Smart and Dumb

Lots of discussion of late about smart and dumb – mostly Progs and Never Trumpers saying they are smart while Trump and we Deplorables are dumb. Let’s examine that a bit.

Real genius is rare. So rare, in fact, that it hardly ever shows up. Plenty of people are given the title these days, but that is merely a reflection of our Participation Trophy society. For instance, various pop stars have been called geniuses…which is absurd when you compare them to Mozart, who really was a genius (he started composing at five years old, guys). Now, this isn’t to say that some people aren’t very talented – many are. Some of them even approach genius…but genius has this thing about it: it isn’t bound by what has come before. That is the mark of it – when you see someone striking off in a new direction that no one suspected was there before, there’s your genius.

You can’t force genius to be – it seems to be innate in some people. They just have a mental ability (probably a combination of genetics and environment) which simply moved their mind into a new groove which we non-geniuses can’t see (but the most perceptive of us can perceive..and thus allow genius to go its way, only occasionally tapping on the breaks so the genius, in exuberance, doesn’t drive us mere mortals off a cliff). This doesn’t stop people from trying – “gifted” courses in school are a symptom of this; a genius doesn’t need a gifted course. The genius is going to go someplace new long before you even know where he’s going. Quite often, a genius is going to be a flop in school, as it turns out…not for lack of understanding, but because they understand it too well almost intuitively and are bored with it and want to move on to whatever it is that is interesting them.

How many geniuses have we had? Well, in Western Civilization (which I am most familiar with) I count maybe seven or eight in the last 300 years. Mozart, already mentioned…but also MacArthur, Einstein, Lincoln, Bismarck, Napoleon, Churchill, Van Gogh…maybe a few others. And it is a debatable subject. One man’s genius might be another man’s merely talented person. You’ll note that I didn’t include Edison…because I view him as a product of his time who took a systematic view of how to get things done; but there wasn’t a lot of “flash of genius” in his work…just a lot of hard work and persistence (which is invaluable, by the way). The bottom line is that even if you add a few more to my list (and take a few away from it), you’re not talking a lot of people. Three political geniuses in 300 years: Bismarck, Churchill and Lincoln (all three charted a course no one could see; all three were despised not merely by their opponents, but by most of their allies, most of the time). And keep in mind that Bismarck, for all his genius, was the ruin of a civilization. We’re on our 45th President, and we’ve only had one genius (as an aside, I think the only other President who might be considered a genius is Teddy Roosevelt…nearly as much of a disaster as Bismarck, but clearly a man of gigantic intellect and talent).

Most of us are not geniuses, of course. And even geniuses can be quite stupid at times. A story I once read said that Newton got himself a pet cat and cut a hole through his door so the cat could go in and out at will. In the fullness of time, this cat had three kittens. The great genius pondered this event and after profound reflection, cut three, smaller holes in the door. Most of us are average, or at least our intellect clusters around the human average (which is why its called the average). Some few are very stupid, and some equally few are very smart. We can’t rely on either supreme stupidity or supreme intelligence: it is too rare to take into account in our day to day actions. Most of the time, we just have to go forward as best we can and assume that everyone else is pretty much just like us – smart, but not that smart and thus capable of astonishing error.

The problem we have with our Progressives and Never Trumpers is that they really do believe that they are all extra smart. In the quiet of their hearts, they probably (most of them) account themselves geniuses. They assume their superior intellect and thus expect us to obey – after all, if we were smart like they are, we’d be just like them. It is nonsense – most of them are no smarter than any of us. It is almost certain that none of them are geniuses, just as it is almost certain that none of us are. That there might be a genius on their side (just as there might be one on ours) is a chance so small as to not be worth considering. And, main thing, if there is a genius, then that person (whatever side he or she might be on) is likely despised by everyone else…that is another problem geniuses have; being so intelligent and able to see things that others can’t, most people mistrust them and think they are doing something wrong (as in morally wrong). And if there is a genius on either side, that person is going to take (drag, really) there side in a direction they never wanted to go and award them astonishing victory they kicked furiously against.

Last thing on this: another thing about genius is you can’t always tell its there until after it has completed it’s task. So many people are carping and complaining, and public doubts are so stirred up, that the sheer brilliance of the course isn’t recognized until the destination is reached and everyone starts going, “wow; this is cool!” after the fact.

