Half of the human race, it is to be presumed, is below average in intelligence. And that 50th-percentile bar isn’t all that darned high:

I just can’t believe how stupid people seem to be, how willing they are to be conned, how resistant to reason and rationality, how ready they are to deny the nose on their face and ignore the evidence of their lying eyes.

It’s always seemed to me that we’re born that way, and some manage to learn their way out of it. (“Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.” — Will Rogers) My concern is that Darwin isn’t getting his due. Used to be, if you were mind-bogglingly dumb, you perished quickly, and that was that. Nowadays it’s a prerequisite for political office: voters, we are told, want “someone like them” at the helm, and to the horror of the rest of us, they quite often get their wish. (“Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.” — H. L. Mencken)

Which is not to say I’ve never done anything dumb. (If you’ve read this stuff for more than ten minutes, you know better.) But I do try to learn from my mistakes. Sometimes I even succeed.



  1. Teresa »

    3 May 2012 · 8:50 pm

    I’m feeling a bit on the dumbth side today. Of course most people seem to thing I am that anyway so why go against the tide. heh.

  2. Francis W. Porretto »

    4 May 2012 · 4:39 am

    Used to be, if you were mind-bogglingly dumb, you perished quickly, and that was that.

    That’s the downside of fellow-feeling.

    If there were a way to distinguish with perfect certainty between mulish ignorance and irremediable stupidity, I’d move that the latter be grounds for involuntary sterilization. (The former, after all, can be ameliorated with enough blunt force trauma to the back of the head.) But then, everyone knows what a horrible person I am.

  3. fillyjonk »

    4 May 2012 · 7:38 am

    Also, there are people who are probably smart, probably have SOME common sense….but they’re permitted to act dumb and get away with it. Makes me CRAZY.

    Sometimes I feel like warning labels (e.g., “Do not drive car with sunshield in place”) are contributing to the problem. Someday my face is going to wind up stuck in Nicholas Cage “You DON’T say” rage-face mode, because of all the dumb in this world.

  4. McGehee »

    4 May 2012 · 10:28 am

    Francis, why distinguish? Mulish ignorance has the same effect as irremediable stupidity, and there’s still that whole nature/nurture argument going on. Why not satisfy both sides?

  5. Francis W. Porretto »

    4 May 2012 · 1:34 pm

    Ignorance can be cured, Kevin, at least in some cases. Granted that there should be some sort of time limit on it, though, and ruthlessly enforced, at that.

    I have in mind a “Repent, Harlequin! Said The Ticktockman” sort of scheme: if Smith uses up his mulish-ignorance quota, a nameless functionary in some deep sub-basement of an imposing federal building does something technologically sophisticated and unstoppable by us peones, and thereby converts the miscreant into a rug.

    (No, I don’t think there’d be much of a market for such rugs.)

  6. McGehee »

    4 May 2012 · 2:43 pm

    I was thinking along the lines of pour encourager les autres, actually, which argues for acting promptly and letting les autres figure out what they need to do to avoid the same fate.

    Stimulating them to such cogitation is, after all, the first step toward curing their ignorance.

  7. Tatyana »

    5 May 2012 · 8:12 am

    I went through the stage Bill and McCain talk about some half-a-year ago. Now I am resigned to witness the inevitable disaster and only try to remedy my own situation as much as I can (which is not that much). And try never believe in political friends again.

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