, so your shopping list is completely incomprehensible.  Or more likely, you can’t cook a meal for yourself to save your life.  Or — you guys heard about Einstein and all matching pants and shirts, so he didn’t need to match them in the morning?  This is my life with my family sometimes.

Or you can be a wonderful cook, amazing housekeeper, etc. but you can’t balance your checkbook.

Or–

Look, there might be, somewhere, someone who is good at everything and isn’t a neurotic mess, but I haven’t actually met him or her.

“Smart” in one field doesn’t mean smart in the others.  And certainly you can be an amazing artist or writer or whatever, and have clue zero about… oh, climate science.  Or, randomly, how to cross the street unassisted.

And neither artistic talent, nor knowledge of science, not even being very good at politics (which is kind of like an art crossed with used car salesmanship) means that you’re a moral human being, and therefore can make pronouncements on who should live, who should die, and whether we should kill and eat humans. (This example, btw, isn’t random. Some idiot “ethicist” really said we should do that to save the Earth. Which means I don’t care how many letters he has after his name, he’s a moral idiot. Yes, I can actually explain why but briefly, because if you don’t respect the human in others civilization unravels from the root outward. Yes, I can give details, but that’s not what this is about.)

In the same way — and trust me, I got exposed to this fairly regularly when I was going through writers’ groups coming up — if you have a writer who only reads and writes romances, and she tries to write, say a mystery, I don’t care how good she is at romance,t he mystery is likely going to suck, because she doesn’t know the conventions of mystery.

And I’m sure for most of us it’s like that even in our fields.  I mean, I’ve been known to ask younger son a question and get back “I don’t do x engineering. I mean, I can make a guess, but it’s not expert knowledge.”

So “intelligence” — meaning some mix of aptitude and training — isn’t even portable within a specialty, much less to something completely and randomly different.

And now we get to why this myth drives me bonkers. Because people who believe, “But he’s so smart, so he’s qualified to make moral decisions/direct the future” are the type of people who deep down to the bottom of their curly pink toes think that centralized planning should work. Or not even should work or think: THEY FEEL centralized planning WORKS if only you get the smartest, bestest people with the shiniest prettiest credentials and the most sonorous letters after their names.

And unless we make sure that illusion is killed time and time (and time and time and time) again, we end up with orders to sow wheat in winter in Siberia and a hundred million dead.

There is no one smart enough or “good” enough or cunning enough or empathetic enough, or whatever enough that they can decide what you my friend, yes, you, sitting there on your chair, reading this blog, should have for breakfast.  (Even if human is not on the menu.)

NO ONE ELSE is qualified to tell an adult in full possession of his faculties how to live his private life and go about his private pursuits.

Not only does no one else have the right to tell you what to eat, what to wear, what to do for a living, or whom to marry, but no one can do it better than you personally.  We have had millions of experiments, if you count everyone ever under the rule of “experts” and none of those experiments ended well.

Unless you’re being commanded for a very specific purpose (say you’re part of an army) and a limited time, or it’s a collective endeavor (and no, not like being a nation. More like “let’s all cook breakfast or build a house together”) no one controlling a group’s decisions will have better results than each individual choosing for him/herself.

Because YOU — yes, you with the hair on, sitting in front of the computer  or staring at the phone — know what’s better for you. (And if you think what’s better for you is human ala mode, you’re a danger to others, and ultimately to yourself, because someone will shoot you.  Unless, of course, you’re some famous ethicist trying to convince people this should be legal, in which case you should be laughed off the public square.)

Sure, humans are often wrong about what they should do.  Yes, humans often cause unwitting (and witting, but that’s different) damage to themselves and others. But to cause damage on a truly grand scale, you need to have one individual making decisions for a vast crowd, and amplifying his error to truly amazing mass-grave proportions.

Because that illusion, “he’s so smart, so good, so amazing, therefore he should rule everyone in this country/this continent/the world” always ends the same way.

The result is always death. Death in epic proportions.

Appreciate the intelligent person for what he/she can do. (If indeed he/she can do something and not just spout purposeless trivia at awkward moments.) But don’t assume that this “intelligence” makes it possible to run other people’s lives.

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are individual rights.  And the best antidote to this kind of illusion.

 

 

 

 

359 responses to “Smart is Not the Same as Good

  1. George R Crichton

    We all have our own version of happiness. What I would enjoy or desire is not what everyone else wants. There may be people who want similar things.
    We can also have mutually exclusive goals or desires. If two people want the same house and are unwilling to share, you can not make both of them happy.
    Finally, I have the most vested interest in my well being.

    • Leader says, “I like double-scoop chocolate sundaes. Everybody will eat double-scoop chocolate sundaes!” But some people are lactose-intolerant, and others are allergic to chocolate . . .

    • “science doesn’t work by consensus.”

      I must disagree. It isn’t SUPPOSED to work by consensus, but the actual dynamic is more complicated, and is perhaps summed up best by the aphorism (which I have seen attributed to several different sources), “When an aged an respected scientist says that something is possible, he is very probably right, but if he asserts that something is impossible he is very probably wrong.”

      Scientists develop careers. When they are young and have little to lose by upsetting the applecart, they propose ideas that challenge the existing accepted theories…the consensus. When they are older, and have positions to defend, they tend to be proponents of the existing consensus, and may defend it bitterly. There are exception both ways; young suckups and old mavericks. But in spite of how science SHOULD work, how it all too frequently does has a lot to do with whose ox is gored.

      • “Science advances one funeral at a time.”

      • Yes, scientists can turn into stubborn old codgers (I failed at making it to the “scientist” part, but that was my plan when I was younger), but that’s not really what people mean today about “science by consensus”.

        Today, they mean that they can take a heavily slanted and biased poll of people who claim to be “scientists” and decide that “the science is settled”.

        Science becomes consensus by surviving challenges, not by being declared a consensus despite never having actually stood up to challenges.

        • The 97% Global Warming one is a classic. Going from memory, it was from people who responded to a survey, and if they didn’t explicitly reject AGW, they were listed as with the consensus. I also recall a loose definition of “scientist” for this survey, too.

          In The Andromeda Strain Michael Crichton presages this with the kerfuffle over the number of chromosomes in the human body. I don’t recall when it got fixed, but before: “There’s 48 chromosomes and here’s the photographs to prove it”, and after “There’s 46 and here’s the photographs to prove it”. They were the same photographs….

          And one could mention the rate of Mercury’s rotation as yet another example. Turned a lot of hard SF into fantasy. 🙂

          Crichton codified it as a “law” in the book: “All scientists are blind”. Considering the appalling failures in the reproduceability tests (IIRC, over 70% are failing), it’s more than just blind.

          • IIRC, there were actually several surveys.

            With terrible response rates.

            One asked if folks worked in “climate science,” and ended up h aving a sample in the high double digits.

            The other had a response rate in the teens…..

            What I like is that news reports can both declare that an overwhelming majority of the population “believes in climate change,” but using the same survey can complain about how “even in highly educated countries, less than half the population recognizes climate change.”

            One is ‘yes, the world is warming since 1900.’ The other is ‘humans are destroying the woooooorld with warming!@!!!”

        • Some employ science as a flashlight, to spread light on the darkness and dissipate it.

          Others employ science as a flashlight, a truncheon with which to beat people over the head and make them do what they’re told.

  2. I notice the left frequently employs this sort of appeal to authority, or even a sort of appeal to superiority. Whenever a leftist can’t argue a point themselves, they turn to the nearest “certified expert”, taking the words thereof as a gospel. Climate science, for instance, is particularly notable for how often the term “scientific consensus” is invoked, even though, by definition, science doesn’t work by consensus.

    Thankfully, the counter is simple, and actually scientific in nature – instead of looking for counter-sources in an endless citation war, you need only ask about the principles and the evidence the statement was based on. This not only forces the above pinko to personally argue their point, but also to do so using claimed objective assertions, which are vulnerable to logical criticism. And prone to causing cognitive dissonance.

    For climate change, for instance, you can ask for the governing laws of aerodynamics and atmospheric chemistry, whereby a gas mixture richer in carbon dioxide somehow retains heat better; or how, as carbon dioxide is heavier than air, it can mysteriously “trap” heat in the upper atmosphere, instead of dropping down and be metabolized by plants. (And no, saying “greenhouse effect” is a nice description of the claimed phenomena, but it doesn’t state any underlying mechanism other than correlation.) You can also ask why warm and cold periods, over even just the past two thousand years, seem to follow a roughly millennium-long cycle, and casually note we’re in the hot spot right now, and such hot spots were typically beneficial for human development.

    As for ethics, I reckon the questions would be “why is cannibalism ethically neutral or superior”; as in, what dietary or ethical principle governs the consumption of human flesh; and “what cannibalistic society has ever exhibited any particular ethical virtues based on that”… or, for that matter, has ever developed past the stone age. Why has cannibalism grown as a taboo in just about every major civilization, independently, to contrast with the numerous other differences found in their values and social structures?

    All in all, since the liberal rhetoric always seems to be dependent on some higher authority reinforcing their position… or forbidding any other, just as often… it makes sense to force them into defending their stances themselves, with their own reasoning rather than parroting their favorite talking heads.

    • > I notice the left frequently employs this sort of appeal to authority, or even a sort of appeal to superiority.

      Sure. It’s baked into their worldview. They live in a stratified social structure, and they’ve always been subordinate to their teachers, case workers, academic org chart, or whatever. Anything from uphill *must* be obeyed, and anyone downhill *must* jump when they say “frog.”

      Even if the “someone” is from a completely different structure, as long as they somehow rate “higher”, then their authority is accepted.

      “I was a B-list actor thirty years ago, therefore I’m qualified to lecture you on complicated scientific topics I can’t even spell.”

      • “I was a B-list actor thirty years ago, therefore I’m qualified to lecture you on complicated scientific topics I can’t even spell.”

        So the place I first heard the “actors are empty vessels” trope, where actors who are good at all are pretty much without personality or original thoughts of their own, and thus are best able to portray whatever the writers write in the manners directors direct them, was back in the late 1980s when I briefly worked in the the SoCal in a distant periphery of Hollywood, from actual entertainment industry people, some quite high up. Obviously actual working actors have heard this as well.

        I think this is why for some there is such an irresistible urge to prove they have their own worthwhile thoughts by spouting whatever empty-headed nonsense enters their echoing consciousness, especially for those who no longer get scripts to read – It’s a matter of shouting “Am Not!” over and over again into the void that is twitter, answering the accusation in their own minds that they are in fact idiots, and the whole thing was a fluke due to good bone structure.

        • Actors are not always empty-headed idiots. Hedy Lamarr helped develop the basis for frequency-hopping spread-spectrum technology back during WWII. And leaving aside his association with the NRA, Charlton Heston’s autobiographical IN THE ARENA showed him to be a thoughtful craftsman, if only by his decision to focus on how acting was done and films made, instead of the tiresome old ‘I went to these parties, saw these famous people misbehaving, and argued with these studio suits’ pattern of movie-star memoirs.

    • the liberal rhetoric always seems to be dependent on some higher authority reinforcing their position… or forbidding any other, just as often

      Funny, their policy prescriptions bear the same stamp. I s’pose we ought give them credit for consistency.

      Shan’t engage in discussion of what they’re consistent about; that seems readily apparent.

  3. I haven’t read past the first line yet, so this just refers to that. 😉

    The flip side of “smart is good” is “evil must, therefore, be stupid”–or devoid of anything else which one might consider a virtue. Talk about the courage and tactical ability of, say, SS combat troops (as opposed to concentration camp guards) and you immediately become an evil Nazi apologist. And, of course, everything else folk like Thomas Jefferson (a complicated man) or Patrick Henry ever did is tainted because “slave owner”.

    Once someone has been established as “evil” by whatever criteria then nothing “good” can ever be said about them. The fact that most people are more complicated than that escapes them.

    • Of course it escapes them. People are only *one* thing, in an elaborate hierarchy of origin or victimhood. Whatever that thing is, their entire life must be oriented around it.

      And, of course, whatever One Thing they assign to you, must be the thing that defines you. Because that’s the way their world works.

      “My parents were poor, and I was born blind and with a cleft palate, but I made it through school, got a Ph.D. in physics, and wrote several important papers, some of which gained worldwide recognition among my peers.”

      “Do you think that would have been possible if you hadn’t had White Privilege?”

    • It escapes them because they live very simple lives…like two year olds, they want what they want when they want it, and any reason they can’t have it – specifically including provable impossibility – is an excuse and you’re a big meanie. In a creepy sense they are the dark side of Peter Pan; they never grew up, never learned to make complex dreams, much less make them come true.

      There are exceptions. People who have genuinely advanced in a specific and intellectually challenging field, but who have failed to grow outside of it. But too many, FAR too goddamned many are faculty politics infighters, whose eminence in a field has more to do with play ‘cool kids’ games than actual scholarship.

  4. “Human ala mode“?!?

    I know some people are frigid, but really now.

    Human on the menu is, as said, a dangerous thing indeed. And while I have not tried ANY such recipes (nor do I have any, thank you), that one sounds decidedly unappealing.

    I suggest, but will not insist upon, let alone demand, bacon instead.

  5. It is only the fact we have no clue how to make eugenics work that keeps billions of people alive. When the smart people actually know how they can have very smart children with very good probability the the rest of humanity can lean waaay over and kiss their little behind goodbye.
    This random exchange of genes and not knowing exactly which do what is also why all wealth is not concentrated in even smaller groups. Everything else has been manipulated to keep wealth for the next generation, but more often than not the third or fourth generation from the genius that created a financial empire will be freaking nuts and blow the whole thing.
    Socially it is a feature not a bug and I am now going to write a book about it.

    • And that will be the beginning of the Extinction Event as the ever more “perfect” is always that “one more step” away. *tick* *tick* *tick*

    • Parents (A) pay to have their child’s genes tweaked to make them happy, healthy, and intelligent.

      Parents (B) choose traits that tend to result in sociopathy.

      Which child is likely to be more successful in life?

      • John Q. Sociopath, MBA

      • Kids change in the raising. Neither parent is happy.

        • That would depend on how determined they are to force-fit the children into preconceived boxes. Whether they can be happy when the kid grows up to be a musician instead of a lawyer, or a chef instead of a doctor.

          I think that would be mostly leftist parents, though. They’re the ones determined to force everybody into boxes.
          ———————————
          “Oh, no. You can’t-a fool me. There ain’t-a no Sanity Clause!”

