March 29th, 2010

Those crazy intellectuals

By now we all have probably noticed the strange phenomenon of people who are highly accomplished in their own fields but who fail to exercise even a modicum of common sense when opining outside them. I’ve been reading Thomas Sowell’s wonderful Intellectuals and Society, which explores this curious circumstance with his usual thoroughness and insight (even though Sowell himself could be called an intellectual, which makes it rather ironic).

In light of the recent strategic arms control treaty between Russia and the US, the following hit home with me:

Bertrand Russell, for example, was both a public intellectual and a leading authority within a rigorous field. But the Bertrand Russell who is relevant here is not the author of landmark treatises on mathematics but the Bertrand Russell who advocated “unilateral disarmament” for Britain in the 1930s while Hitler was re-arming Germany. Russell’s advocacy of disarmament extended all the way to “disbanding the army and navy and air force”—again, with Hitler re-arming not far away. The Noam Chomsky who is relevant here is not the linguistics scholar but the Noam Chomsky of similarly extravagant political announcements…

Visiting the United States in 1933, George Bernard Shaw said, “You Americans are so fearful of dictators. Dictatorship is the only way in which government can accomplish anything. See what a mess democracy has led to. Why are you afraid of dictatorship?” Leaving London for a vacation in South Africa in 1935, Shaw declared, “It is nice to go for a holiday and know that Hitler has settled everything so well in Europe.” While Hitler’s anti-Jewish actions eventually alienated Shaw, the famous playwright remained partial to the Soviet dictatorship. In 1939, after the Nazi-Soviet pact, Shaw said: “Herr Hitler is under the powerful thumb of Stalin, whose interest in peace is overwhelming. And every one except myself is frightened out of his or her wits!” A week later, the Second World War began, with Hitler invading Poland from the west, followed by Stalin invading from the east.

It goes on, but I think you get the idea. The stupidity of supposedly smart men (and women!) can be simply stunning. And that stupidity is not random; it tends to almost always go in the same direction, that of failing to understand the workings of the totalitarian and tyrannical mindset.

41 Responses to “Those crazy intellectuals”

  1. JohnC Says:

    Neo – – please develop this short piece a little more and submit it to PJM. That’s where it belongs. It’s good.

  2. colagirl Says:

    Was it George Orwell who once said, “Some ideas are so stupid that only an intellectual could believe in them?”

  3. ELC Says:

    Intellectuals live in a world of ideas where words are the weapons of choice. They can be completely out of their depth in the “real” world in which practical men have practical goals and where the weapons of choice can actually be… weapons.

  4. LAG Says:

    Anti-intellectualism has a long history in America. (See Anti-Intellectualism in American Life by Richard Hofstadter.) Unfortunately, it seems to be going out of style.

  5. Geroffrey de Bouillon Says:

    I pray every day to be delivered from “intellectuals.” This love of complex intellectual constructs (regardless of whether or not they conform to observable reality) is what drives the libtard’s schoolyard obsession with “Our guy is smarter than your guy.” All utopian systems represent the victory of ‘ought’ over ‘is’; or also “the triumph of hope over experience.”

  6. DirtyJobsGUy Says:

    I caught the key element when the story mentions that G.B. Shaw was on his way to South Africa. The intellectual, trans-national elite was present in the 1930’s as well. They could relatively easily travel the world, comfortable in the high income enclaves (hotels, elite districts) so that the truth of local conditions did not have to encumber them. So long as you paid a nice compliment to the current strong man/president/premier you could do what you pleased.

    This is the case today, especially with Europeans. They travel to Cuba for holidays and can have nice hotels, food etc. for a discount for the price of ignoring Castro’s dictatorship.

  7. Artfldgr Says:

    Most intellectuals are domesticated and so think being a pet dog is ok… (though i was explained this by a southern black woman, who used terms like house nig**r vs fields)…

  8. JohnC Says:

    I like this one too, but my comment on this tread was intended for the previous one – the Looking Back piece.

  9. Occam's Beard Says:

    I think one motivation for intellectuals to adopt risible positions is intellectual vanity, the notion that they are sufficiently clever to propose and defend something that is absurd on its face to demonstrate proficiency at the requisite mental gymnastics.