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13 thoughts on “Smart and Dumb

  1. Retired Spook June 4, 2018 / 8:47 am

    This is not a topic I’ve ever given much thought to. I’m a little surprised that Alan Turing and Stephen Hawking weren’t on your list. What surprises me even more is the average IQ score by country. I remember taking an IQ test in elementary school. IIRC, I scored in the mid 120’s, which I was told was about average. Either we’ve gotten a lot less intelligent in the last 60 years, or I’m a lot smarter than I thought I was, and I don’t consider myself particularly smart, so it must be the latter. Maybe it’s the Fluoride in the water.

    • M. Noonan June 4, 2018 / 4:14 pm

      It is all debatable – but I don’t see either men really blazing a new path; brilliantly following a path that others had charted, but still following a path. That, too me, is the thing which separates being very smart from being a genius; the ability to take the existing data and do something no one expected with it. It is why I rate the baleful Bismarck a genius. Lies, threats, blandishments, brute force – all of these had long history in government policy, especially foreign policy. Bismarck realized that if you really applied them without remorse, and with no warning about which one was coming, you could get people to do what they didn’t want to do in service of a goal they directly opposed. The man even eventually learned to use candor to blindside people…telling them precisely what he was going to do and how he’d do it, sure in the knowledge that his listener would think him mad, and thus make no preparations for the event, or make the wrong preparations.

      MacArthur’s genius was also manifest early on – as a Brigade commander in WWI. Everyone was slogging along having a hard time reaching objectives: MacArthur didn’t have that problem. Working with the same material as everyone else and fighting the same enemy, he always got where we wanted to go. His secret, in hindsight, doesn’t seem like much, but no one else in command saw it: thoroughly prepare before you go, leave the routine activities to subordinates when the balloon goes up, and get up front, yourself, where your rank allows you to force immediate adjustments to the plan as situations change. He just did that, writ much larger, in WWII…and advanced against a determined, well-equipped enemy rapidly and with low casualties compared to any other theater commander. Once again, blazing a new path.

    • Amazona June 4, 2018 / 11:07 pm

      The UK is ahead of the US? That must be a very old test.

      I was in an advanced placement test in high school and we all took a standardized IQ test. The teacher didn’t give us our scores, but said the lowest was 126. My husband took a test when he was 50 and scored 148.

  2. Cluster June 4, 2018 / 8:50 am

    No question the left believes they are much smarter than the rest of the proletariat and MSNBC’s Morning Joe promotes this line of thinking every day. However self awareness is not a strong character trait amongst the left either, so their self perceived intellectual superiority is only a delusion. Much like their chances for electoral wins in 2020. Smart people know the first rule of holes, and the progressives on MSNBC have yet to learn that all important rule as they continue to drone on and on about the RUSSIANS!

    Genius status is a rare commodity indeed and I have always thought of Leonardo de Vinci as probably the person throughout all of history who probably was closest to that level. I am not sure I would consider Teddy Roosevelt or Churchill as genius’s – I think they were people who were perfectly suited for their time – Lincoln on the other hand was a visionary. In current history – I would consider Steve Jobs and Elon Musk as two gentleman who may approach genius status.

  3. Retired Spook June 4, 2018 / 9:15 am

    You want to talk about dumb — Glenn Beck is talking about Venezuela and how California seems to be following in the same footsteps. He made the statement that over 10,000 COMPANIES have left California since 2008. How dumb do the people (and I use that term loosely) who govern (and I use that term loosely as well) California have to be to create an economic situation where that number of companies decides to leave over the course of a decade? On top of that, people are leaving California faster than any other state except New York, and yet the population of California is growing. Let that sink in for a second.

  4. Retired Spook June 4, 2018 / 10:51 am

    Speaking of surprises. Color me shocked that NPR refers to a 7-2 decision as “narrow.”

    In a case brought by a Colorado baker, the court ruled by a 7-2 vote that he did not get a fair hearing on his complaint because the Colorado Civil Rights Commission demonstrated a hostility to religion in its treatment of his case.

    Writing for the case, Justice Anthony Kennedy said that while it is unexceptional that Colorado law “can protect gay persons in acquiring products and services on the same terms and conditions that are offered to other members of the public, the law must be applied in a manner that is neutral toward religion.”

    He said that while in this case the Colorado baker, Jack Phillips, understandably had difficulty in knowing where to draw the line, because the state law at the time affording store keepers some latitude to decline to create specific messages they considered offensive. Kennedy pointed to the Colorado commission’s decision allowing a different baker to refuse to put an anti-gay message on a cake.

    • Retired Spook June 4, 2018 / 1:02 pm

      OK, from what I’ve heard on the news, the description of the decision as “narrow” refers to the scope of the decision, not the margin.

