March 22, 2013

"Human Stupidity Is Destroying the World"
"The bad misleading and abusing the dumb sums up large parts of human history quite well."
-- MM

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1. "Human Stupidity Is Destroying the World"
About ME/CFS

I keep having problems with my eyes, and therefore there was no Nederlog yesterday, and only a short one today.

Though briefly treated - for a longer one see e.g. Moriae Encomium, by Erasmus -
my theme is of universal human importance, as it explains so much in human history, for such reasons as my epigraph states.

1. "Human Stupidity Is Destroying the World"

The title of the section and of today's Nederlog is quoted, and is itself the title of a short piece by Mark Monford, that I found on Alternet:

It starts as follows:

Six percent of Americans believe in unicorns. Thirty-six percent believe in UFOs. A whopping 24 percent believe dinosaurs and man hung out together. Eighteen percent still believe the sun revolves around the Earth. Nearly 30 percent believe cloud computing involves… actual clouds. A shockingly sad 18 percent, to this very day, believe the president is a Muslim. Aren’t they cute? And Floridian?

Do you believe in angels? Forty-five percent of Americans do. In fact, roughly 48 percent – Republicans and Democrats alike – believe in some form of creationism.

I am not amazed. I quoted the folllowing 24 years ago in "I want to be read" (also a title that is a quotation):

"(..) let me amuse the reader by mentioning some results a Gallup investigation conducted in the U.S. in 1978 produced. According to it, 57% of all Americans believe in ufos, 54% in angels, 51% in ESP, 39% in devils, 37% in precognition, 29% in astrology, 24% in clairvoyance, and (only!) 11% in ghosts." (pag. 226 van R. Tuomela, "Science, Action, and Reality", D. Reidel Pub. Comp. 1985, ISBN 90-277-2098-3.)

So that's really from 35 years ago: the species of the stupid certainly has proudly and proliferously reproduced itself! 

Also, while I welcome Mark Monford's courage to raise the topic of stupidity and its social dangers, there are several things I don't agree with. This may not be his fault, and it may be because I have been educated in Holland and at the University of Amsterdam, but he certainly strikes me as very optimistic when he writes

In sum and all averaged out, it’s safe to say about 37 percent of Americans are just are not very bright. Or rather, quite shockingly dumb. Perhaps beyond reach. Perhaps beyond hope or redemption. Perhaps beyond caring about anything they have to say in the public sphere ever again. Sorry, Kansas.

Did you frown at that last paragraph? Was it a terribly elitist and unkind thing to say? Sort of. Probably. But I’m not sure it matters, because none of those people are reading this column right now, or any column for that matter, because reading anything even remotely complex or analytical is something only 42 percent of the population enjoy doing on a regular basis (..)

When I tried to raise and discuss these topics in the University of Amsterdam, after I was told the the average IQ of the students of that University in the year 1984 was 115, which 20 years earlier was not enough to enter or finish any of the preparatory schools of Dutch universities - see my "Mandarins with an IQ of 115", of nearly 25 years ago, since when there have been many more of precisely that kind  - the average opinion of the student, lecturers and professors was that I was "an elitairian", "something like a fascist", besides being "arrogant", and eventually I was thrown out of the university as "a terrorist" and "a fascist", because I did not believe that universities like the University of Amsterdam contributed much to civilization: See the following record of the speech that moved the Board of Dirctors of the University of Amsterdam and the directors of the faculty of philosophy to remove me "because of your publicly outspoken ideas", as if having uncommon ideas and values, politely brought forward also, is a crime in Holland:

Since then it seems that the average IQ of the students of the University of Amsterdam is still lower (about half of the population these days can get a university degree, so the average IQ can't be much higher than 100), and one should not be so stupid as to believe that these disqualifications of mine that I  cited were not meant.

Most students in the University of Amsterdam seem to have truly believed, as they also argued in the course of argueing with me, that I must be "a fascist" for insisting that intelligence is important, since in their opinion (also taught in Dutch high schools then) "intelligence is a choice" rather than a native gift: According to them a person chooses to be intelligent, or not - to think that one was born with it was to them "a fascist idea".

I asked, also in the 1980ies, also in the faculties of philosophy and of psychology (!) of the University of Amsterdam, between 20 and 30 such students who claimed that "intelligence is a choice, not a native gift" why they or their parents had not done what Newton or Einstein had done. Their answer? "Because we/they have other interests."

Some of these students now are university lecturers or professors, and I assume they still think so, though they probably will not say it as easily as they all did in the 1980ies, when it was very fashionable in the University of Amsterdam to publicly insist that "all men are of equal value" and that "intelligence is a choice not a native gift", for at the time one just "did not belong" if one did not agree.