    Another driver (also connected with intellectual vanity) is the perception that merely to subscribe to the majority viewpoint is intellectually feeble. One has to distinguish one’s views from those of others, at whatever cost, to attempt to evince independence.

    I used to see this last routinely in faculty meetings. Every speaker seemed compelled to combine his assent to the general proposition with some codicil so that his assent would have an asterisk next to it.

    I swear I used to suspect that if someone had said today was Monday, someone would agree but point out that it was Tuesday somewhere else on earth.

  10. gs Says:

    colagirl, yes it was Orwell, right here:

    I have heard it confidently stated, for instance, that the American troops had been brought to Europe not to fight the Germans but to crush an English revolution. One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool.

    confidently stated… I can imagine the tone, as though the insane contention were a settled fact and anyone who disagreed was a fool not worth talking to.

  11. Mark L Says:

    A review of “Intellectuals and Society” in the Galveston County Daily News

    folds Isaac Asimov into the discussion.

  12. Tatyana Says:

    The stupidity of smart men and women does not apply exclusively to intellectuals, I’m afraid.

    Few days ago I attempted to discuss BFDB (title given to HCB by Biden) with my fellow Design and Construction professionals – businessmen, executives, pragmatic people who used to deal with meeting budget constrains in their everyday practice.

  13. Artfldgr Says:

    Section 5210 of HR 3590 the Obamacare Healthcare Reform Law: Establishing a Ready Reserve Corps.

    In the healthcare debate during the last few months, the issue of creating a small armed force under the control of the President seems to have escaped notice. The legislation that creates this para-military force purports to pre-empt the authority of State governors to control their own National Guard, absent war, which the Constitution does not authorize. Judge Andrew Napolitano: Obamacare to establish a “Ready Reserve Corps.”

    According to Section 5210 of HR 3590, titled “Establishing a Ready Reserve Corps,” the force must be ready for “involuntary calls to active duty during national emergencies and public health crises.”
    The health-care legislation adds millions of dollars for recruitment and amends Section 203 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 204), passed July 1, 1944, during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency. The U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps is one of the seven uniformed services in the U.S. However, Obama’s changes more than double the wording of the Section 203 and dub individuals who are currently classified as officers in the Reserve Corps commissioned officers of the Regular Corps.

  14. Bob from Virginia Says:

    Eric Hoffer was an early proponent of the intellectual as an enemy of the masses. From Wikipedia. Eric Hoffer “did not consider himself an “intellectual”, and scorned the term as descriptive of the allegedly anti-American academics of the West. He believed academics craved power but were denied it in the democratic countries of the West (though not in totalitarian countries, which Hoffer understood to be an intellectual’s dream). Instead, Hoffer believed academics chose to bite the hand that fed them in their quest for power and influence.”

    Worth noting Sowell is a Hoffer fan.

  15. SAB Says:

    Please forgive my crassness, but I prefer to call them dickheads :)

  16. Amused Observer Says:

    Intellectuals traffic in ideas, relying upon linguistic skills. Their primary product is hard to quantify. As a result many intellectuals rely on clever rather than correct. In short, they’re faking it. The emperor wears no clothes.

    Anyone interested in Sowell’s views should examine the works of Eric Hoffer who Sowell admired.

  17. Amused Observer Says:

    I see Bob mentioned Hoffer as I was composing my thoughts. LOL, what he said. And SAB should be commended for his concise summation.

  18. ElMondoHummus Says:

    Oliver Kamm has noted similar issues with noted leftist polemicist Noam Chomsky:

    Kamm – strangely enough, a leftist himself – is oddly insightful on the pseudointellectualism manifest by many figures on the left regarding topics they are woefully uninformed on. His quote of Richard Posner is dead on regarding both Chomsky and the topic of intellectual bankrupcy by the supposed “thinkers” of our time:

    “… a successful academic may be able to use his success to reach the general public on matters about which he is an idiot…”

    This is far too true.

  19. ElMondoHummus Says:

    People have already rightly cited Orwell’s observation, but it rings fully true when an understanding of the sorts of “intellectual” lunacy he and others were witnessing at the time is achieved. Has anyone read Karl Popper’s critique of Marxism’s pseudoscientific veneer?

