This week’s provocative question is based upon a quote by Bertrand Russell, the British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, writer, essayist, social critic, political activist, and Nobel laureate. Whew, that’s a lot of cred. Anyway, Russell, who died in 1970, suggested that…
“The fundamental cause of the trouble is that, in the modern world, the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubts.”
Do you concur with Mr. Russell’s perspective? Why or why not?
No. I think that a huge part of “the trouble” is that everyone is cocksure, both the stupid and the intelligent, however we are defining those terms.
And how are we defining them? High IQ, college degree, advanced degree, career success, relationship success, money, fame, power, political alignment, religious values? At what point do we dismiss a person as “stupid” or bestow upon him or her the label of intelligent? Your definition is likely to be different from mine and even if we agree on paper, we may still disagree about particular people. How many errors is someone allowed before they’re out of the intelligent group?
If we admire a person, and especially if we agree with them, we’re inclined to overlook their mistakes. I like Senator Harris, but she was wrong about supporting Jussie Smollett’s hoax story, so I’ll shrug that off. Senator Warren’s supporters don’t care that she lied about her heritage. AOC’s fans don’t care that she’s bad at math. Trump’s supporters routinely shrug off his lies and mistakes as non-events. It’s human nature.
Nowadays, many believe that people who support different political parties are necessarily of lesser intelligence. Trump supporters believe that liberals are stupid and vice versa. I understand that people make these blanket generalizations out of frustration and lack of understanding. I wish Trump would not be re-elected, but I know people who support him, and some are highly intelligent. I also know lots of super intelligent liberals and moderates.
It would be great if everyone could take a few steps back and try to see things from another viewpoint. Are you one of the cocksure people, or a bit more humble, ready to try to understand why others might believe differently? I’m an atheist, as I’ve said, but I can understand why people believe in God. Brilliant people have faith in a Supreme Being, so I’m not going to dismiss them as “stupid.” That would be very stupid indeed.
I think more people should be humble and full of doubts, whether they’re stupid, of average intelligence, or brilliant. No matter how high your IQ is or how many books you’ve read, how many people you’ve met and places you’ve visited, there’s always more to learn, even right here in River City.