Incidentally, one of my loudest and most outspoken opponents at the time - "you sound like a fascist!", upon my saying that "unfortunately, intelligence is mostly innate and cannot be taught" - was a young woman whose IQ was as wanting as her beauty. Since I am sometimes inclined to be somewhat of a diplomat, and since I did not want a screaming match with an evident nincompoop, I did not ask her whether feminine ugliness also is "a choice", precisely because I deplored that intellects of her quality did qualify for university entrance. [1]

In any case, my problem with the case Monford paints is that while I agree human stupidity is a major human problem, as it is the cause, backdrop and/or context of most human social, political, religious and economical major problems, that are not only or primarily caused by differences in values, ends, perspectives, experiences, religion or political allegiance, but tend to be caused by the average quality of the minds and characters that have them[2], is that it seems to me to be far more comprehensive than he thinks:

Oh right! The question: How to reach the not-very-bright hordes, when they simply refuse to be reached by logic, fact, or modern mode? How to communicate obvious and vital truths (conservation, global warming, public health, sexuality, basic nutrition, religion as parable/myth, the general awfulness of Mumford & Sons) the lack of understanding of which keep the country straggling and embarrassing, the laughingstock of the civilized world?

And who are these people, exactly? And are they all really in Kentucky and Florida and Mississippi? Are they all in the Tea Party? Is failing education to blame? A dumbed-down media? Reality TV? In the wealthiest and most egomaniacal superpower in the world, why is the chasm so wide?

As to the first quoted paragraph:

Actually, people like Nixon, Reagan, Clinton and Blair did know how to reach "the not-very-bright hordes", and the general answer is "by PR" - and I agree that it is a basic problem for civilization if the
"the not-very-bright hordes" are in fact "the silent majority" that does elect the crooked, the dishonest, the manipulative and the dedicated deceivers, who can do so by having access to many millions of dollars provided by the anonymous backers whose interests they will be serving when elected. As all is unfortunately the case since the 1980ies in both the US and Europe, at the latest.

As to the second paragraph:

It is not merely or indeed especially the 50% of the population that has an IQ below 100 that are a major social problem, for they can't help it either that they are born as one of the hoi polloi: I may be "elitarian" about intelligence and the absolute need and human and social importance of a truly good education for the truly intelligent, at least for the benefit of having and maintaining a high civilization, but I am not so sick as to blame those who are not born with the blessings of a fine mind, just as I do not blame women for not looking like top models: these are not matters one can choose, and to pretend one can is pig-ignorant and a quite sick scheme of blaming the victim. Besides, as history also teaches, the hoi polloi, whatever their shortcomings, will generally follow leaders who are not of their kind.

The major problem as I see it is the "failing education" that enabled a majority of people with IQs between 105 and 120 to become "intellectuals", to get "academic degrees", in Holland since the 1970ies or 1980ies at the latest, while in fact this current majority (!!) of the now quite misnamed "intelligentsia" has no real intellectual abilities, no real intellectual interests, and received the last 25 or 30 years no decent academic education either - but nevertheless they are now academically titled "intellectuals", which they became for reasons of personal greed rather than native intellectual ability of any kind. [3]

That is: The major problem is that almost all universities in Western Europe - Finland seems the only exception - and almost all universities in the US [4] have radically lowered both their entrance conditions and the standards and contents of what they teach, just as the schools that prepare for university have
radically lowered both their entrance conditions and the standards and contents of what they teach.

The result is a class of persons who are nominally and in terms of academic  degrees "intellectuals", and who are presently the vast majority of those who have academic degrees, and who are therefore the men and women who have access to the best paying and most responsible and important jobs and positions in society - but who are quite ignorant and incompetent compared to the academics of the generation of their grandparents. [3]

Moreover, the vast majority of these quasi-intellectuals with an IQ somewhere in the vicinity of 115, but who nevertheless are the - postmodern - clinical psychologists, professors of literature, pedagogy, sociology, linguistics, political sciences etc. are vastly offended when they read arguments like the present one, and simply cannot see that, firstly, most of their postmodern academically titled kind simply does not have the nous, the wit, the native intelligence or the intellectual interests, concerns and disciplin to be a decent intellectual in the same sense as there were hundreds of thousands of quite decent, quite intelligent and indeed also quite well-educated intellectuals between 1865 and 1965 [5], and they also simply do not have the knowledge to be able to judge adequately how little education they in fact got. (Generally, if not invariably, you do not know what you do not know, and especially not if your ignorance is a product of what was not provided in your education.)

In either case, they do not and can not really see and comprehend the difficulty in its full awfulness, also not if they honestly try, for example because they are themselves natively quite intelligent and are, therefore, quite willing to consider ideas - but even so they cannot comprehend what they lack and might have acquired with a good education, because they were denied the education that would enable them to see how much they could have learned between 12 and 25 if only they would have had the manner of education that was the norm between 1865 and 1965. [5]

In brief, and unlike Mark Monford, my main problems with the human stupidity that may very well destroy the human world as we know it are (1) it is especially the stupidity and ignorance of the average and also of the solid majority of the nominally educated class - those with academic titles - in Western Europe and the US [6]; (2) it all was done by design, on purpose, by the persons who had the power between 1960 and 1990; and (3) it was done recklessly, without any decent intellectual or moral foundations; while obviously (4) it was clear from the start, except perhaps to the ideologically self-blinkered fanatics for universal equality of all, that it would deny the bright and intelligent the proper and full development of their native abilities; which (5) threatened to have very grave consequences for enlightened, intelligent, rational social development of almost any kind.