      • I am reliably informed that there was once a theory (back in the Fifties, but don’t make bank on that) to the effect that in order to ensure children be successful* it was necessary that their parents those rearing them inflict psychological damage. Absent the (controlled, limited) harm to their psyches, it was believed, the children would lack sufficient impetus toward excelling and would instead fall into the bovine diffidence that is the nature of adequately fed human.

        While I do not believe there is compelling factual basis for that theory, I do not find it any more lacking in substantive support than whatever is passing as its present replacement (if what is done now is even sufficiently coherent to be deemed a theory).

        *For certain values of successful

      • Define ‘successful’.

        And at what point do your intelligent, sociopathic kids conclude that *you* are a detriment to society and eliminate you? “Thanks, Mom & Dad! B’Bye, now.”

        • > what point

          …about …now? The “euthanize the Boomers!” whiners are pretty vocal, apparently not realizing they’d be next on the list.

          Hey, maybe they would work their way down to a “Logan’s Run” society eventually…

          • Boomers must die! is a regular misfeature of the blogger who shall not be named. If I bother to read any of these, I have to search for my eyeballs before the dogs get curious.

            I run into a milder version of this elsewhere, though the focus of ire is on “boomers and normies”, from the viewpoint of a brilliant (IMHO) autist. I let it slide; I’m of the boomer generation, but don’t think Odds quite fit into the normie slot.

          • “… l, apparently not realizing they’d be next on the list.”

            Hmmm… No. That doesn’t follow. All you have to do to avoid that fate is be a positive and valued part of your kids’ lives.

            Now Scroll of Annihilation on a pretty significant number of selected Boomers … that’s tempting. Wrong for so many reasons. But tempting.

    • Mackey, pfui. As the mother of very smart children, that’s not the way this goes. You’re buying into the myth. It’s “they figure out how to have very smart children. Their children die in bizarre ways, from tripping on shoelaces they never learned to tie to forgetting to eat. The end.”

      • Amen to this. The stories I’ve heard about this sort of thing make me wonder how such impossibly smart people survive to adulthood. It’s a thing of wonderment and gives me hope for the human race that people who are just so bad at staying alive are kept alive by the efforts of their families and the kindness of strangers who happen across them when they’re in trouble.

        • “How can someone so smart be so stupid?”

          • Back when I was active in Mensa there was this running joke, funny because it was based in fact, that a disturbing percentage of Mensans were in prison, the reason being they thought they were too smart to get caught. The thing is, a successful criminal has to be right each and every time, a bumbling cop just has to get lucky once.

            • NYPD alone has 36,000 cops. Only *one* of them has to get lucky…

              • From a bit of Dragnet… crook explains how the “mastermind” was bright, but ‘I guess he made a mistake, but you make them too’ or something like that. Joe Friday’s reply is, “He didn’t tell you the rest. We can make them more than once.”*

                * Somehow, in this age, that is NOT comforting!

            • A surprising number of smart criminals believe that since they’re smarter than most cops, then no cop is capable of figuring out their crime.

          • “There are some ideas so absurd that only an intellectual could believe them.”
            attributed to George Orwell


            Sufficiently elevated intellect is often indistinguishable from stupidity.

            • Or, as I say:

              Not everybody should go to college. Some folks, you send ’em to college and you just wind up with an educated idiot.

            • I have yet to find a smart kid that doesn’t have a strong reaction to that comic. Most laugh hysterically because they know it’s true. Some get angry and defensive because they also know it’s true.

      • The thing is, humans have millions of ways to be smart, skilled, and talented, and even to be average but shrewd. Academic skills are the tip of the iceberg.

        There is a discourse in one of the Venus Interplanetary books about how the engineers for different technologies tend to have slightly different personality quirks and skill sets, and how the kind of person who is perfect for X tech tends to come along just in time for the tech, or vice versa.

        • My engineer kid and my bio sciences kid are completely different people. Both very smart, but…

          • And even within what appears *a* branch of engineering, there are differences. Unless an electrical engineer works in radio stuff, there’s a very good chance that anything radio is “black magic.” And even if so, well, what works at mediumwave and what works at microwave are not the same in execution, even if the theory is technically the same. (Ponder a 550 kHz waveguide…)

            • A good friend had a house built working himself as the general contractor, but of course having properly licensed subs to all of the regulated jobs: gas, plumbing, electrical, etc. House was designed specifically to accommodate a full size church organ for his wife, herself a professional organist, once they found one at a reasonable price.
              A couple of years later he found one for “free.” Remove from a church that had disbanded, repair any damage due to the removal, then transport and install in their home. I think he spent somewhere in the neighborhood of $10k on the project.
              I was specifically requested to spend the weekend prior to and during the installation so they would have a real engineer on site. Now I am by no means a mechanical or structural engineer, my bachelor degrees are in Industrial and Systems engineering and the MS Is in Operations Research, a continuation of system engineering. And I told my friend that, which he understood, but as it made him feel better and they fed me quite well I naturally complied. Now I did have fifteen years of industrial work and we did of course cover the basics in my BS:ISE courses so I could see that he had if anything over engineered the design so everything went off with minimal hassle, not trouble free as there were over 200 pipes of various sizes that all had to fit in precisely the correct spot, but mostly I stood back and helped with the grunt work.
              So, yeah, us engineers come in all sorts of sizes and flavors.

              • A few years ago the local Freecycle list had *two* pipe organs, “come and get them!” The Voices, having seen the “Large Hot Pipe Organ” videos, demanded I hook up and trailer and go get them RIGHT NOW.

                Fortunately, there was literally no room in the workshop for them, else it might have happened…

                [for those unfamiliar with it, the LHPO, instead of using compressed air, uses the expanding gas from burning propane instead, shooting columns of fire from the stacks as it plays…]

            • BobtheRegisterredFool

              But the field of Electromagnetics is black magic. /Maxwell’s/ equations. Totally demonology.

            • Hal Clement himself said that the FTL and the translation devices in his stories were magic.

              • I believe it was either Clark or Asimov who stated that sufficiently advanced technology becomes indistinguishable from magic. By that rule most SF&F has a rather strong magical component.

                • That’s what magic is — unexplained causality.

                  Magia, that is. Goetics is trafficking with chthonic or evil spirits, and theurgy is trafficking with the gods/angels.

                  • *glees*

                    K, I need a sense-check– if someone is trying to apply scientific methods to a thing, and they find that SOME stuff works like we’re use to, science wise, and some of it is more… symbolism? If you put in Item A, and Item B, it does C, no matter if it’s an ounce or a gallon of each, and a drop works as well to counter things as a gallon.

                    So the causality is aaaaaalllllll jacked up.

                    Would that still ‘work’ as magic?

            • 550 kHz waveguide

              Estimates wavelength, shudders.

              I’ve done EE for microcircuits for a three decades, been exposed to 6gHz signal analysis for a year, and house wiring off and on for years. Yeah, completely different animals. OTOH, the EE background taught me enough to override the electrical contractor who would have installed too small of a very long run of power cable. Ohm’s is a Law, dammit, not a suggestion.

        • > Venus Interplanetary

          Venus Equilateral?

        • That sounds like a more specific version of, “a civilization will railroad when it’s time to railroad”.

          I haven’t seen this discourse you refer to, but I suspect that the reality is pretty complex, and that the perfect person for the tech shows up many times before the tech itself is ready to be put in place.

      • I highly suspect that general intelligence is
        a) Not a single heritable trait but some gaggle of traits
        b) Has a strong component of expressed vs non expressed genes (bringing natal and other environments into play)
        c) Greatly affected by nurture and parental attention.
        Thus trying to breed or gene engineer for intelligence is just going to end up vary sparse results. Just to add to the fun it seems like some of those multi gene traits have some rather deleterious effects.
        For example the hyper focus that is useful for certain intellectual endeavors at its maximum is effectively Asperger’s/Autism spectrum. Similarly a lowered executive function seems to come with strongly increased capacity, thus yielding the old stereotype of the forgetful professor or at maximum an idiot savant.

        I think some part of the higher Autism/ADHD/etc increase we see is selective breeding. People tend to be far less homogeneous in their meetings with many pairs selecting at colleges where the pool is very much those that have the talents for school work. Engineering schools may be the worst with a tendency to really inbreed the odds/nerds.

        • One of the younger grad students was described as being the result of too many generations of academic in-breeding. Brilliant, very hard worker, minimal people skills and literally had to be told to come in out of the rain.

        • I’d still like to see a practical, useful, testable definition for “intelligence.” I mean something consistent and useful, really. Because the way we use the word does not seem lend itself well to study.

        • I am wondering if the spectrum frequency today (i.e. how often kids these days are ending up somewhere on the spectrum, not something about how the emit when heated) correlates to use of daycare instead of actual, you know, parenting. It seems to me being raised by non-parents could at minimum exacerbate any innate tendencies. They used to blame being raised by nannies for all sorts of failures and faults in the British upper classes.

          Of course, no such research today would be allowed if could possibly implicate the universal-Moms-working-outside-the-home project.

          And secondarily, I wonder about correlations between parents reading to their kids and the frequency of those kids landing somewhere on the spectrum. I have yet to see anything that says reading to your kids ever ends up causing anything other than pure positives.

          • There’s some studies I’ve heard of that indicate that it has at least something to do with not being given any responsibilities at a very young age, requiring focus and attention, to at least some minimal degree. Also, it appears that symptoms of ADHD at least, keeping youngsters highly active keeps them down to a great extent, depending on individuality, of course. Basically, it seems that letting children be children TOO MUCH is not a good thing.

            • I would guess ‘let them be kids’ vs FORCE them to be kids is the big thing– that and the lack of manners is a big thing.

              • From what I understand from a distance, the whole “eliminate recess” movement, and as a result primary schools trying to force continuous focus and non-fidgeting for hours on end as early as 1st grade, is a major powderkeg issue, and not just for boys.

                Alternating focus-time and run-around-time seems like it was a really good idea. Too bad it’s apparently obsolete.

                • Too bad it’s apparently obsolete.

                  Not obsolete– expensive.

                  Without a shared standard of behavior, and authorities willing to enforce it, unsupervised and unstructured time is a freaking disaster.

                  You’ve read what some of the folks here went through in school– now expand that to EVERY school, with at least a third of the class being thus targeted, daily.

                  There’s only so long that the schools can count on bullying parents into staying quiet and believing their kid is lying/wrong.

            • …something between “reform school” and “Lord of the Flies”…

      • They set themselves on fire disassembling an electrical outlet. They stack chairs to build a tower to get at the forbidden poison to taste test it. They dig a secret tunnel under the back fence of the house down the road from the Marine Corps firing range… All before kindergarten. To name a few.

        Yeah no. Myth is right.

    • *laughs*
      Smart, phooie!

      In as much as you can make it a single thing, rather than a mixture of a bunch of stuff or a mass of different but somewhat related things, ‘smart’ is just one of a bunch of good things.

      And like what Overgrownhobbit pointed out a few days ago, when you’re really dedicated to one of the good things, you have to bring in the other good things– or you just gut it. You can’t have someone who is really smart without also needing to bring in wisdom and recognition of limitations and judgement and even some sort of mercy…gosh, all kinds of stuff.
      Or you end up with your “smart” being like the big buy-in for Idiocracy, where the supposedly really really smart folks can’t figure out how to breed. Which is pretty dang stupid, no matter what metrics you figure out to try to measure the idea.

      We already have a way to be pretty dang sure you’ll have highly intelligent kids. Add highly intelligent parents, subtract clothes, rest of the joke goes here, and multiply. Take that product and take care of them– works best if the caretaker is also intelligent and willing to actually interact with the kid– and in the vast majority of cases you’ll get a highly intelligent kid. If things go wrong, but you also used proper childcare, most of the time that “failure” is an even more important result– a speaker-to-geeks. And the translation gig is ALWAYS important!

      Naturally, those powers can still be turned to evil, though.

    • Rich Rostrom

      There’s an old saying in Lancashire: “Clogs to clogs is three generations.” (“Clogs” meaning poverty, wearing wooden clog for shoes.) I.e. a bloke makes a fortune, his children live on it, and his grandchildren squander it.

  6. re centralized planning…when Rose WIlder Lane visited the Soviet Union in the 1920s, she was still a Communist. In Soviet Georgia, the villager who was her host complained about the growing bureaucracy that was taking more and more men from productive work, and predicted chaos and suffering from the centralizing of economic power in Moscow. At first she saw his attitude as merely “the opposition of the peasant mind to new ideas,” and undertook to convince him of the benefits of central planning. He shook his head sadly.

    “It is too big – he said – too big. At the top, it is too small. It will not work. In Moscow there are only men, and man is not God. A man has only a man’s head, and one hundred heads together do not make one great big head. No. Only God can know Russia.””

    • In Moscow there are only men, and man is not God.

      The problem is that I don’t know how many Leftists will accept that premise. A number seem to think that when they’re in Moscow or Washington or Brussels or whatever seat of government you want to choose, they will be gods capable of rearranging reality to their whims.

  7. Smart means good?  Such statements are a prime example of how the people who make such assertions are not using their brains.  A cursory review of history should disprove such a misconception in a moment.

    • Just as not all truths are beautiful, nor all beauties truthful. Sometimes if it just sounds good enough and folks want it enough, they’ll believe all sorts of things. I mean, who doesn’t like free stuff?

      Most everybody, once they realize the cost of “free” stuff. The only endless free things seem to be human stupidity, suffering, and work- and Himself, of course.

      It may be a carryover from childhood. We got praised for good grades, after all, so it must be a good thing to be smart. Small blurring of the lines and we get “he’s so smart, he must be a *really good* person!”

      Maybe. My humble opinion is that the smarter one is, the more one can see the temptations of short term thinking (expedience) and suchlike. One can become so enamored of beautiful theory that they miss the lurking ugly fact that will kill that theory.

      • Small blurring of the lines and we get “he’s so smart, he must be a *really good* person!”

        I like the Brit version: He’s so sharp he’s likely to cut himself.

      • We got praised for good grades, after all, so it must be a good thing to be smart.

        It is a good thing to learn, and good grades are, whether correctly or not, associated with learning.  Most of us know some very intelligent people who failed to perform well at school.  Similarly our own experience should tell us that smart and good do not necessarily correlate either.  I bet you can remember some truly foul people who got excellent grades and some really decent people who were not great scholars. 