    ” In some of its earlier formulations (for example in Marx’s analysis of the character of the “coming social revolution”) their predictions were testable, and in fact falsified. Yet instead of accepting the refutations the followers of Marx re-interpreted both the theory and the evidence in order to make them agree. In this way they rescued the theory from refutation; but they did so at the price of adopting a device which made it irrefutable. They thus gave a “conventionalist twist” to the theory; and by this stratagem they destroyed its much advertised claim to scientific status.”

    This may not sound damning, but from Popper’s standpoint, it’s the ultimate betrayal (and not coincidentally, part of what led him away from his youthful dalliance with Marxism into his subsequent philosophies on the superiority of liberal (as in “free”) democracies) of what the early 20th century’s academics thought of as the pinnacle of political philosophy. Or in short, what the starry eyed academics embraced as The Best Thing Ever. What was self advertised as an intellectually sound philosophy had by Popper’s time stumbled and failed on the rocks of reality, yet the shocking thing to Popper was that its adherents refused to admit this. Instead of accepting the demonstrated intellectual bankrupcy, they readjusted to excuse failures and continue to entrench the belief. In the process of doing so, the veneer of intellectualism was stripped away to reveal a totalitarian mindset behind the now quite obviously pseudoscientific philosophy; furthermore, its adherents shown they were unwilling to give up their star status in early 20th century intellectual circles at the time by admitting failures. Rather than follow truth, they modified the ideology, destroying it’s status as a scientific theory (as if it ever had legit roots in such begin with), but maintaining it as a base with which to manufacture scholarship and retail polemics about the free West. This might have allowed Marxist and later Communist adherents great satisfaction and a sense of self worth, but it did nothing to elevate humanity from the problems of the past. In an absurd contradiction, it actually froze many of those problems and rendered them immune from resolution; see North Korea as a perfect illustration of this.

    And all this was made possible by intellectuals providing philosophic cover for totalitarians to take root. As was illustrated by Neo’s citation of Russell, and is further illustrated by Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh (a leftist who discovered his philosophic roots in – you guessed it – the intellectual circles in Left Bank Paris in the early 20th century), as well as Cambodia’s Pol Pot (another dictator who discovered the intellectuals’ totalitarian impulses while a Left Bank student in France). And if those two aren’t bad enough, where would Lysenkoism have taken root if not in the manufactured “intellectual opinion” in dictatorial nations, first the Soviet Union (who’s intellectual elite denounced the opposing theories as “bourgeois”, theories forming the basis for what we today recognize as the scientific discipline called “genetics”). And later in Mao Zedong’s Red China. People recognize Lysenkoism as an affront to biology, and scientific method in general, responsible for millions of deaths during China’s Great Leap Forward, but what they forget was that it was also the foundation of a totalitarian grip on the scientific community in the USSR. Opponents were not merely shouted down, unpublished, or denied funding, they werer exiled to the gulag or openly executed. And that for not following officially sanctioned “science”.

    This is the sort of intellectual lunacy circulating at the time Orwell denounced the intellectual. While he was quite the leftist socialist himself, he also clearly attacked the absurdities manifest in much totalitarian sympathizing intellectualism at the time. And he did it time and time again. People quote his scathe on the British intelligentsia, but forget that his attacks went beyond one, single quote or his two most famous books, Animal Farm and 1984. He also contributed to periodicals like Polemic, one of his most famous of which was his work “The Lion and the Unicorn”:

    “The mentality of the English left-wing intelligentsia can be studied in half a dozen weekly and monthly papers. The immediately striking thing about all these papers is their generally negative, querulous attitude, their complete lack at all times of any constructive suggestion. There is little in them except the irresponsible carping of people who have never been and never expect to be in a position of power. Another marked characteristic is the emotional shallowness of people who live in a world of ideas and have little contact with physical reality. Many intellectuals of the Left were flabbily pacifist up to 1935, shrieked for war against Germany in the years 1935-9, and then promptly cooled off when the war started. It is broadly though not precisely true that the people who were most ‘anti-Fascist’ during the Spanish Civil War are most defeatist now. And underlying this is the really important fact about so many of the English intelligentsia—their severance from the common culture of the country.