Finally, by now it really is far too late to do much about it: Since it is far easier to break down than to build up, and since building up generally requires people with the capacities and the education capable of doing so, it will probably take several generations at the very least to undo the vast educational damages that have been done from 1965 onwards, and mostly between 1965 and 1985.
P.S. March 23, 2013: Corrected a few typos and added a few links.

[1] One of the many moral sicknesses associated with the topics of talent and intellect in Holland is that the very same folks that try to insist on their opinion that "intelligence is a choice not a native gift", that in Holland consists of the vast majority of the population, "academically" educated or not, will insist - often by  insisting that those who do not believe this are "elitarian" and/or "fascists" - that a talent for soccer or skating is native, and is something that qualifies one in Holland as "a genius". Again, women never insist or complain that their beauty or the lack of it was "personal choice", though quite a few women, nearly all with IQs not much higher than 115, but all students in the University of Amsterdam, and since then often employed as "psychologists", God knows with what horrendous consequences for their patients, insisted fanatically that "intelligence is a choice".

[2] The characters also are important, and indeed I would argue that in the time and place where I live there has been extremely little moral education of the vast majority, mostly because the vast majority had no real moral bearings, or interests, or concerns, except being fashionably conformist, while "the living was easy" for many decades. I fear most got their values, their moral examples and most of what they know from TV, and indeed these days even university students rarely read books: Too difficult, although they tend to pretend, or maybe really believe, these are "uninteresting".

The main problem is that it seems to need a high degree of both intelligence and learning to be capable and willing to conduct a rational debate or investigation of almost any problem. For the social problem is usually not so much that people have different desires, ends or values, but much rather that they cannot or will not discuss rationally and behave reasonably.

[3] Those who want to get a clear and informed idea how incredibly much worse education has been since the 1960ies, when most of it was levelled and dumbed down, should try to get a copy of "The Cult of the Expert" by Brian J. Ford, originally published by Hamish Hamilton in 1982, and in 1983 in paperback by Corgio Books. This has the great merit of quoting the tests people had to pass in 1857, 1937, and the 1970ies. I quote a quote from it (from R. Boyson's "Compulsory state education raises education standards?" from 1979):
The 12-year-old school leaver of 1869 was generally literate and numerate... in 1978 it would appear that a considerable section of 16-year-olds have inadequate lteracy and numeracy standards, many are not keen to work and they are trained not for apprenticeships bur for a career of truant idleness. (op. cit. p. 1979)
Around 2000, the Dutch Technical University Delft, then already forced to halve the number of years of education for future Dutch engineers, had to start educating their 18 and 19 year olds to learn to spell Dutch (something I had learned very well at age 12 in 1962) and to master the elementary level of algebra I had passed by age 14 at the latest. This then would occupy most of the first year of te three years up to their degrees in engineering...

[4] It seems the so called "elite universities" - Oxford, Cambridge, Sorbonne, MIT, Harvard, Stanford - still are exceptions. But then what is the social point of giving a truly good education only to 1 in a 1000 or so, at most, and those very few for the most part children from the quite to very rich?

[5] This refers especially to Holland, though something similar seems to hold for Germany and France: In Holland in 1865 a new type of school was created, next to the grammar school, called - quaintly, but aptly - "the Higher Bourgeois School" or perhaps "the Higher School for Citizens" that taught everyone who could enter it (generally: with parents with a middle class or better income) three foreign languages, mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, history, geography, that were all necessary to qualify,
that were all examined both written and orally. This seems to have worked quite well, and seems to have contributed to quite a few Dutchmen with Nobel Prizes in physics or chemistry between 1865 and 1965. From 1965 onwards, this was replaced by another school that gave entrance to the universities, but taught only one foreign language, and four of the other subjects, all taught at a much lower level.

[6] Note that I am speaking of the average and the majority: I emphatically do not deny there are intelligent people; and I emphatically insist the vast majority of the truly intelligent were denied their birthright of having an education commensurate with their native abilities, as was clearly proven possible in the years from 1865-1965, when education was good, and entrance levels to good education were high, and those who did get academic degrees generally were both smart and had learned quite a lot at the end of their university education.

And please note also that my point is a double one: (i) By admitting both absolutely and percentually far more people to universities than there were before, the average intelligence in most studies has radically fallen, and (ii) by limiting the duration of the studies, limiting the levels of the preparatory education, and limiting the level of education provided (to guarantee the majority could get a degree) university education has become much worse than it was, at least in most subjects.

Also, in case you harbor that illusion: Extremely few people, even very bright ones, learn much more than they did at age 25, after age 25. It seems to be biological fact that you need to learn most of what you are capable of learning before you are 25 - and even if you are quite capable to learn after that age, as some are, you generally are prevented from doing so by pressures of work or family.

About ME/CFS (that I prefer to call M.E.: The "/CFS" is added to facilitate search machines) which is a disease I have since 1.1.1979:
1. Anthony Komaroff

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS(pdf)

3. Hillary Johnson

The Why  (currently not available)

4. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2003)
5. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2011)
6. Eleanor Stein

Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)

7. William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
8. Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)
Maarten Maartensz
Resources about ME/CFS
(more resources, by many)

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