        • No bet. *grin* Perhaps it is good to be smart, as it is good to be strong, or talented, or skilled. Then it may be in the using of those qualities, talents, and skills that the morality falls.

  8. Since when did we stop believing in evil geniuses?

    Possibly since the burgeoning of the “self-esteem” fad?

    Mankind has known plenty of evil geniuses. But more to the point of the article, the moral precepts by adhering to which societies survive and grow strong are aspects of the laws of nature. Those laws are largely self-enforcing. That doesn’t mean that no one can possibly “slip through the cracks.” Consider Tomas de Torquemada, for example.

    One of the features of Christianity that made it more palatable than predecessor faiths is its promise that in the next life, the bad will be severely punished. Of course, that’s conditioned on the bad not repenting in time, but one must take what one can get.

    • They’re no longer evil. They’re just misunderstood, or disadvantaged, or whatever excuse du jure.

      • Exactly why I think the Joker movie is a bad idea. He’s an archetype for evil. Rehabilitating an archetype destroys the universe in which it exists.

        • He’s not just an archetype for evil … he’s the archetype of *chaotic* evil. Giving him backstory and motivations destroys what makes him so fascinating as a character and appealing as a villain. Villains with sympathetic backstories work, but not for him.
          “The Dark Knight” worked so well because they paired the chaotic evil Joker with the lawful evil Twoface. It seems like a weird pairing, but it gives us both the pain of an antagonist with which we sympathize and the terror of an antagonist who cannot be sympathized with or reasoned out.

          • “The Dark Knight” did an extremely good job with the Joker’s backstory: it is whatever he wants it to be at any given moment, there’s no way to sort out the lies from the truth, and ultimately it doesn’t matter. The best response to his suggestive question was Batman’s: “No, [I don’t know how you got those scars], but I know how you got these!”

            I could see a Joker movie being done well, but I have no faith in the current filmmakers in the DC universe to do it.

            • I could see a Joker movie being done well, but I have no faith in the current filmmakers in the DC universe to do it.

              Too late now, but perhaps if they had been persuaded that Joker is representative of Trump?

              • Just saw a pull quote lauding Phoenix’s version of the Joker for bringing “humanity” to the role. Yep, they entirely missed the point.

            • They had the best potential Joker movie with the animated version of “The Killing Joke”, but blew it by making it more “Batgirl in the City (feat The Killing Joke)”.

      • Exactly why I think the Joker movie is a bad idea. He’s an archetype for evil and rehabilitating the archetype destroys the universe in which it exists.

      • A large portion of humanity does not understand the concept of a good that is universally good and not a moving target. If “good” is variable, so must “evil” be.

        • Slavery as a variable evil. Even today it ranges from “the holy book says do it, so we must do it,” to “it’s bad if someone does it to us, OK if we do it,” to “it is evil in any form and must be extirpated.”

          • Or the Christian model which says it’s part of the ordinary backgfound brokenness of the world (except those who trafficked in slaves are as wicked as adulterers) but you’re required to do everything in your power to share the Gospel with your slaves, and then if they convert, they’re now family.

            That’s always an option.

  9. > people who are really brilliant and just the most evil creatures you ever met.

    The authorities at Nuremberg gave their Nazi prisoners a battery of tests, including a German version of the Weschler IQ test. There’s a Wikipedia page with a helpful summary: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuremberg_trials and another about the Weschler scoring system: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IQ_classification

    “Smart” and “stupid” are two different things, not opposite poles of the same thing. You can be really smart and ate up with the dumb-ass at the same time.

  10. The idea “smart therefore good” probably came from Plato’s Philosopher Kings. However, it has a lot more longevity than other Greek ideas because in every generation you have smart(1) people pushing it. It’s almost as if it’s better for smart people or something.

    (1) As in “erudite, good at convincing people”. Actual ability to solve problems may or may not correlate.

    • Well, there is the perennial notion that people do evil because they don’t know any better — that anyone who does evil really believes it to be good. So a smart person would be better because knowing more.

      It underestimates the perversity of human nature.

    • Doctor Sowell’s Vision of the Annointed?

  11. The other side of the coin is that just because someone has a low IQ (as best as we can measure intelligence) does not mean that they are automatically evil. I see this a lot when there’s been some horrific crime, and someone will make a comment about the perpetrator’s probable low IQ. There may be some correlation between criminal activity and low IQ, but the biggest factor is character, usually taught — or failed to be taught — by the parents (or whoever raised the person). Someone can have a low IQ, but good character, and be a very good (and useful) person. I have two daughters who both have high IQ’s (and good character), and one daughter with a very low IQ — they say that Developmental Quotient doesn’t precisely correlate to IQ, but since she isn’t capable of taking an IQ test….her DQ score was about 40. She functions more or less on the level of a three-year-old (at the age of 39). So we have skin in this game on both sides. It’s character that matters, much more than an IQ score. And if we allow sinful humans to determine what good character is, that leaves us with no objective scale to measure good character by. Every man does what is right in his own eyes. We need that objective standard of right and wrong, from a greater authority than from ourselves, in order to know what is good character and what is not.

    • I do think that when an intelligent person chooses to be evil (though they surely don’t think of themselves as ‘evil’), they have a far greater potential for doing a huge amount of harm to other people than the low-IQ person usually does.

        • Ah, but they’ll get there anyway. Some are good at faking not being smart.
          And heck, Trump ain’t doing badly. (If you watch you see the “tells” of someone who learned to fake it.)

          • (chuckle) Okay, point to you. (And no, Trump isn’t doing badly at all, is he?)

          • “The ‘tells’ of someone who learned to fake it”

            Such as?

            I’ve never learned how to disguise being smart. Maybe I can learn a few things by watching Trump.

            • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

              I think Sarah meant the other way around.

              IE: It is easier for a Smart person to pretend to be “not that smart” than it is for a “not that smart” person to pretend to be much smarter than he is.

              • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                Follow-up.

                Remember those stories about a “dumb” person who fools people who think they are smarter than him.

                • Jack and the beanstalk, etc. Yep.

                • Smart people can be fooled by playing to the markers they value. They are very susceptible to subtle flattery, especially regarding their intellects.

                  Smart people are also highly prone to jumping to conclusions rather than plodding along showing their work.

                  You don’t have to be smart to fool them, you merely need to ape their prejudices. Being “smart” they are often preoccupied with their own thoughts and notably unobservant.

                  • It’s the lazy factor. If 8 tries out of 10, growing up, you simply “get” the right answer, you think that will always work. Even if you”re wise enough, and/or experienced enough to do your research when you “know” the job is important (And how do you know this?), there’s always the default reaction, which most of the time (and in low cost scenarios) works fine.

                    Talk about your feedback loops.

              • From Star Trek: TOS, “Mirror, Mirror”

                Kirk: What I don’t understand is how you were able to identify our counterparts so quickly.

                Spock: It was far easier for you as civilized men to behave like barbarians, than it was for them as barbarians to behave like civilized men. I assume they returned to their Enterprise at the same time you appeared here.

                Kirk: Probably. However, that Jim Kirk will find a few changes, if I read my Spocks correctly.

                McCoy: Jim, I think I liked him with a beard better. It gave him character. Of course, almost any change would be a distinct improvement.

                Kirk: What worries me is the easy way his counterpart fitted into that other universe. I always thought Spock was a bit of a pirate at heart.

                Spock: Indeed, gentlemen. May I point out that I had an opportunity to observe your counterparts here quite closely. They were brutal, savage, unprincipled, uncivilized, treacherous; in every way, splendid examples of homo sapiens, the very flower of humanity. I found them quite refreshing. [he returns to the science station]

                Kirk: I’m not sure, but I think we’ve just been insulted.

                McCoy: I’m sure.

                • > Mirror, Mirror

                  Universally known as “The Spock-with-a-board Episode.”

                  I did think the daggers on the turbolift doors were pretty cool, though…

              • Oh, you mean he got me backward? Yeah.

              • Smarter people than me have been confusing me for a smaht goy for years. It’s probably just a pattern of speech/physical behavior thing.

            • If you watch, he uses people’s expectation that he’s a dolt as a form of rope a dope. People who are faking it usually come up with this sort of thing so they don’t go out of their heads.
              He’s also learned not to …. study too much? So his thoughts often outstrip his knowledge (granted this might be natural laziness and not wanting to signal “smart” but it comes to the same.)

              • Didn’t someone say it was sometime helpful to be misunderestimated?

              • I saw this first hand growing up – individuals who were qualified for the gifted program and refused to participate to maintain their social standing, and who learned to portray the appropriate levels of mental acuity.

                And laziness is certainly not a lack-of-whatever-is-intelligence marker – in fact, the edumaction systems’ tendency to teach to the low end of the bell curve in mainstream classes means laziness becomes the default mode for folks out in the right-hand tail.

            • It’s hard to describe, and I’m terrible at people-watching, but a lot of it seems to be just little things– like how most people with a slight accent try to play it down, so they don’t seem like hicks? Instead you play it up, just a little.

              It’s the same techniques you’d use to try to avoid making folks feel uncomfortable, mostly. Lots of just not saying anything.

              • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                A lecturer was telling a group of sales managers about the problems that large imposing men had in getting purchasers to buy the produces that they were selling when the purchasers were smaller than the salesmen.

                One sales manager objecting to this idea saying that his best salesman was a very large imposing man.

                Called over, the salesman chuckled and said “It’s true but every time I run into a purchaser who is intimidated by my size, I deliberately stumble. Once they see me as clumsy, they don’t see me as a threat and I’m able to get a deal from them. If I don’t they fear me and don’t want me in their office long enough to make a deal”.

                • I’d bet a well cooked meal that the guy who plays Angel on Buffy and that show, and the big guy on Bones, got going that way.
                  I keep getting startled when I figure out how big that guy is– he’s only a little taller than my husband, but he’s built like a good Irish boy. *waves arms out about three-quarters extended.*

                  I keep being startled because the guy radiates “I am a cute fluffy little puppy!” and embodies the whole “big guy slouching over so he doesn’t look scary” trope.

        • Timothy E. Harris

          I want to have wise people in government. It’s perfectly fine if they’re smart as well.
          But I fear the wise, looking at what it takes to get elected, usually decide it’s not in their own best interest to run for office..

          • THIS!!!!!
            Particularly these days. It has to take either extreme greed and a lust for power and control or a truly selfless dedication to humanity for anyone to consider running for a major office.
            And I’ve always suspected that a great many fine folks who would have served the public extremely well simply refused to have their knickers exposed to everyone under the sun and ran screaming from any such opportunity offered them.

            • I tend to be suspicious of the idea that we used to be lead by wise statesmen, but now all we get are highbinders and mountebanks. Of course, I don’t buy the opposite, either.

              I think that the American experiment is vastly amusing to God, and so we have always had the usual run of thieves and bastards, but get sent just enough great (if imperfect) men to keep the whole thing going.

          • The Party system is going to self-select for extreme greed and lust for power.

            That’s another reason why I advocated my Powerball Election System.

            When a position is vacant, you yank a valid Social Security Number out of the random-number generator, and put that person in the office.

            At least you’d get a *representative* government… seems we fought a war over that very concept, once…

            “But what if that person were a criminal, mentally defective, or insane?”

            “How could we tell the difference between them and who’s in office already?”

            • I very nearly echoed the lovely bull-man’s laugh, but it’s been a long painful sad day and so…

              The first guy in office who figures out how to rig the power ball draw sells the tech to the clueless control-freaks. Same punchline though:

              How could we tell the difference between them and who’s in office already?”

          • It might be a nice experiment to have someday. What we got though… I’d be content to just have whomever in office, even the wrong, un-wise guy… so long as he did the right thing.

            We’re never going to be represented by angels. Ain’t no such creature. Best off for us if we can get ’em to do right even if they’re the wrong guy for the job.

      • An intelligent person is far better at rationalizing that their chosen pathway is justified.

        Stupid people usually fee no compulsion to develop stronger argument than, “I want, I can, therefor i shall.”

      • On the other hand, a not-smart person who is thoroughly Good often accomplishes a great deal, simply by doing simple things with dogged determination.

        • This is a constant theme in C. J. Box’s Joe Pickett mysteries: the hero is a plodder, not smart enough to take shortcuts or to give up before he’s solved the case.

      • The most successful serial killers tend towards the genius end of the scale.

        • Contrariwise, I remember seeing, a year or two after Hurricane Katrina, a story about a man who met the intelligence criteria to be classed as “retarded” who just started going out and rescuing people, because that’s the kind of way he had been raised. Over and over, he would find someone who was stuck somewhere out in the storm water, and go get them. I don’t know what happened to the story, or for that matter, the man, but I thought it was one that should have been plastered all over.

          • That one strikes me as perfectly normal– not because the guy wasn’t smart and was doing good, but because even someone with pretty dang harsh mental limits can still learn “K, in X situation I do Y,” and apply it, all it takes is being able to accurately identify X situation.

            They’ll be better at it than the guy who is really smart, but has to think it all out– even if he knows enough to not make all the obvious mistakes, because the dumb guy IS NOT THINKING. He’s doing.

            The only time being smart comes in is if you have a whole alphabet of situations that can be confused, and you need someone to pick which tactic to use.

    • The more intelligent one is, the more likely one is to be scammed, or join a cult. “Too dumb to fool” is a real thing, because man is the rationalizing animal and the smarter you are, the better at rationalizing.

      • This … an intelligent person can be incredibly creative at rationalizing, when being drawn into a scam…

        • It’s also why, for better or worse, intelligence is correlated with belief in the supernatural, whether organized religion or New Age woo-woo. Something I like to point out when dealing with militant atheists who tell me things like “You’re too smart to believe in God.”

          • Yup. Intelligence tends to fall in love with itself, and rationalize all things, even the ones that don’t bend well to over rationalizations. But we are not wholly, nor even mostly, raw intelligence. Emotion tends to trump intelligence in the end for those who don’t tend too far to sociopathy (and I do wonder about those sometimes).

          • and i am amazed how many militant atheists i have seen who believe in AGW to a religious level

        • Intelligence – as in the raw ability to learn quickly, remember lots of stuff, apply it to problems, and come up with new stuff – is a tool.

          But most people never learn how to use that tool. “Remember this long enough to pass the test” isn’t learning how to apply that tool.

          We *need* smart people. But the public school system spends almost all its money on smoothing the way for the defectives that can’t keep up.

          • The fundamental problem that the left has (and quite a few who are not on the left) is that they equate intelligence with wisdom. One can be very smart and be a fool, and one can not be smart but be wise. When it comes to governing, wisdom is far more crucial a trait than intelligence.