    In intention, at any rate, the English intelligentsia are Europeanized. They take their cookery from Paris and their opinions from Moscow. In the general patriotism of the country they form a sort of island of dissident thought. England is perhaps the only great country whose intellectuals are ashamed of their own nationality. In left-wing circles it is always felt that there is something slightly disgraceful in being an Englishman and that it is a duty to snigger at every English institution, from horse racing to suet puddings. It is a strange fact, but it is unquestionably true that almost any English intellectual would feel more ashamed of standing to attention during ‘God save the King’ than of stealing from a poor box. All through the critical years many left-wingers were chipping away at English morale, trying to spread an outlook that was sometimes squashily pacifist, sometimes violently pro-Russian, but always anti-British. It is questionable how much effect this had, but it certainly had some. If the English people suffered for several years a real weakening of morale, so that the Fascist nations judged that they were ‘decadent’ and that it was safe to plunge into war, the intellectual sabotage from the Left was partly responsible.”

    Intellectualism has become something divorced from its roots, for there is nothing truly intellectual about the sorts of intellectualism Orwell disdains, Chomsky propogates, Kamm attempts to criticize, and everybody suffers from. Popper had it right when he noted that the only thing that fools the pseudointellectual into believing the veracity of his nonscholarship is the self-reinforcing “confirmations” they imagine they see. And they are fooled because they do not understand the harsh light that falsification shines on their hypotheses. They fancy themselves “intellectuals”, but little is more mentally bankrupt that the mad hatters of the political academics today. I’ll listen to Chomsky on language acquisition and universal grammar, but tell me again how a linguist is supposed to have cutting insight into US foreign policy? Has Chomsky read Homer, or Herodotus? He seems painfully ignorant of the concept of hubris to me. Either that, or the thinks he escapes it by only applying it to the US. Either way, there’s an irony there.

  20. Mel Williams Says:

    Intellectuals are often arrogant and cowardly.

    They tend to congregate around others similarly disposed, and wonder why the rest of the world can’t see what to them is the obvious superiorty of their little enclave of civility. They think the ‘lower’ class should aspire to their world and world view.

    And flyover country is flown over for the simple reason that they fear it. In their minds it’s redneck, racist, and intellectuals are not at all comfortable off their home turf.

  21. Tatyana Says:

    John Derbyshire had reviewed the Sowell’s book here. The issue, as he points out, interests Sowell since 1987 and resulted in three books on “Anointed”.

    [I learned of it through Isegoria]

  22. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    “Section 5210 of HR 3590 the Obamacare Healthcare Reform Law: Establishing a Ready Reserve Corps.
    In the healthcare debate during the last few months, the issue of creating a small armed force under the control of the President seems to have escaped notice. The legislation that creates this para-military force purports to pre-empt the authority of State governors to control their own National Guard, absent war, which the Constitution does not authorize. Judge Andrew Napolitano: Obamacare to establish a “Ready Reserve Corps.”

    Judge Napolitano appears to be in error.

    Because I ran across this recently (I think @ HotAir) and had already perused it and hadn’t found any ‘smoking gun’ and I didn’t remember seeing any reference to ‘armed force’, I had to look a bit but found it again at another site;

    Just below the start of the post, (which takes at face value Napolitano’s assertion) is a link to the actual pdf file of the Bill. Nowhere in the section is there mention of armed force, or any other weaponry, The Ready Reserve is headed by the Surgeon General and the Reserve are made up of Doctors, Nurses, Paramedics, etc. this section merely authorizes the expansion of that force and places new conditions upon it. As Commissioned Officers any members always have the option of resigning their Commission.

    Obama may want an civilian army but this isn’t it.

    Here is the actual wording of the clause in question, have fun working through it:

    HR 3590 Healthcare Reform Law

    Subtitle C—Increasing the Supply of the Health Care Workforce

    Section 203 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 204) is amended to read as follows:
    ‘‘(1) IN GENERAL.—There shall be in the Service a commissioned Regular Corps and a Ready Reserve Corps for service in time of national emergency.
    ‘‘(2) REQUIREMENT.—All commissioned officers shall be citizens of the United States and shall be appointed without regard to the civil-service laws and compensated without regard to the Classification Act of 1923, as amended.
    ‘‘(3) APPOINTMENT.—Commissioned officers of the Ready Reserve Corps shall be appointed by the President and commissioned officers of the Regular Corps shall be appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate.
    ‘‘(4) ACTIVE DUTY.—Commissioned officers of the Ready Reserve Corps shall at all times be subject to call to active duty by the Surgeon General, including active duty for the purpose of training.
    ‘‘(5) WARRANT OFFICERS.—Warrant officers may be
    appointed to the Service for the purpose of providing support to the health and delivery systems maintained by the Service and any warrant officer appointed to the Service shall be considered for purposes of this Act and title 37, United States Code,
    to be a commissioned officer within the Commissioned Corps of the Service.

