Stupidity and How to Recognize It (UPDATED)

by baldilocks

Many, many people have wondered whether the Internet has made people more stupid than was so in generations prior to the Internet Age and I’ve wondered about this also. I still think that the answer is both ‘no’ and ‘yes.’

No: In the Internet Age, we not only have access to more information, but also access to a greater amount of people, and therefore, access to a greater amount of stupid people. They were always there; you just have awareness of more of them.

Yes: Many mistake large amounts of information for large amounts of intelligence and the Internet has provided many stupid people with the illusion of intelligence. Be advised: stupidity is not defined as limited intelligence. Stupidity consists of the limited ability to interpret information, coupled with the refusal to acknowledge the need for this ability.  Ever known an idiot who was full of hubris and arrogance about some information she has that you don’t have?

Thus, a stupid person is the inverse example of Harry Callahan’s timeless axiom.

In action, this state of affairs is demonstrated by a false dichotomy I’ve seen all over the place, including at the obvious place: why do non-Muslim observers judge Islam for what some Muslims do, but do not judge Christianity for what some Christians do?

A variation of that question was repeated yesterday. Here was my answer.

Both Christians and Muslims have individual standard-bearers. The standard-bearer for Christians: Jesus of Nazareth. The standard-bearer for Muslims: Mohammed.

When observers attempt to determine whether self-described Christians or Muslims are true believers in their respective faiths and are acting as such, the logical thing do is to measure the words and/or actions against the teachings of the appropriate standard-bearer and, then, come to a cogent conclusion [about the doctrine in question].

From the subsequent part of our conversation, the inquirer had no understanding of standards or standard-bearers and wasn’t inclined to consider the definitions and implications of either. We all know he’s not alone. However, he did seem proud of the amount of information he was able to call forth about the Bible. There, he had me. But the Devil is able to quote scripture better than any of us, so that’s a contest I don’t care about. (And, yes, I can see it now: “she called that man the Devil because he disagreed with her.” To infer that would fall under the stupidity umbrella which I described earlier.)

I predict that we will see more of this, since stupidity is easier than interpretation and the stupid are prone to taking any route which makes them appear to be intelligent–even if that route ultimately leads to their demise.

UPDATE: Fredo unbound.

Juliette Akinyi Ochieng blogs at baldilocks. (Her older blog is located here.) Her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game, was published in 2012. Her second novel, tentatively titled, Arlen’s Harem, will be done in 2016. Follow her on Twitter.

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