      • When I worked at a large hospital, there was a whole *team* of people who were supposed to keep the MDs from being suckered into various scams…

        It was over at the main campus, far from where I worked. Given how The Doctor Is Always Right, I’ve wondered how well the system worked…

        • Rich Rostrom

          I’ve read that doctors are the favorite target of con artists.

          1) “That’s where the money is.” (Or a lot of it, anyway.)

          2) Because they have mastered a difficult field, they have an inflated idea of their ability to understand other fields.

          3) They have huge egos, and will usually eat the loss rather than admit being scammed.

          A few years ago, I read of a man having a heart attack at some possibly dubious investment presentation, but was lucky that five cardiologists were there.

      • There’s a reason that one of the things I’m teaching my kids is how to spot con games. “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is,” needs to be part of raising a kid just like “this is how to spot an adult doing something they shouldn’t.” (“Stranger danger” doesn’t work well when lots of abuse situations start with someone the kid knows. You need to teach about “tricky adults” and things which adults should not be looking to kids for help.)

        • I’ve been fascinated by cons since the late 1990s when I was teaching a personal finance course. I decided to have a “con of the week” feature. I came across a book called “The Big Con”, that was a study of the con man culture back in the early part of the century.

          The key point is that the principles of a good con are the same no matter what the time. The only thing that changes is the details.

          • You might find a book called King Con by Stephen J. Cannell interesting; It is clearly a work by the same guy who created Jim Rockford and is a fun ride through the world of cons.

            Kirkus Review says:
            Breezy, novelized screenplay from TV screenwriter Cannell (Final Victim, 1996, etc.) almost makes crime cute. When charming card cheat and confidence man Beano X. Bates takes too much money out of the pocket of Armani-draped New Jersey mafia boss Joseph Rina, Rina nearly beats him to death with a golf club.

            Rather than testify against Rina in an upcoming trial, Bates leaves the hospital and disappears, leaving feisty, terminally beautiful state prosecutor Victoria Hart without much of a case. Then Carol Sesnick, a protected witness in the Rina trial, is found murdered, along with her two state-police bodyguards, at the bottom of an elevator shaft in a Trenton apartment building.

            Hiding out as a used-car salesman in Florida, Beano, who’s also on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list, feels bad seeing his face flashed on television. He wants to quit being a con man and live easy with his cute terrier Roger-the-Dodger, but, having descended from a family of grifters, Bates can’t quite ignore the calling of his blood. The murder of Sesnick, who’s descended from a family of gypsies that has intermarried with the Bates clan, gives him the excuse to use his nefarious skills to bring Rina to justice.

            He teams up with Hart and teaches her a thing or two about small-time scams and the joys of preying on the deservingly dishonest. The two fall in love and wind up sufficiently imperiled (having successfully duped Tommy “Two Times” Rina, Joe’s homicidal brother) to justify a slam-bang, ultraviolent finish just before the wedding bells ring.

            Cannell shows off his skill at Elmore Leonardstyle plot twists and slangy street dialogue, but his blend of cinematically detailed violence and pointless Hollywood fairy-tale scenes fails to convince.
            https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/stephen-j-cannell/king-con/

      • Ah, Sgt. Colon; to stupid to be easily fooled.

        Damn, but I miss Sir. Terry.

    • There may be some correlation between criminal activity and low IQ

      A more accurate statement might be: there is some correlation between being caught engaging in criminal activity and low IQ.

      Certainly, “smart” criminals take that view.

    • They aren’t going to test the best criminals because they never got caught.

      • The best criminals are the ones who learn that scamming millions of dollars without a gun is more profitable than robbing a 7-11 with one.

  12. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    Some thoughts pre-coffee.

    Part of it can be the “aristocratic principle” in new clothing. The “highly educated man (ie smart)” has just replaced the “man with the right blood lines”. Of course, why do some people want aristocrats is another question. And of course, there is a side in plenty of people that believes “other people should obey me for reasons”.

    Another part may be the “flip side” of “evil is stupid”. IE people do evil things because they’re too stupid to know what is the right thing to do. Which leads to the (unproven) idea that if you’re smart, you’ll know better than doing evil things.

    Hopefully the above made some sense. 😉

    • I think that very intelligent people often have an unjustified high opinion of themselves, thinking that they are somehow better than other people, so therefore they should be the ones making the decisions. Intelligence does not correlate to wisdom or common sense, any more than it necessarily correlates to good character. As someone with a somewhat high IQ myself, I have seen this from the inside, when I meet people who don’t have good reading comprehension, or see something I can do, and they say, “I could never do that! That’s amazing!” So there’s a temptation to think more highly of myself than I ought. Because in other aspects, I may be a bit slow or stupid! And I know that I don’t accomplish nearly as much as I should theoretically be able to accomplish, partly because I’m not motivated to (should I be?), and partly because of health issues that leave me with, at times, little mental or physical energy. But if someone is intelligent, and doesn’t see the parts of themselves that isn’t so great, that needs work, that fails…it leaves them vulnerable to thinking themselves ‘something,’ when in fact they are, perhaps, nothing.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        It’s terrible to realize that while “I may be the smartest person around” but “I do stupid things”.

        How many more stupid things do the “less smart” people do? [Insane Grin]

        • Ox most scared when ox find ox smartest in room.
          Ox like Libertycon. Ox learn there.

          • Ye Bobs and little fishies yes. I should never be the smartest person in the room. There are *gobs* of things I am utterly ignorant and unskilled at. Probably everyone I’ve met, excluding infants is likely more knowledgeable about something, more skilled, or just plain more hardworking.

        • Being “the smartest person around” is not the same thing as being, you know, smart.

          A smart person would realize that.


          Observe exactly such a demonstration, within the first few minutes … the ability to recall and recite data is a byproduct of intelligence but not necessarily expressive of it.

      • It is an artifact of our education factories: they praise and reward the ability to provide “expected” answers and treat that ability as if it were more meritorious than the ability to tear an argument apart and find its flaws.

        It is as arbitrary (and socially destructive) a standard as praising a child for being beautiful or able to throw a football accurately at great distance — while there may be situational value in such abilities, outside such situations they are largely useless and even counter productive. Physical beauty hardly qualifies one to lecture on world peace, nor does throwing things make one expert on social injustice.

      • I was once (briefly and somewhat comically) Chief of Security for a small, run down outlet mall. The head of maintenance was a pretty rough-hewn character, and early on he seemed to take a dislike to me. Sine I had to work with the guy, I asked him what I did that set his back up, and he said I talked like I thought I was better than he was. I told him, “Oh, good grief. I come from a family of teachers, and I swallowed a dictionary. I talk a lot and read a lot, and if I seem to be talking over your head, I don’t mean to. In many ways, you are a lot smarter than I am. I read about things. You DO things. I’ve seen you fix junk the management should have replaced a decade ago. I certainly couldn’t do that, even if I had the tools and illustrated instructions! If I’m running my mouth and it bothers you, just tell me to quit exercising my ratchet-jaw!”

        We didn’t become best buds, but he warmed to me after that.

        There are an awful lot of people like him in this country. They may not know a lot of history, though if they do they know it better than our so-called Elites, but they have a firm understanding of what works and what doesn’t. And they get tired of being told that excrement is chocolate ice cream. That’s what got Trump elected.

        I think this is one of the biggest pitfalls the Intelligentsia fall into; they conflate ‘erudite’ with ‘articulate’ and mistake that for ‘intelligent’.

        • if I seem to be talking over your head, I don’t mean to …

          There is an equally implicit insult entailed in “talking down” to a person: downgrading your vocabulary under the assumption your listener won’t understand “big” words. There is a knack to addressing folk without condescending, and a big part of it lies in listening to them.

          Having not only swallowed a dictionary but indulged in the filthy habit of doing crossword puzzles — as well as being for decades a regular reader of William Safire’s wonderful “On Language” column — I am consciously cognizant of a proclivity for words outside common usage, but do’t hardly nobody ever believe I’m showing off … and those that imagine so are exactly the kinds of people who employ large words as bludgeons, to cow rather than to clarify.

      • I pretty much spent 15 years of my adult life mostly around people who made me feel like not just the smartest person in the room, but the runaway smartest person in the room. It was both depressing and gave me exactly that unjustifiedly high opinion of myself. Landing early on the blogs I found, where I was CLEARLY out of my league compared to many of the people on them, was very helpful for me, and gave me some much needed humility.

        • Being the smartest person in a room is not the same as being smart, of course. Nor does being smartest mean you possess the best and most significant information.

          Dr. Thomas Sowell has written extensively on the limits of smartness and the proclivity of intellectuals to prefer elegant solutions (as differentiated from meaningful ones.)

          • On this practical vs. elegant, there’s an old joke about the difference between an engineer and a mathematician. At one end of a hallway you put the mathematician and the engineer. At the other are two very willing and available individuals of appropriate sex (originally women–I’m updating for the modern day). The rule is in the first minute you can cross half the distance to the other side. In the second, and each additional minute, you can cross half the remaining distance.

            The mathematician immediately realizes that he will never actually cross the distance and quits. When he points this out to the engineer who continues, the engineer replies, “Soon enough I’ll get close enough for all practical purposes.”

    • The ‘highly educated man (ie smart)’” is merely one who has drunk deeply of the intellectual fashions, i.e., been well indoctrinated.

      Used to be, once ‘pon a time, that “educated” meant trained discernment but that proved too difficult to maintain and hard to replicate in the job lots necessary for the modern intellectual factory university. Now the colleges don’t even make much attempt at producing graduates who employ correct grammar, much less are capable of coherent thought.

      As we are advised:

      MY DEAR WORMWOOD,
      I note what you say about guiding our patient’s reading and taking care that he sees a good deal of his materialist friend. But are you not being a trifle naïf? It sounds as if you supposed that argument was the way to keep him out of the Enemy’s clutches.

      That might have been so if he had lived a few centuries earlier. At that time the humans still knew pretty well when a thing was proved and when it was not; and if it was proved they really believed it. They still connected thinking with doing and were prepared to alter their way of life as the result of a chain of reasoning. But what with the weekly press and other such weapons we have largely altered that.

      Your man has been accustomed, ever since he was a boy, to have a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing about together inside his head. He doesn’t think of doctrines as primarily “true” of “false”, but as “academic” or “practical”, “outworn” or “contemporary”, “conventional” or “ruthless”. Jargon, not argument, is your best ally in keeping him from the Church. Don’t waste time trying to make him think that materialism is true! Make him think it is strong, or stark, or courageous—that it is the philosophy of the future. That’s the sort of thing he cares about.

      The trouble about argument is that it moves the whole struggle onto the Enemy’s own ground. He can argue too; whereas in really practical propaganda of the kind I am suggesting He has been shown for centuries to be greatly the inferior of Our Father Below. By the very act of arguing, you awake the patient’s reason; and once it is awake, who can foresee the result?

      Even if a particular train of thought can be twisted so as to end in our favour, you will find that you have been strengthening in your patient the fatal habit of attending to universal issues and withdrawing his attention from the stream of immediate sense experiences. Your business is to fix his attention on the stream. Teach him to call it “real life” and don’t let him ask what he means by “real”.

      • analytical-engine-mechanic

        ‘…withdrawing his attention from the stream of immediate sense experiences. Your business is to fix his attention on the stream. Teach him to call it “real life” and don’t let him ask what he means by “real”.’

        ****

        NO, that does NOT sound like our modern Twitterstreams or social media smackdowns or media-hearsay addictions, AT ALL. Why do you ask?

        (He said, turning his attention back to his “smart” phone and his customary near-oblivious eyes-only-on-the-screen hunch.)

      • I read somewhere decades ago “He had that most limiting of all educations, that of a well rounded man.” Not a blessed idea who wrote it.

    • The current situation with legacy acceptance in the Ivy League schools conflates the “good blood lines” with “highly educated”, though it looks like “highly credentialed” is more accurate.

      Aside: Certain elite schools take the credentialed bit to an extreme. “You can tell he’s from [MIT|Cal Tech|Stanford], but you can’t tell him much.”

  13. One of the smartest people I’ve met had that common on the left idea that “communism hasn’t worked because it hasn’t been done right.” She left law school to go back to get a PhD in Sociology (big surprise).
    I suspect that like so many ‘smart’ people, she thinks that in the event she’d be one of the ones in charge.

  14. I am an evil genius. Fortunately for the world, I’m the laziest evil genius in history. Rule the world? Too annoying. Rule the nation? Too much work. Blow up a school? Why should I make a bunch of kids happy to get several weeks of vacation time? Blow up a hospital? Are you kidding? Medical errors kill over 100,000 people each year. I’d have to work like a slave to equal that. Be an illegal drug lord? Bah, I’d have to spend time managing manufacturers, warehouse people and deal with retailers. Be a terrorist? Ugh. You know how hard it is to get chemical stains from explosives, corrosives, and toxins out of your clothing? No thank you!

    Actually, considering the problems with prion diseases, the “ethicist” who recommended eating human beings is also a medical and scientific idiot, not just morally deficient. Which begs the question of how the heck he got any credentials as being an authority on ethics, other than by cheating.

    One thing I did learn from the several ethics courses I’ve had over the years. When the SHTF, and someone’s life or family is at risk, and sometimes even if it’s only their job at risk, the question of ethics goes out the window, and the only morality left is the survival of self, or family.

    Ah Sarah, don’t knock human ala mode until you try it. Just get that big old scoop of ice cream, chocolate syrup, cherries, and… Oh, never mind. I forgot for a moment that kids also read this. Of course you were the one who mentioned Romance novels up above. 😉

    • Actually, considering the problems with prion diseases, the “ethicist” who recommended eating human beings is also a medical and scientific idiot, not just morally deficient.

      You cracked the code! This “ethicist” is actually a eugenicist, trying to rid humanity of those stupid enough to listen to this kind of ethicist.

    • To be fair, most really evil stuff is incredibly stupid, especially if you put any long-term thought into it at all.

    • The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers ethicists.

      One wonders at the mockery Avon’s Bard might have enjoyed with such targets.

      Used to be ethicists were concerned about encouraging people to do good things, now they seem mostly focused on manufacturing justifications for doing vile things. Probably more money and celebrity for the latter product.