    ‘‘(b) ASSIMILATING RESERVE CORP OFFICERS INTO THE REGULAR CORPS.—Effective on the date of enactment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, all individuals classified as officers in
    the Reserve Corps under this section (as such section existed on the day before the date of enactment of such Act) and serving on active duty shall be deemed to be commissioned officers of the Regular Corps.
    ‘‘(1) PURPOSE.—The purpose of the Ready Reserve Corps is to fulfill the need to have additional Commissioned Corps personnel available on short notice (similar to the uniformed service’s reserve program) to assist regular Commissioned Corps personnel to meet both routine public health and emergency response missions.
    ‘‘(2) USES.—The Ready Reserve Corps shall—
    ‘‘(A) participate in routine training to meet the general
    and specific needs of the Commissioned Corps;
    ‘‘(B) be available and ready for involuntary calls to
    active duty during national emergencies and public health crises, similar to the uniformed service reserve personnel;
    ‘‘(C) be available for backfilling critical positions left
    vacant during deployment of active duty Commissioned Corps members, as well as for deployment to respond to public health emergencies, both foreign and domestic; and
    ‘‘(D) be available for service assignment in isolated,
    hardship, and medically underserved communities (as
    defined in section 799B) to improve access to health services.
    H.R. 3590—497
    ‘‘(d) FUNDING.—For the purpose of carrying out the duties and responsibilities of the Commissioned Corps under this section, there are authorized to be appropriated $5,000,000 for each of fiscal
    years 2010 through 2014 for recruitment and training and $12,500,000 for each of fiscal years 2010 through 2014 for the Ready Reserve Corps.’’.

  23. Bob from Virginia Says:

    factoid: mention was made above of America’s seven uniformed services. Services six and seven are the Public Health Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. So if you are ever on a quiz show….

  24. Artfldgr Says:

    Its a really good day…
    read ElMondoHummus
    and Geoffrey Britain went through the trouble of finding what i couldn’t at the time i read the point i posted.


    here is the facebook link to nap

  25. Sgt. Mom Says:

    I think one of the most eye-opening and disillusioning accounts of elite intellectuals that I ever read was in an account of the German occupation of Paris – “Paris in the Third Reich” by David Pryce-Jones. Everything in intellectual Paris went on as it had before, with one or two honorable exceptions (Albert Camus being one of them.) All the rest of the elite intellectual set, including Sartre and his dear, high-minded friends, sat out the war in cafes, quibbling over the question of how acceptable it was to smile at a German soldier – while one of the great political and moral challenges went roaring away, all around them. I know that it is not given to everyone in a hard circumstance to pick up a weapon and go all “Grand Torino” – but still, I would have thought that parties who spent the next twenty years lecturing us all about ethics and morality would have made a better showing themselves, when it came to facing up to a hideous evil.

  26. kcom Says:

    Intellectualism is like climate science (with all the same integrity). When intellectuals are forced to choose between the theoretical model and reality, they choose the model. They can’t be bothered with reality.

    That’s why they look so insanely stupid sometimes. They are living in fantasyland. Perhaps you can get away with that in the cushy confines of the ivory tower and the glossy pages of Vanity Fair, but as Neo pointed out, it doesn’t work well when dealing with the real world of an Adolf Hitler. (Or perhaps an Ahmadenijad.)

  27. waltj Says:

    Substitute “American” for “English” and “NASCAR and hot dogs” for “horse racing and suet puddings” in Orwell’s quote, and he would be accurately describing American “intellectuals” today.

  28. waltj Says:

    …who spent the next twenty years lecturing us all about ethics and morality would have made a better showing themselves, when it came to facing up to a hideous evil.