      • M. Noonan June 4, 2018 / 3:57 pm

        It was a narrow decision…and I think that was the only way Kennedy would have come along; he’s protecting his specious reasoning in the Obergefell decision. Once he’s off the Court, I think we’ll get some different decisions in this area. On First Amendment, alone, all laws requiring anyone to go against conscience are a violation of Free Exercise.

  5. jdge1 June 4, 2018 / 10:21 pm

    Kennedy leaving the court can’t happen fast enough.

    • Amazona June 4, 2018 / 11:00 pm

      Compared to Sotomayor and RBG, Kennedy ain’t half bad. He’s barely half good, but still an improvement over those other two. Making the oath of office binding should include the members of the SCOTUS. No, it should START with the SCOTUS.

      • Amazona June 5, 2018 / 12:12 am

        A little more on the dingbat element, Ginsberg. I saw a quote of hers that referred to the refusal of the baker to “sell” a cake, which was never the issue.


        “When a couple contacts a bakery for a wedding cake, the product they are seeking is a cake celebrating their wedding ― not a cake celebrating heterosexual weddings or same-sex weddings ― and that is the service [the couple] were denied,” Ginsburg wrote in her dissent.

        Phillips would not sell to Craig and Mullins, for no reason other than their sexual orientation.”

        First, the matter of what kinds of products Phillips would happily sell to homosexuals was outlined in an actual brief filed with the Court. One might assume that she had read this, so one can also assume she either didn’t remember it or just dismissed it because it didn’t fit her narrative.

        “….. in a Supreme Court brief filed in July 2016 [PDF], the shop owner’s lawyers claim that he’s more than happy to create “other items for gay and lesbian clients,” but that his faith requires him to “use his artistic talents to promote only messages that align with his religious beliefs.”

        So he would have made a custom birthday cake, for example, because having a birthday is not a violation of Phillips’ religious beliefs. Ginsberg is either ignorant of the concept that creating a special cake for an occasion is participating in that occasion, or she just doesn’t care about the facts.

        She is well past her sell-by date.

      • M. Noonan June 5, 2018 / 1:17 am

        Yep. It’s amazing the sophistry these guys use to dress up their opinions as based on law. It has been going on for a long time, though – the original bit of judicial sophistry in America being Dred Scott. But it has only been since the 50’s that is has really gotten absurd. But I’ve long held that the cure for this is written right into the Constitution:

        In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party, the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction. In all the other Cases before mentioned, the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.

        Article III, Section 2, paragraph 2.

        Paragraph one pretty much lists every kind of case which can exist and says that the judicial power extends to it – which is completely sensible. But, still, the Founders did say that Congress can regulate when and how – and even if – a particular sort of case can be appealed to the federal judiciary. There are other things in there which pretty much require Congress to let the federal judiciary to have a say (such as the assertions that the Constitution is the paramount law of the land and that all States are to be guaranteed a republican form of government). But I think Congress could require an actual loss of life, liberty or property to have occurred prior to an appeal to the federal courts – in this cake case, there was no loss of any such thing. No lives were lost; no person lost their ability to actually obtain a cake; certainly the plaintiffs lost no property. Such a regulation would never affect a convicted person from appealing to the federal courts because any person convicted has by nature lost liberty, and probably property as well..and in capital cases, there is clearly the actuality or the prospect of loss of life. But I think such a regulation would save us all a lot of trouble – some group bringing suit to say that Law X is bad because they say it degrades the environment would first have to answer, “which of you, personally, have lost life, liberty or property because this law is in effect?”. If no one can bring such a fact to the court, it would be dismissed and whatever the State decision was would stand. Anyways, it is certainly something to think about. The Founders never intended that the Justices would become the supreme law-making body of the United States. Another thing I’d do is amend the Constitution to make appointments to the Court limited to a specific term, and perhaps not allow a President to appoint more than two Justices over his or her term of office (there’s no Constitutional requirement for nine justices; there could be 1 or 100, depending on how Congress wants to set it up…there is only a requirement that there be a Supreme Court). One way or the other, the Court has to be reigned in.

      • Amazona June 5, 2018 / 3:51 pm

        That same day, these guys could have bought any cake off the shelf. That same day, they could have ordered a birthday cake, a good-bye party cake, a kitty cat cake for their dog. The one thing they could not do was order a cake that required the baker to become a participant in their wedding. And that is not only the real point of the whole case and the whole ruling, it is what Ginsberg completely failed to understand. If she can’t get that, she is incapable of understanding any truly complex aspect of the law.

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