    • don’t knock human ala mode until you try it. Just get that big old scoop of ice cream, chocolate syrup, cherries, and …

      (Dons Panama of Pedantry)
      Contrary to American delusions, the French term “a la mode” does not, except in very narrow application, mean “with ice cream on top.” Literally, it is simply “According to the prevailing style or fashion.” Thus, subsequent to the wedding of William and Kate, the wearing of a certain type of hat — a fascinator — became “a la mode” for head gear.

      Of course, language being a docile beast and readily abused by the indifferent, the definition of the term “a la mode” has gained a second meaning of “accompanied by ice cream” which is properly only applied to desserts.

      • It doesn’t matter what the Academie Francaise says, if you say “a la mode” in a restaurant, you’re going to get ice cream on it.

        “What do you mean, you didn’t want ice cream on your Mongolian barbecue? You said ‘a la mode’.”

        It’s an American term now, only concidentally resembling its French source.

        • The key term there being “if you say “a la mode” in a restaurant” — walk into a clothing store and declare your wish to be garbed a la mode Kate Middleton (or Beyoncé, for that matter, although that thought makes my brain dash to the vomitorium) and it is doubtful any ice cream will be introduced.

          • I’m fairly certain that most establishments you walk into here in the U.S. and say you want something “a la mode”, they’re going to think you want ice cream on it. Any clothing stores are really going to look at you strange. A car dealership might just do it to make the sale.

          • Unless it’s a REALLY high-end coterie.

            Then it’s possible you will get an odd look (ala Mike), but you will most certainly get – somehow – ice cream on your suit.

            • Some haberdasher with a sense of humour might very well put you in an ice-cream suit:


              Ice-cream suit definition, a man’s lightweight summer suit of white or a finely striped or solid pastel color.

  15. Re: where does this idea that ‘smart = good’ come from?

    I think it goes back to the mid-1800s. I think I’ve said here before that the Progressive movement, Marx et al, was actually about creating a “New Aristocracy” by which they could depose the old hereditary aristocracy and put themselves on top instead. They set up their ‘New Aristocracy’ based on the same set of criteria they used among themselves: level of intelligence and knowledge, as demonstrated by number and variety of degrees in the humanities.

    I think there’s also a much more basic transitive equation at work:

    smart = agrees with me (at least on the important topics)
    agrees with me = good
    therefore, smart = good

    • Also: consider who could afford to be educated back in those days.

      A ‘smart’ peasant knew to keep his* mouth shut.

      *the male pronoun is appropriate here because rare was the woman who can keep her mouth shut, and rarer still the tran who can.

    • So, Marx at al. were saying that the old aristos did it wrong, and if Socialism replaced the old aristocracy with themselves they certainly would get it right through their use of scientific principles, this time for sure!

      So that’s where today’s socialists get it: “True Aristocracy has never been tried!”

  16. What I can tell you for absolute sure is that I’m sick of getting into some moral argument, say “eating people is bad” and I get told something like “There is this ethicist who says we should do it, and he’s smarter than you.”

    Ooh, I know that one!

    It’s the fallacy of argument by authority– I believe it’s rooted in the attempt to make a morality that doesn’t have an objective base, so you have to make an argument, but people aren’t trained in how to tell good arguments from bad ones (which might be partly a recognition of the fallacy fallacy) so they shortcut to “smarter= better argument= correct.”

    *****

    The ethicist thing reminds me of a quote from one of my favorite ethicist– “Bioethics: the discipline of insisting that the obvious moral principles don’t apply in this situation.”
    (paraphrased, probably, but the sense is accurate)
    Wesley J. Smith, for those wondering.

  17. There is ample evidence to support an argument that Smart is, if not morally opposite of good, then independent of good.

    The underlying fallacy arises from the defensible premise that “Stupid is bad” — but Smart is not the opposite of Stupid. Wise is the opposite of Stupid; the Smart can often be Stupid at much higher rate processing speed.

    While it approaches Godwin’s Law, the clear of example of the Nazis (as others here have already noted) should put the lie to the idea of a correlation of Smart to Good: the Nazi scientists were indisputably Smart, but I don’t think anyone wishes to argue that, therefore, they were good.

    • Reminds me a bit of the Smart/Stupid and Active/Lazy cross in one of, I think, Ringo’s books. Stupid/Lazy just slows you down, but you can work around him because he’s not actively making things worse. On the other end, Smart/Active can be the best of both worlds, you get the right things done and they are done on time. Smart/Lazy is sort of the same, but thinks “man, there *has* to be a better way to do this.” And often enough comes up with said better way. I’ve always liked the smart/lazy types myself when I need a good project manager.

      Active/Stupid? *RUN!*

      • Sounds like The Last Centurion.

        Smart/Lazy would be Robert A. Heinlein’s The Man Who Was Too Lazy To Fail.
        ———————————
        Hard work and sacrifice pays off at some indefinite time in the future. Laziness pays off today.

      • Danger, the smart/active is only good IF THEY KNOW WHAT THEY DON’T KNOW. (best if they are working with someone who knows what they don’t know)

        Otherwise they just make a lot of mistakes.

        • Well, true. In a perfect world, though, smart would include knowledge of one’s own limitations. Alas.

          That’d be why they would con smarter people than they are into strawbossing. Boss points “thataway,” then get *out* of the way. Strawbosses commence to cat herding. Individual peons begin the process of turd polishing/turning lead into gold/obtaining the unobtainium.

          I’ve worked with excellent bosses and those… less so. A good boss might or might not know my job, but darn well knows his own (and what it isn’t). That’s one thing they’ve all had in common- knowing when to get out of the way.

          • A good boss need know two things: how to do his job and how to know when staff aren’t doing theirs. The boss’ job is to enable staff to do theirs, to provide the necessities for staff to do their jobs and to kick butts when the staff are not doing their jobs.

          • My poor dad had to spend a summer mother-henning a lazy, smart guy….who had no idea that he HAD NO IDEA.

            Dear lord, the amount of suicide dad prevented!

        • “To know that we know what we know, and that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge.” Presented to me as a Chinese proverb but I have no idea what the actual origin is.

      • Active/Stupid has been around the Military for a long time. I would guess that’s where Ringo picked it up.

        Luckily, I only worked under an Active/Stupid superior once. He was on my list of “Frag immediately in case of war”, and the one case I wasn’t joking about.

  18. Two thoughts on this. First, part of the issue here is that most smart, educated people have not reflected on how much knowledge has expanded in the last 200 years. It used to be possible to know and study almost everything, and you could be, as noted above, a philosopher-king. Now, you can’t learn everything in even one field a lifetime.

    Second, it annoys me to no end when, as a trained theologian and philosopher, I see people listening to some scientist on philosophy or theology simply because he is a great physicist or biologist when, with a masters degree in the field, I can see the basic mistakes they are making, mistakes I was taught to avoid as an undergrad.

    • “…when, with a masters degree in the field, I can see the basic mistakes they are making, mistakes I was taught to avoid as an undergrad.”

      That’s one of the reasons I never pursued a doctorate. It seems like getting one almost requires you shut down other parts of the brain; and lop off significant knowledge of other fields. Easier and cheaper just to study what you need to know on your own at that point.

      The only benefits I’ve seen with holding a doctorate are a higher rung on a government standardized pay scale, and wedging the door open a bit more when speaking to the snobbish elites.

      • One reason I ended up in my academic specialty was because it steals, er, ahem, draws on work done in lots and lots of other areas, both history and sciences. So I had to read geology, range management, hydrology, physics, botany, ethnography, and lots of other stuff outside the “normal” idea of history.

        • Heh. That’s kind of how I fell in to anthropology. Little bit of this and a little bit of that, osteology led to basic medicine, ethnography to religion and history, fieldwork to chemistry and physics…

    • > ith a masters degree in the field, I can see the basic mistakes they are making, mistakes I was taught to avoid as an undergrad.

      That assumes you weren’t taught Woke batshit crazy “facts” that bear no relation to anyone else’s reality-as-we-know-it.

  19. I think it’s quite simple, actually: smart = good with words = persuaded people that the idea in question is morally good.

    It’s also situational: to someone who has never thought “People are hungry, we need flour, we have unused land, we’ll direct the peasants to plant wheat” sounds both smart and reasonable. To anyone with a gardening background, where and when are immediate reactions, but to the ivory tower academic or the machinist, either one, it sounds quite reasonable, after all one gets flour from wheat.

    • I’ll say up front that I think that it’s a fine idea to plant fruiting trees and bushes as municipal landscape plants, but that anyone who thinks that doing so will *feed* people, is making the same mistake.

      That’s just not how it all works.

    • > direct the peasants to plant wheat

      That’s almost exactly what Pol Pot ordered when he was trying to turn Cambodia into an agrarian paradise.

      Between starvation and mass executions, he only killed between 20% to 25% of the entire population.

      I’ve been reading about the Khmer Rouge the last few days. Not only was the US supporting them, most of them walked away from their crimes without even being charged. The WTF is strong there…

      • The reason most of the Khmer Rouge didn’t pay for their crimes, IMHO, is that the people who ousted them were the communists from Vietnam next door. They weren’t interested in prosecuting people whose philosophy differed only in degree. Besides, they had a lot of their own issues to deal with. But it says a lot that even their fellow travelers thought they were out of control.

      • Something that tickled the Voices’ funny bone was, shortly after the USA withdrew from Vietnam, Vietnam got its own Vietnam…

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          On the other hand, Vietnam won because they didn’t have “home grown enemies” wanting them to fail.

          • Also, the Khmer Rouge lacked significant outside support. Many people forget that, courtesy of the Soviets, the North Vietnamese rolled south with a massive mechanized force, larger than what Nazi Germany rolled into France with.

            • the North Vietnamese rolled south with a massive mechanized force

              One of the reasons that Vietnam could well be looked at as a very successful American campaign in the Cold War. It was expensive to us but it was a lot more expensive to the Soviet Union in comparison to what they could afford. They sent a huge quantity of men and materials south in the Tet Offensive. Essentially nothing went back. It’s only their consistent and successful agitprop (the one(/i> things the Soviets were really good at) that ever created a different impression.

              • It’s only their consistent and successful agitprop (the one things the Soviets were really good at) …>”

                I am not so sure the Soviets were good at that so much as Western Media constituted a fifth column, burnishing ham-handed Soviet efforts and putting a veneer of Western credibility over it.

                It isn’t as if they’ve ever apologized for those Pulitzers awarded Duranty. Their only regret is being caught out.

                • Western Media, to a very significant extent, is the result of Soviet agitprop, a deliberate attempt to infiltrate true believers in places where they could influence opinion makers–education, entertainment, in law and politics. And if you especially get the folk who are teaching the next generation of influence makers–the teachers of teachers, of lawyers, of journalists, then you create your own fifth column.

                  McCarthy may have been wrong about specific incidents (and thus doing as much harm as good to the goal of rooting out Soviet spying etc) but on balance he was pretty much right. Education, entertainment, and government were riddled with Soviet agents.

                • And some things have not changed with the NY Times, as they continuye to engage in similar efforts to this day.

              • Danny Hamilton

                The Tet Offensive was the North’s way of getting rid of the Viet Cong. After Tet there just wasn’t much left of them. The North took over and never had to worry about the VC.

        • I *tried* to get Amanda to fisk Tip O’Neill’s “Man of the House”… there’s quite a bit in there about his personal efforts toward sabotaging the war.

    • Nobody gets flour from wheat. You get flour from the miller.

  20. You know that saying… a person is smart but people are dumb?

    I think that in almost all of the very important ways that matter, it’s the opposite.

    A person is dumb. That’s why people believe there’s some magical thing about being smart. They look around them and it’s a wonder any given individual can even function. And if that’s true, and it sort of is, then how could people, in aggregate, be anything other than dumb-multiplied?

    So we need that super smart person who somehow can assure us that even if life is messy and scary and chaotic, that someone does know better. We don’t have to be afraid.

    Except that even a dumb person knows more about their own life, what they need, and what’s possible, than the smartest person who isn’t them. And the inability of that smart person to know more about any given person’s life than them… well, *that* is what multiplies.

    People with the freedom to make and then change any number of sub-optimal choices, to try and then fail and try again, to respond to their own life as best they’re able, well, it might be *chaotic* but in aggregate it creates a robust and dynamic system that actually comes up with the best answers, the best use of resources, the speediest adaption to change, and all around better results than centralized planning by “smart” people.

    A person is dumb. People are smart.

    • Didn’t someone here a few days back mention a traffic light system wherein the individual intersections had sensors and controls and perhaps some adaptive AI software… but even with AI… how ‘smart’ is a traffic light, really? And yet, even that did better than a centrally-controlled system. Sometimes one can’t see the trees for the forest.

      • Interestingly, the newest multicore Intel x86_64 CPUs are more-or-less descendants of the 4004, which is a contender for the title of “first microprocessor.” Intel’s marketing people positioned it as a microcontroller component for traffic lights.

        Likewise, Bill Gates’ first business venture was “Traf-O-Data”, a system for recording traffic across intersections. It used a newer Intel 8008 microprocessor.

        “One foot on the brake and one on the gas, hey!
        Well, there’s too much traffic, I can’t pass, no!
        So I tried my best illegal move
        Well, baby, black and white come and touched my groove agaaaain!”
        – Sammy Hagar, “I Can’t Drive 55”

  21. One of the side benefits, in addition to a very entertaining show, from the train wreck of that recent bribe your kids into college business is that it raises some real legitimate doubts about the true worth of many of those oh so prestigious Ivy League degrees. How much of the basis for those diplomas was intelligence and classwork, and how much was professors who took in to consideration just how rich and powerful a student’s family might be?
    Judging just from real world performance I would have to conclude that an Ivy League degree cannot be trusted to be worth the paper and ink it took to print it.

    • Yeah, the real scandal in that whole debacle was demonstrating that once you’re in an Ivy League school, you don’t have to have all the required qualifications in order to succeed. After all, none of those kids were failing out because the material was too rigorous …

    • Degrees in non-STEM fields are really just credentials now.

      • Were I ever to be in the position of interviewing potential hires again, there are a bunch of colleges that have shat themselves so badly, I don’t care if the degree they issued is STEM.

        “Your application looks really good, but we wouldn’t touch you with a twenty-foot pole. You remember when your alma mater had a professor that said anyone who was a member of the NRA should have their children raped to death and the college administration not only failed to fire him, they applauded him? Why don’t you hire a lawyer and sue them, because you could at least use toilet paper to wipe your ass, and your degree is probably too slick for that.”

      • They’re attempting to do the same thing to STEM degrees, with a dismaying amount of success.

        • Remembers a 2001 design review with an MIT graduate as one of the team members (and the self-appointed spokesman for that team). The guy was fairly good, but he thought he was great.

          The division went toes up shortly thereafter, but my guess is that person was going to have first hand experience stepping on a few rakes.

    • How much of the basis for those diplomas was intelligence and classwork, and how much was professors who took in to consideration just how rich and powerful a student’s family might be?

      You are unfair!

      The modern enlightened professor never considers the status of a student’s family; the only thing that matters is the recognized Victimhood Satus as calculated by careful consideration of intersectionality analysis. A rich and powerful family is clear indication (absent off-setting factors) that a student is scion of oppressor privilege and must have grades docked accordingly.

      • That does not explain why so very many sons and daughters of privilege graduate from Ivy League institutions, get very cushy jobs with established corporations, yet when held under scrutiny do not seem to have the common sense to pour sand out of their own boots.
        Ah, rereading your comment I see you did mention those off-setting factors, chief of which I suspect would be a close association with a proper progressive liberal family. Now conservative kids, well they simply must be properly punished for their obvious entitlement and privilege no matter than they may very well be putting themselves through school working nights while taking a full course load.

      • While in my government job I was never in a position to directly hire anyone, but did serve on several source boards that awarded multi million dollar contracts. Requests for proposals generally included a requirement for a key individuals listing with accompanying resumes. Not my job to evaluate those, left to experts, but I got an education in the hierarchy of value associated with certain STEM degrees from a host of nationally known institutions of higher learning. Some where held in much higher esteem than others. And accreditation was only a small part of that, mostly it was a question of how their graduates in general dealt with the real world after school.

  22. Evil genius…

  23. Yes, I can actually explain why but briefly, because if you don’t respect the human in others civilization unravels from the root outward. Yes, I can give details, but that’s not what this is about.

    *musing briefly*
    That makes sense– to deny the humanity of another human means you have to break something.
    So it sort of ties in with the whole “make people say something they KNOW is false” to break them thing– and civilization is just a bunch of humans.

    Break the human, break the world.

  24. “I have no clue where smart=good comes from”

    I would suggest the following;

    Modern Progressivism starts (as do most cliques) with the thought “I’m wonderful. I should be running things”. Each clique has had at least slightly different reasons why the were wonderful, but with the Progressives it seems to have started with “I am more educated than the Proles, and payed more attention to it that most Aristos. That MAKES me wonderful! I have TRAINING!”. Over time the myriad failures of Socialism (the name the Progressives eventually gave to their Will to Rule) made it pretty clear that education didn’t cut it; that rule by Experts was at least as likely to be an unholy clusterf*ck as any other kind of rule. But the Progressives still wanted to rule. They wanted it the way a five year old wants a candy bar.

    So they reached for the excuse they had always despised in the mouths of Victorian Moralists; sanctity. But they couldn’t claim sanctity because they lead more moral lives, because to put it bluntly their moral lives are generally a train wreck. But they KNEW they were SMART. They had pieces of paper that said so! So, being SMART had to mean you were BETTER, and do as I say, you stupid, uneducated, immoral prole!

    As I keep harping on; this isn’t new. Every self-selected elite in history (and that’s easily 99% of all elites, ever) believes it has a lock on at least once characteristic that makes them inherently superior to the rest of us apes. I really think it’s important to remember that the Proggies are nothing new under the sun. They just aren’t remotely that original. They are tiresome, mediocre, unoriginal, and trite.

    And don’t they just HATE it when you point that out!

    • made it pretty clear that education didn’t cut it

      Education is merely a refinement of an existent element; no matter how carefully you refine lead you will not make of it gold.

      Educating bad people yields educated bad people, not good people. Badly educating good people produces bad people as well, and our current schools of higher indoctrination are no longer even educating their sausage.

      • Furthermore, educating people to the point where they can read easily grants them the ability to further educate themselves. Which goes a long way towards explaining why our Progressive Educators manage to fail to do that so persistently.

  25. or even how to sand a cabinet, or sew a pair of pants.

    I call BS. I know you know how to do both 😉

    • sure. But I’m not a genius.

      • I know…you’d probably be intolerable if you were.

        And are you sure? Genius IQ isn’t that hard to break.

        • Oh, I am one by IQ. But what the hell does that mean?

          • I’d like to know, too. Whatever we make of it? *shrugs*

          • Mensa defines qualification for membership as scoring in the top 2% on any of a host of approved intelligence tests. A bunch of us here qualify for that, and by one very narrow definition could claim ourselves to be geniuses. That and a couple of bucks cannot even buy you a decent cup of coffee these days.
            Personally, I would define genius as the ability for creativity, original thought, and a knack for making connections between seemingly unrelated groups of facts and tying them together in ways previously not considered.
            Sorry my fine Portagee, you is a genius in my book in spite of your protestations.
            Your kids, on the other hand, I find downright scary.

          • It means squat. You want to see the biggest readily available collection of wasted potential other than my D&D group go to a MENSA meeting.

        • I hang out with older son, just breaking 1%. Younger son… though… well… I’m glad I’m brain damaged.

  26. I think that we occasionally mistake “smart” (knowledgeable in a field) to “smart” (able to do things in a field) and “smart” (knowing when I can apply what I know in Field A to Field B, and when I can’t apply it).

    I wouldn’t ask a car mechanic to try and figure out quantum physics, for example (99% of the time). And, while the skills of learning how to handle a single set of scientific disciplines helps you to understand a second set of disciplines, it doesn’t automatically make you able in that discipline.

    There’s still that belief that we can “know everything,” or if we can’t, someone else can. Perhaps we should realize that maybe we can truly be an expert in a field-and not know everything in it. And know where our limitations are.

    • while the skills of learning how to handle a single set of scientific disciplines helps you to understand a second set of disciplines, it doesn’t automatically make you able in that discipline.

      Then there is the fact that having learned the degree game makes it easier to accumulate further degrees. The first doctoral thesis is always the hardest.

    • “I wouldn’t ask a car mechanic to try and figure out quantum physics, for example (99% of the time). And, while the skills of learning how to handle a single set of scientific disciplines helps you to understand a second set of disciplines, it doesn’t automatically make you able in that discipline.”

      Can understand the above. Even more subtle. Wrote in software system that was a cost accounting system for government agencies. Knew how the system worked, how the math worked. But, probably 75% of my answers were “Don’t know. I am a programmer. Not an accountant. This is how it works. Now tell me how this is “wrong” or incomplete.” Note. Generally this was procedures they had to follow. Like I’d know. County’s A procedures sure weren’t County’s B’s. Didn’t mean the programs didn’t have to change, but they had to know what they needed to have happen; I wasn’t defining it.

      Then there is a difference just in programming. I’m an excellent application programmer, in that I can translate users requests into what they need and deliver on thin information. Primarily because I start to visualize the process. OH boy is that so not the intellectual or educational approach. Computer science, ask ANY graduate student or PHD, is purely based on mathematical constructs. Ask me the math behind ANY program code and I will fail. I had to take as many math classes as computer science classes to get the computer science degree for my second degree, already had a math based degree, and I still can’t mathematically diagram a computer program. Never had a problem writing them from scratch or modifying one whether mine or someone else’s, whether simple changes, or tearing apart and restructuring to add. FWIW my husband just shakes his head (he started out as a math major). Doesn’t know how I do it, but he appreciates that I can.

  27. There is the thing about “sin darkens the intellect.”

    But it does not mean a loss of IQ points; it means that the more you do evil, the less you want to see and understand the good, the true, and the beautiful (because those things make you feel bad about doing bad things, and encourage you to mend your ways).

    Ultimately, since intellect in the sense of understanding is a partnership with God, cutting yourself off from God makes you an absolute gormless idiot.understand

    OTOH, a lot of evil smart people do not realize that they have lost understanding; they think they are cleverer than everyone else.

  28. Years ago, I was in a staff meeting at which a non-member of the group came in to present something or other…

    The Guy: “Blather, blather, blather…”
    (none of us had any idea what he was trying to say)
    The Guy: “Blah, blah, blah…”

    Finally, the executive running the meeting: “Fred, you don’t have to prove to us that your’e smart. We already *believe* that you’re smart. **Just tell us what you want to do.**”

    (and the guy couldn’t do it, couldn’t net it down to proposed action)

    A very significant amount of communication is devoted to attempts at proving the speaker’s or writer’s brilliance.

    • A very significant amount of communication is devoted to attempts at proving the speaker’s or writer’s brilliance.

      Which is a waste, as the brilliant in the audience do not need it proven and the rest won’t appreciate it any way. It’s like trying to persuade a cat you are lovely.

  29. It seems for the average leftist, smart is just “speaking pretty”.

    A great example was recently provided by someone name Ralf Little with this gem, “I don’t blame Farage for hating the EU really. Imagine having to keep attending an institution where everyone is smarter than you even in their second language” (emphasis mine).

    The part in bold is sheer nonsense, as in it has no meaning that makes sense. What is “smart even in their second language” supposed to mean? All it can mean, and even that is being generous IMNSHO, is “has good verbal ability,” but how is that at all correlated with intelligence?

    It isn’t.

    Except in the heads of leftists whose only real learning is in how to concoct a variety of word salads with rotes phrases and flexible definitions.

    • Imagine having to keep attending an institution where every idiot thinks they’re smarter than you even in their second language.

      Well, okay – most of us have attempted a civil conversation with a Proglodyte, so that’s easy to imagine.

    • “It seems for the average leftist, smart is just “speaking pretty”.”
      A certain former president comes to mind.

  30. An interesting interchange between Picasso and Monet as the German Army advanced through France in 1940. Monet was shocked to learn that the enemy had already reached Reims. “But what about our generals?” asked Monet. “What are they doing?”

    Picasso’s response: “Well, there you have it, my friend. It’s the Ecole des Beaux-Arts”

    …ie, formalists who had learned one set of rules and were not interested in considering deviations from same. The remark fits very well with the observations of Andre Beaufre, who before the invasion had been a young captain on the French General Staff. Although he had initially been thrilled to be placed among this elevated circle…

    “I saw very quickly that our seniors were primarily concerned with forms of drafting. Every memorandum had to be perfect, written in a concise, impersonal style, and conforming to a logical and faultless plan–but so abstract that it had to be read several times before one could find out what it was about…”I have the honour to inform you that I have decided…I envisage…I attach some importance to the fact that…” Actually no one decided more than the barest minimum, and what indeed was decided was pretty trivial.”

    The Costs of Formalism and Credentialism

    https://chicagoboyz.net/archives/58607.html

    • It’s funny how culture never changes. Go back to the 100 years war, and the French army was pretty much doing the same thing.

    • Shirer is best known for “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich”, but he also wrote “The Collapse of the Third Republic”, which detailed French politics up to Vichy. It’s pretty dry reading, but it detailed how the French military was inbred and hide-bound, and why they had no effective way to counter German probes before the actual declaration of war, and how their Parliamentary system promoted “the government of the week”, each one seemingly more interested in undoing any gains from the previous coalition than advancing the cause of France itself.

      Everyone knows the Nazis rolled into France and whipped them like a dog. Some of the military histories mention that, on paper, France was militarily stronger than Germany. Shirer’s book helps explain why France was unable to use its military effectively. The Germans were stretched thin like a balloon; almost *any* effectively organized resistance would have thrown a crowbar into the German plans… but the French simply *couldn’t*; their system was broken from top to bottom.

  31. “Unless you’re being commanded for a very specific purpose (say you’re part of an army) and a limited time, or it’s a collective endeavor (and no, not like being a nation. More like “let’s all cook breakfast or build a house together”) no one controlling a group’s decisions will have better results than each individual choosing for him/herself.”

    Even here, the smart leader knows to put smarter (more effective) people than he is in the sub-leader slots, point the direction (broad goal) and *get the heck out of the way.* With motivated individuals and intelligent leaders that know their jobs, well, you can accomplish some surprising things.

    Still can’t make socialism work, though. Not even near how we’re always told it “works.”

  32. Why are you such an anti-intellectual, Sarah!?

    /sarcasmoff

  33. I suspect that “smart=good” is a corollary of Marxism. The notion of “A highly advanced intelligence couldn’t possibly be evil” has been explored in Science Fiction many times. The notion that intelligent people would automatically agree because they would see things more clearly seems to go hand in hand with the notion of the perfectibility of man.

    Mostly, as far as I have seen, the writers realized the folly of this notion, but it shows up enough that it was obviously pervasive a long time ago. But of course, we’ve been subjected to decades of grey goo fiction written by the kinds of people who would believe it, instead of the one who actually recognize human nature.

    • The notion that intelligent people would automatically agree because they would see things more clearly” could only be believed by somebody who’s never attended a faculty department meeting — especially at budget time.

      Which suggests that many who promote the idea believe it no more than I do.

    • Brandon Sanderson’s got an interesting character who mocks the idea of a smarter person being good. The individual in question has a variable intelligence level that changes from day to day. Sometimes he’s smart. And sometimes he’s stupid. Early on he developed a battery of tests to help his assistant figure out his intelligence level for the day.

      But he also has a variable empathy level. And his level of empathy is inversely proportional to his intelligence…

  34. I just want to spout porpoiseless trivia at awkward moments, myself. (are there moments that are against the awks? You know, awkward and anti-awkward?) After all, a carp a day keeps the cats happy!

  35. New England Yankee

    I think some very smart children are spoiled by too much attention, centered around their intelligence. “Oh, he’s so smart! Oh, she will know the answer!” It can go to their heads. Then again, there is the theory of an optimal zone of communication, depending on IQ, something like 30 points. If you search for “window of comprehension,” you’ll pull up internet stuff about it, mostly posted by smart people who feel misunderstood by the world at large.

    So a brilliant child in a classroom with normal classmates and a normal teacher, may be picked on and bullied, especially if he contradicts the teacher. Or she may be put on a pedestal, which may be worse, in the long term.

    I believe loneliness can warp people. Solitary confinement is thought to be a devastating punishment for prisoners; shunning is an effective punishment in close societies. What is it like to be alone, but surrounded by crowds? Admired or attacked for the thing that sets you apart?

    Then again, “smart” is a quality of identity. That is, it’s a quality that can be perceived by others. I believe we size up other people within minutes of meeting them for intelligence, among other qualities.

    “Good” is something you do. Character is revealed through actions. The two categories may intersect, but it’s not guaranteed. John Phillips, of Phillips Academy, wrote, “Goodness without knowledge… is weak and feeble, yet knowledge without goodness is dangerous…. Both united form the noblest character and lay the surest foundation of usefulness to mankind.” A quote from a bygone era.

    • Studies have been done showing that you get very different results from telling a kid:

      a) You got the answer right!; you must be really smart!

      or

      b) You got the answer right!; you must have worked really hard!

      In the first case you get kids whose identity is founded on being smart, who become risk averse and avoiding anything with risk of failure that would impair that self-image.

      In the second case you get kids who are unafraid of risk, who perceive failure as a challenge which they can overcome by applying themselves and buckling down.

      Gee, who would prefer that first kind of kid?

    • Younger son was near destroyed in middle school.
      Fun fact I picked up around very smart people: If someone is more than a standard of deviation above someone else, he’s perceived as either crazy or “retarded.”
      No, seriously. So “gifted” children in schools, the ones who are “worshiped?” They’re mostly “smartish, well mannered, well behaved.” The real geniuses are too weird and don’t fit in right. They are the pink monkey in the brown tribe. They’re lucky if not permanently injured.

      • Kids only one standard deviation help keep up average test scores and can be used as unofficial tutors for their classmates.

        As opposed to kids who grasped the material within the first ten minutes, had a better understanding of historical forces than the teacher and who knocked off the math homework before the teacher had finished passing out the worksheets. Even when that kid is polite about reading outside material while the teacher explains (wrongly) the causes of the War of Southern Secession, the teacher feels threatened by the presence in class of a kid who tolerates the teacher’s mediocrity.

        • The kid who is out sick for most of the material then comes in an A’s the test? In every class? Well truth is how is being out sick any different than in seat but reading in back of room?

          For most in this category, college comes a huge shock. Study habits critical. When one doesn’t learn them in formative years, it is a rude awaking when one needs the skill. Know of someone (class clown, valedictorian) who flunked out of college … now has 3 or 4 PHd’s curtsy of the armed services.

          • For most in this category, college comes a huge shock.

            THIS is why some school districts succeeded in having “Gifted” declared a disability requiring special treatment and (preferably) specific training for teachers. Think of it such kids in regular classrooms as akin to high performance engines running on low-octane gas.

            Regrettably, hostility from the envious, a wide-spread attitude of “those kids will do fine without special treatment and we’re denying kids who really need help” (aka: public ignorance) and regimes such as NY’s moronic school chancellor are once again eliminating such specialized instruction.

          • For most in this category, college comes a huge shock.

            I was that kid in high school. The first two and a half years of college I could continue to be that kid. Intro to Microeconomics (fulfilled one of the “Social Science” classes I needed for the BS in Physics) was typical. I sat in the back of the class. I’d be doing other things (often something like Japanese–the language class I took specifically to be a challenge), and would look up from time to time when the instructor got to a particular point and make a quick note about said point.

            Aced the tests.

            Once when I was meeting with the instructor during office hours for reasons I don’t remember he’d commented that he’d noticed what I was doing but I was clearly learning the material so he was okay with it.

            Then I hit “waves and vibrations in physics” and nearly came to a screeching halt. But, thanks to a great professor, who helped me get through it (he also pointed out that I was coming in with bare mimimum prerequisites while the others I was judging myself against were farther along in their own studies and included a couple of grad students). It wasn’t really until I started taking grad classes myself that I really got into the groove of actually studying.

            • “I was that kid in high school.”

              So was I. Was NOT the valedictorian cited. Only took one term to slap me against the head. Grades dropped to B’s and C’s, with one D (botany, next term botany got a B). I paid attention in class. But I tried to write down everything … I studied … but never having learned to study I didn’t study smartly. Never asked for help. My first degree? Average was 2.33. By the time my second degree was completed? My average is about 3.2 … do you know what my grades had to be to bring an average of 2.33 for 210 hours to a 3.4 average over 320 hours, in Computer Science? Yes, age/maturity had something to do with it. Working while going to school sure didn’t (actually worked more second time around). Learning to listen & study, smart. Learning to ASK for help.

      • The real geniuses are too weird and don’t fit in right.

        It can also be complicated. Up through Junior High (school I attended at the time had a 6-2-4 pattern, 6 years grade school, 2 junior high, four high school) I was in “remedial math.” I actually repeated second grade based on failing grades in English and Math. My mother attributed that to the bitch of a teacher, Mrs. Fairchild (yes, I still remember after all these years) getting into a pissing contest with her about my sartorial choices (I simply refused to wear belts). OTOH, there may have been some justice on the teacher’s part, however much of a bitch she was. I came to find out many years later that I had a perceptual problem. I’d sometimes reverse letters and numbers. In English the simple addiction to the printed word (Thank you Norma and Ira Freeman, Dr. Suess, and the folk writing as Victor Appleton II, and the never to be sufficiently blessed World Book Encyclopedia and Book of Facts and Childcraft collection from the mid-60’s) forced me to bull through and develop coping strategies without being aware of it. Math was a different ballgame. As we got into more symbolic and idea based math and less pure numbers crunching, my grades shot up.

        And, well, I may not be the smartest guy around but I’m a long way from stupid, not that you could have proved it by my grade school and Junior High performance.

      • I think part of that is the fruit of the destruction of formal manners. When there are rules, there’s a way to tell “strange, unpredictable” from “strange, but I can predict the really important stuff.”

        This is based in part on how, when I was a kid, interacting with folks my age was hit or miss– mostly miss. Interacting with adults was almost entirely successful, once I accepted some basic manners-guidance. (and even then they tended to be accepting of my occasionally getting over-excited, because kid)

        Now that I’m an adult… folks my own age are still hit or miss, although it’s more 50/50.
        The folks of the age of the adults that I had no really problems interacting with are still mostly fine.

        The manners are much more regional/local in the younger folks, it seems like.

  36. Look, there might be, somewhere, someone who is good at everything and isn’t a neurotic mess, but I haven’t actually met him or her.

    I take it you never met Obama…I mean…Saint Obama?

  37. As always, define your terms. What is your definition of “smart”?

    In my world, it means innate ability and has nothing to do with obscure letters and symbols after one’s name or other externals.

    It is similar to artistic, musical, athletic, etc. ability and other “gifts” which can only be learned up to a basic level.

  38. Reformed Trombonist

    We Reformed Presbyterian types are familiar with the writings of the late Francis Schaeffer, a philosopher and theologian.

    His perspective was that philosophers took a wrong turn during the so-called Age of Enlightenment. They believed they could justify the existence of an authoritative moral code without the necessity of God, and they believed they could use Reason to get us there.

    Lord knows they tried. Even the great David Hume sputtered that morality appears to be objective but concluded it could not be; still, he was grateful for the illusion.

    Schaeffer concluded that they failed. Nietsche and the postmodernists are what remained after their failure. Something is good, life has a purpose, if you believe in it.

    Authoritative morals require something that must transcend man and his multiple forms of wickedness. If they do not transcend man, they are not authoritative. If morals are not authoritative, let’s quit kidding ourselves by pretending they are anything more than subjective preferences. If morals are not objective, life is not a morality play at all, but just a wildlife documentary. Scorpion mothers protect their young for the first week or so of their lives, but after a week, she will eat any stragglers that are still hanging around the nest. Chimps groom each other, and they eat each other. We’re looking at animal behavior — nothing more, nothing less. If nothing transcends us, that’s who we are, too. When David Attenborough drolly announces the killing of the peacock spider by his murderous mate, he doesn’t say she’s evil. Evil isn’t even a player. It just what spiders do.

    Without transcendent morality, war, killing fields, genocide, mayhem are just what we do.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      Question: Do non-reformed Presbyterians read that guy? Or is this reformed in the exact same sense as Dutch Reformed? That specific flavor of strong Calvinist influence?

      • Reformed Trombonist

        Just based on what I’ve read, I don’t think his stuff would be very much appreciated by mainstream Presbyterians, but that’s just a guess. I know Catholics don’t think much of him, and to be honest, I can’t blame them. Schaeffer seems to have a burr up his butt about Catholics — that’s a very old-school Reformed trademark.

        I think Schaeffer was onto something, though, about the direction philosophy took, and why. He believed the arts were downstream from philosophy, and it took them a while to become as nihilistic, but they did in fact follow.

    • My 2 cents worth: IMHO it is possible to come up with an authoritative morality system without God — but it’s not easy, and you need a genuinely comprehensive understanding of human evolutionary history to do it. A short and simple statement of same might be “that which is in tune with our evolutionary history as tribal apes is moral; that which isn’t, isn’t.”

      Most human societies figure this out pretty quick, which is why most human legal codes and ethical/moral codes tend to be similar. There are differences from place to place and culture to culture, sometimes pretty big ones (human sacrifice is about the biggest I can think of), but on the whole most human societies end up with recognizably similar legal/moral systems.

      • Reformed Trombonist

        > IMHO it is possible to come up with an authoritative morality system without God

        Respectfully, I don’t see how. I get how morality could have evolved. It’s easy, given the Darwinist narrative, to explain how adopting a moral code could have been an extension of higher ape behavior and enhanced the “survivability” of our species.

        But what such a grounding for morality misses is precisely the authoritative part. The question comes down to this: if what is good for humanity is not good for me, why should I do good?

        We revere the guys who died horribly on the beaches of Normandy. But if there is no God in Heaven, if we’re all here for a few short years and then oblivion awaits, give me one good reason why you would rather be the dead guy on the beach than back in Columbus, Ohio, having sex with his gorgeous girl friend (who you wouldn’t have had a chance of scoring if the men were home instead of fighting Nazis)?

        Let’s say I have a chance of getting into med school and making terrific living for the rest of my days. But I’m on cusp — not a shoo-in, intellectually, and maybe just slightly less dedicated to studying than your typical applicant. Question: why should I not cheat, if the opportunity presents itself? If I don’t cheat, arguably, that’s better for the human race, but it’s certainly not better for me. Without transcendent morality, the only thing I have to worry about is, don’t get caught.

        Even David Hume, hardly a Christian, recognized you can’t get an ought from an is. Evolution can tell you the ‘is’. It can’t give you the ‘ought’. The best it can do is say, “Hey you! You’re really disappointing the rest of us!”

        The proper response to which is, “So? You have no moral authority over me. Who died and made you God? I thought God didn’t exist.”

        It’s different when the One who made you expresses disappointment. To start with, there are consequences.

        • ” The question comes down to this: if what is good for humanity is not good for me, why should I do good?”

          Because you have kids. And other relatives, and even friends, who will benefit from your actions. What is good for the Tribe as a whole is good for its members, even the ones who are injured or killed serving the Tribe. The desire to serve and protect the Tribe, even at the expense of some of its members, is an unbelievably powerful motivator. As someone (Jerry Pournelle?) once said, a rational army would run away. Soldiers don’t storm the Normandy beaches or charge up Little Round Top or stand to the Birken’ead Drill because it’s rational, or smart. Soldiers do those things because they honestly believe that their Tribe will benefit from it, even if they themselves don’t.

          “To start with, there are consequences.”

          There are consequences when the Tribe is betrayed, too. A Tribe whose members don’t care about preserving it won’t survive. Neither will its members.

          • That may be true, but that does not make it an “authoritative” morality. One can get away with ignoring it.

          • Reformed Trombonist

            > Because you have kids.

            And if I don’t?

            > And other relatives, and even friends, who will benefit from your actions.

            And what if I’m a psychopath? Talk me out of it without invoking some transcendent moral code.

            > What is good for the Tribe as a whole is good for its members

            No, that’s not absolutely try. It might be generally true.

            > The desire to serve and protect the Tribe, even at the expense of some of its members, is an unbelievably powerful motivator.

            But what if I can see the through all that? It’s a mirage. The Good doesn’t exist, there’s only some people trying to talk me into doing things that are bad for me, but serving some common good. I have the decoder ring. I see reality. Why should I give up my understanding of what I ought to do for yours?

            > As someone (Jerry Pournelle?) once said, a rational army would run away.

            That’s what I’m saying. Without a higher good, there’s no reason to stay and fight.

            > Soldiers don’t storm the Normandy beaches or charge up Little Round Top or stand to the Birken’ead Drill because it’s rational, or smart.

            Yep.

            > Soldiers do those things because they honestly believe that their Tribe will benefit from it, even if they themselves don’t.

            They drank the Kool-aid, in other words. Why should I?

            > There are consequences when the Tribe is betrayed, too.

            You can fool your tribe easier than you can fool God.

            > A Tribe whose members don’t care about preserving it won’t survive.

            Where is it written that the tribe should survive?

            • The answer to most of your “what ifs” amount to you being the threat to the tribe that needs to be removed and the tribe will very likely act to remove you.

              If you have at least enough self-preservation to want to not be removed you will, then, at least simulate following the bulk of “good for the tribe” rules in your own self interest.

        • The question comes down to this: if what is good for humanity is not good for me, why should I do good?

          One reason is that people are creatures of habit and, it being for the good of society, people will tend to be socialized from their youth not to do things like that. “If you train up a child in the way he should go…”

          A further factor, since it is good for humanity, people will enforce it. Al Capone is famously supposed to have said “You can get more with a kind word and a gun than with a kind word.” And what did he “get” with that philosophy? Imprisoned at 33, and dead at 48. People point at aged crime bosses rolling in wealth as evidence that crime does pay, but that’s a case of survivorship bias. For every one of those, how many ended up dead in a gutter or serving long prison sentences? Most crimes may be unsolved but most criminals (since they commit multiple crimes) are eventually caught.

          A related question to the one quoted is “if, in the absence of God or some higher power, you can do X with absolute certainty of not getting caught, then why not do it?” With X being some “wrong act” I could do to my own advantage

          Why not? Well, first off, how certain can I really be? I am far from omniscient and cannot know all ways in which someone might discover what I’ve done. Second, since not doing those things is good for society I have been socialized to not do them. The very idea is distasteful to me and so I stay well away from them. The third is that I _personally_ benefit from society working better and doing X reduces the functioning of society and I then have to wonder if the short term gain is worth the longer term loss from the reduced function of society. The fourth (and this one requires deeper thought) is that I recognize that people are creatures of habit. If I rationalize doing X once, I’ll be more likely to my rationalize doing it again with someone less certainty of being able to get away with it. Continue on that path and sooner or later I’ll be wrong about “not getting caught.”

          “When you choose the very first step on the road, you also choose the last. So if you don’t like the end of the road, you know you’d better back up fast.”

          • Reformed Trombonist

            >> The question comes down to this: if what is good for humanity is not good for me, why should I do good?

            > One reason is that people are creatures of habit and, it being for the good of society, people will tend to be socialized from their youth not to do things like that. “If you train up a child in the way he should go…”

            I don’t think that answers my question. It can possibly explain why I do good, but doesn’t address why I should.

            > And what did [Capone] “get” with that philosophy? Imprisoned at 33, and dead at 48.

            Josef Stalin lived to be 74 and for the last few decades of his life, his whim was the Soviet Union’s command, and died in bed. Mao lived to be 82 and while he was alive had his choice of China’s prettiest girls. By the world’s standards, they won, and they won by being evil. Still, even they have defenders.

            But Jesus asks, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul?”

            > …since not doing those things is good for society I have been socialized to not do them. The very idea is distasteful to me and so I stay well away from them.

            But all you’re saying is you’re too inhibited. A lot of sociopaths and psychopaths don’t have that problem. Okay, so they risk getting caught. But what if they get what they want and pay no price? The question is, why shouldn’t they?

            I’m not saying that people who don’t believe in a higher morality, i.e., God, cannot be moral. Of course than can. I’m asking what makes that a rational way to live one’s life?

            It follows logically that, if a morally retributive God does not exist, then it is probably more rational to be a sociopath than to follow societal norms or notions of morality in every case. If one is going to play that game, however, he needs to be clever.

            • It can possibly explain why I do good, but doesn’t address why I should.

              Actually, that was addressed. You just don’t like the answer or are using a circular definition of “should.”

              Josef Stalin lived to be 74 and for the last few decades of his life, his whim was the Soviet Union’s command, and died in bed.

              That was also addressed. Survivorship bias. Some few (relatively speaking) “get away with it”. But you don’t know you’re going to be that person in advance of the decisions to behave that way. The “Expectation value” going in is low.

              But Jesus asks, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul?”

              Not that’s an unmoving argument since I don’t believe in your Jesus. Indeed, it only approaches a valid argument to those who already believe.

              A lot of sociopaths and psychopaths don’t have that problem.

              Addressed: they then become the threat that needs to be removed.

              But what if they get what they want and pay no price?

              Addressed. Survivorship bias. One does not have the knowledge of that outcome in advance of the actions.

              however, he needs to be clever

              Addressed. He needs to be right every. single. time. “Society” or “the tribe” needs to be right in “catching” him only once.

              How in the world is the belief that one will always be right, that one will always be able to “get away with” actions that are harmful to ones tribe (however so defined) every time and never get caught and punished? Some might have managed it but you don’t have the absolute foreknowledge. You only have what you know at the moment.

              Assuming in advance that you’ll never get caught isn’t “rational”. It’s hubris.

              • Addressed. He needs to be right every. single. time. “Society” or “the tribe” needs to be right in “catching” him only once.

                Of course, “Society” only has to be wrong about catching someone ONCE, in a way that their nose is rubbed in it, to weaken that mechanism.

                Which points at the most popular way to get “Society” to do bad, stupid, wrong things in line with a bad person– find or create a threat.

              • Actually, that was addressed. You just don’t like the answer or are using a circular definition of “should.”

                No. You said it was because it was a habit. But there have been lots of habits. Murdering the neighboring tribe because you want their land is a habit a lot of tribes did. Does that make it moral?

                • You said it was because it was a habit.

                  That’s not quite what I said. The “habit” comment was addressing the specific question of why an individual should follow the rules of society rather than what those rules should be.

                  Once “rules” that work, that make for a more functional society, start to be applied people get socialized from an early age into those rules. This tends to make those rules habitual whether the individual has fully studied the ramifications of those rules or not. Commutation does not apply to that, however, that functional societal rules tend to be applied to individuals until they become to an extent habitual does not mean that all habits that individuals, or even societies, have are functional societal rules.

                  It’s whether they make for a more functional society, that improves the wellbeing of its people both individually and as a whole, that determines “moral”. I suspect most people who define moral simply as “what God says” recognize that basic principle–God, one presumes, doesn’t give rules to make people miserable. He’s not a sadist. The rules are there to guide us toward making a functional, happy society and to promote the well-being of its members.

                  I simply propose that you can use the well-being of society and its members themselves as the touchstone. Do whatever rules applied work toward that end.

                  Did societies function without understanding, or even using those rules, even going so far as to break a lot of them as we would understand them today? Of course, just like people built boats and ships without understanding fluid mechanics, kinematics, strength of materials, corrosion processes, and a whole host of other fields. They lashed together something that worked, more or less–if not necessarily as well as one built by someone who did understand the underlying physics. Likewise with “societal rules.” Were all what we (or I) would call “moral”? Of course not. But to the extent that they were not that also, by no coincidence, was the extent that they didn’t work as well as they might. This did not mean they could not be successful in their time and place. Athens did not need to understand modern naval engineering to rule the seas in her day. She just needed to be better at that than those around her. And sometimes, you don’t even need to be better if you’re big enough compared to the “better” guy. A canoe, no matter how perfectly designed, would be crushed by a trireme.

                  Thus, that societies existed, survived, and even thrived with their own rules that we would not consider “moral” does not invalidate the principal any more than Aristotle’s views on how motion worked invalidates classical, let alone modern, physics. It just means that it was “good enough” to keep them afloat then-there, in the absence of more accumulated knowledge and understanding.

                  • Reformed Trombonist

                    > Actually, that was addressed. You just don’t like the answer or are using a circular definition of “should.”

                    No, you didn’t, actually. All you told of was why I happen to obey “the rules”, at least when others are looking. The effect on “my kids.” The opprobrium of “society.” Those are consequences of breaking the rules, perhaps, but they say nothing about why I ought to follow them. Maybe all it says is I have to work harder to not get caught.

                    > I simply propose that you can use the well-being of society and its members themselves as the touchstone. Do whatever rules applied work toward that end.

                    Is “the good” objective or subjective? Is it transcendent or personal at a human level? Both questions are important, but it’s hard to see how subjective and transcendent could both be answers.

                    But “the rules” themselves do not define morals. Most people will go along with the rules most of the time and not give it a thought. There is no moral testing until someone wants to do something that is against the rules.

                    At this point, the individual may decide that what’s good for society isn’t good for him.

                    He wants to knock up the neighbors wife, spread his seed without thought of consequences. He wants to cheat on tests to get into med school. He wants to lie to someone about the car he wishes to sell. He finds himself strangely attracted to preteens — or teens, for that matter. He wants to lie to the IRS. He wants to dodge the draft by lying about his sexuality (that used to be a thing. He wants to catch fish beyond the state-subscribed limit. He wants to incarcerate someone he knows is innocent because it will help his career. He wants to go to court in a neck brace even though he feels fine because he wants the insurance money. He wants to kill a hobo just for the thrill of watching his life ebb away.

                    There’s a million other ways that people come up with where they do not generally want society to be served, but themselves.

                    The problem of morality is not solved by simply announcing we have rules. At that point we haven’t even started talking about morality.

                    We talk about morality when we touch on why we should follow those rules even when they run counter to what we want. “Should” and “ought to” are the important words, and invoking “society” is mere handwaving.

                    Otherwise, we’re not talking about morals, but just preferences. And if we’re talking about preferences, my preferences are that everyone else must follow the rules.

                    • Maybe all it says is I have to work harder to not get caught.

                      Prisons are full of people with that idea. Hubris is not rational. You see, you have to be right every. single. time. Society only has to be right, or even lucky once. Even though most crimes go unsolved, most criminals end up caught.

                      Are there some who end up not getting caught? Yes. However looking at those cases, and deciding that if you do something now, you’ll be one of them is arguing in advance of data. It’s a gamble at best. And all the ones who were caught were also “working harder to not get caught” and thought they would be among those who got away with it. They were wrong.

                      These “if you know you can do it without being caught, then why not…” start from a false presumption. Going in to any action you might take you don’t know that you can never be caught. You can’t know. You don’t have unlimited knowledge of all possibilities of how it might be uncovered. You might have high confidence but you don’t know. Assuming you do know, with perfect knowledge, is not rational. Being unwilling to consider the possibility that you too might be wrong is not rational. Assuming unlimited knowledge on your own part is not rational.

                      “I just won’t get caught” is not a rational position. Maybe you’ll find the odds worth the gamble but how is that different from “I’ll just repent and it will all be good”–gambling on their ability to avoid consequences for their actions?

                      We talk about morality when we touch on why we should follow those rules even when they run counter to what we want.

                      That’s nice sophistry but it does not actually answer anything. If, for instance, one invokes “God” as the “why”, one is simply taking the exact same argument about society’s rules and writing it large. It’s the ultimate “might makes right” argument. One does these things because one wants to avoid punishment.

                      Consider: If “God” were to say (and, yes, this is exaggerated for purposes of illustration–but considering some of the stuff reported in the Old Testament, not that much of one) “blue eyes are an abomination unto me, go, though and slaughter with great slaughter all unto the smallest babe, who bears this evil mark” that would be “moral” correct? God said it, therefore it is.

                      There are basically two responses to that: One is “Yep, that would be fine.” In which case, we’re done. The person saying that would do anything so long as they can be convinced that God wants it. A little bit of knowledge of history can see where that leads.

                      The other is “God would never say that.” But why can one say that God would never say that? On what basis? It can’t be “It would be wrong” if one is using “what God says” as a touchstone of morality. The claim that “God would never say that because it would be wrong” requires some concept of morality independent of just “what God says”. And if you have such a concept, then you should be able to explicated it on its own bases and merits without the need to appeal to “what God says.”

                      And, at this point, anything more would just be going round and round, repeating ourselves to no purpose so I’m done here.

                    • Reformed Trombonist

                      > Prisons are full of people with that idea. Hubris is not rational. You see, you have to be right every. single. time.

                      What I’m saying is that if the only reason to be good is to avoid punishment, then maybe the rules aren’t ‘good’ in any moral sense.

                      > Hubris is not rational.

                      That’s a questionable proposition to begin with, but we’re talking morals, not rationality. What if hubris feels good? It certainly seems like it must, given its popularity. Is it irrational to want to feel good? If so, why? What if rationality makes someone miserable? Why should someone choose to think rationally if doing so makes him unhappy?

                      I don’t think humans are rational animals; we are animals who are sometimes capable of rationality, which is different. That is, when we’re not celebrating animal lust or finding ways to justify cruelty.

                      > It’s a gamble at best.

                      So?

                      >> We talk about morality when we touch on why we should follow those rules even when they run counter to what we want.

                      > That’s nice sophistry…

                      And that’s a question-begging epithet.

                      > Consider: If “God” were to say (and, yes, this is exaggerated for purposes of illustration–but considering some of the stuff reported in the Old Testament, not that much of one) “blue eyes are an abomination unto me, go, though and slaughter with great slaughter all unto the smallest babe, who bears this evil mark” that would be “moral” correct? God said it, therefore it is.

                      When you start believing the rules themselves are the basis of morality, which is apparently what you think, you can make the mistake of believing that the rules are arbitrary, as you apparently do. But still they must be adhered to. Why? Harumph! Why!?? Because of consequences! Good for society, and all that!

                      Jesus summed up the entire Old Testament (“Moses and the prophets”) as follows: Love the Lord with all your heart, and your neighbor as yourself.

                      In other words, there’s a reason for the rules. The reasons are important; the rules are less so. The purpose of the rules is to get us into the habit of loving our Father in Heaven and our neighbor.

                      Jesus isn’t asking us to follow the rules. He demands much more than that; He wants our very souls. He said, if you lust after a woman in your heart, you are still guilty of covetousness — and the implication is, even if you followed the rules.

                      Jesus said, if you call someone a fool, in your heart, it’s the same as wanting him dead.

                      Clearly, he wants more from us than mere rule-following.

  39. I have no clue where smart=good comes from.
    Because progressive religion is centered on the human mind being the ultimate arbiter – Reason is God for them.

    Therefore, if it’s “smart” it has to be good. It’s the exact same theology as “God is good, therefore what God does must – ultimately – be good,” except applied to human thought as “god”.

    This is a scary religious proposition, given that “smart” has not even been shown to be “wise” in many cases. And, given how many humans have – experientially – shown themselves to be not only !smart, but warped in their thinking, placing human reason as God is a terribly unwise thing to do.

    But, of course, smart people often don’t really understand just how !smart they are.

    • There is a direct human benefit from accepting the premise that “God is good, therefore what God does must – ultimately – be good” in that it allows people to accept random tragedy and move on with their lives.

      OTOH, imagining that “if it’s ‘smart’ it has to be good” is an invitation to tragedy, conflating two dissimilar elements to the detriment of both.

      I’ve already pasted an observation from Screwtape to this page, so there seems scant need for extension.

  40. Look, there might be, somewhere, someone who is good at everything and isn’t a neurotic mess, but I haven’t actually met him or her.
    I know ONE guy like this. ONE. He lived about 2,000 years ago………….

    • Sure, He was a capable winemaker, a good short-order cook and fair carpenter (granting that even though none of His work has been preserved) and popular public orator — but could He write code?

  41. That’s right up there with the “medical ethicist” Peter Singer being such a polite, scholarly fellow as he advocates for early death to people with disabilities.

    For my part, I was not voted smartest in my class, but most studious. It helped me get through a tough college but unfortunately made me a workaholic.

  42. Paul L. Quandt

    “yes, yes he could. And he was meticulous about backups. We know this, because “Jesus Saves!””

    Very good, Sarah.

    Thanks for the post.
    Paul L. Quandt

  43. I have no clue where smart=good comes from.

    Neither do I. I simply noticed that “smart” had become a modern catchall for a whole passel of poorly-considered virtues and forgot about it. But from whence this habit came – ? That’s interesting. Thanks.

    However…
    No ONE ELSE is qualified to tell an adult in full possession of his faculties how to live his private life and go about his private pursuits.

    A wise man is. Both my grandma and my God-mother, both wise, experienced (and in the former case both academically and practically learned, though the latter was very hard won) certainly could. My father was, and his father, in spades. They were virtuous, educated, experienced men, full of wisdom.

    To the extent that I paid them heed, I avoided perils and pitfalls. To the extent that I did not. I did not. Three guesses which best describes me.

    So….. Maybe the seeds of an answer. Any fool can be edumacated and chattering-class smart, if he pays his dues to the Powers that Be. Wisdom, on the other hand -?