    And put their precious skins at risk? Perish the thought. Better to have some lowly GI or Tommy face down the SS thugs. Another cafe au lait, s’il vous plais.

  29. SteveH Says:

    “”He believed academics craved power but were denied it in the democratic countries of the West (though not in totalitarian countries,””
    Bob in Virginia

    The superior intellect is top dog in academia. The fact that democracy may very well reward a less educated restaurant owner more money than a professor, probably has a lot to do with why intellectuals seem to hate capitalism and America.

  30. Tom the Redhunter Says:

    Neocon, you simply must order Paul Hollander’s Political Pilgrims: Western Intellectuals in Search of the Good Society

    The link is to the only one I could find on Amazon, a newer paperback edition. I read the original hardback (and still have it) shortly after it was published in 1981. I was just out of college, and the book was a shocker and left me, as it destroyed any illusions I had about the intelligence of intellectuals.

    I don’t have Sowell’s Intellectuals and Society, but I would guarantee you that he cites Hollanders’ work.

  31. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

    For the record, GK Chesterton debated both Shaw and Russell, live and in print. Still the best takedowns of their ideas, and loads of fun to read.

  32. Nolanimrod Says:

    that of failing to understand the workings of the totalitarian and tyrannical mindset.

    Incorrect as written. To make true replace failing to understand with being attracted or even aroused by.

    That’ll get ‘er done.

  33. Sergey Says:

    After the most famous Russian dissident Andrey Sakharov, “father” of Soviet thermonuclear bomb, returned from exile to Moscow, he was interviewed by a Western journalist about his struggle for human rights. And this woman was shocked to know that he never regretted his involvement in weapon project, because he always believed that this weapon was the best way to preserve peace. This journalist literally burst into tears when she aknowledged that Sakharov was not a pacifist: she hardly could believe that this champion of human rights also advocated nuclear arms race as a way to preserve peace.

  34. Richard Aubrey Says:

    Many who call themselves intellectuals are, like professors, likely to spend much of their day in front of those who, by design, know less than they do. Such as students.
    Clergy giving sermons….
    The cumulative effect is that they think they know more than everybody, not just the students in a narrow field.
    Ever hear a lawyer confess ignorance of…anything?

  35. rickl Says:

    Norman Podhoretz had a relevant op-ed in Monday’s Wall Street Journal: In Defense of Sarah Palin

    But how do we explain the hostility to Mrs. Palin felt by so many conservative intellectuals? It cannot be differences over policy. For as has been pointed out by Bill Kristol—one of the few conservative intellectuals who has been willing to say a good word about Mrs. Palin—her views are much closer to those of her conservative opponents than they are to the isolationists and protectionists on the “paleoconservative” right or to the unrealistic “realism” of the “moderate” Republicans who inhabit the establishment center.

    Much as I would like to believe that the answer lies in some elevated consideration, I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that the same species of class bias that Mrs. Palin provokes in her enemies and her admirers is at work among the conservative intellectuals who are so embarrassed by her. When William F. Buckley Jr., then the editor of National Review, famously quipped that he would rather be ruled by the first 2,000 names in the Boston phone book than by the combined faculties of Harvard and MIT, most conservative intellectuals responded with a gleeful amen. But put to the test by the advent of Sarah Palin, along with the populist upsurge represented by the Tea Party movement, they have demonstrated that they never really meant it.

    He even goes on to quote Iowahawk!

  36. House of Eratosthenes Says:

    […] sheer coincidence, Neo-Neocon was noticing this about our “intellectuals” the very same day. The stupidity of supposedly smart men can […]

  37. Sergey Says:

    Intellectualls have another common trait: misunderstanding of human nature. They erroneosly suppose that it is infinitely malleable (that is, nonexistent) and overestimate power of education. While everybody tends to project his own psychology on others, intellectuals here are in disadvantage: when ordinary Joe believes that others are more or less like him, in most of the cases he is right; but when an intellectual believes the same, in most of the cases he is wrong. In reality, half of the general population is not educable above elementary literacy and arithmetics, and only one in ten capable operate high level abstractions.

  38. waltj Says:

    Intellectualls have another common trait: misunderstanding of human nature. They erroneosly suppose that it is infinitely malleable (that is, nonexistent) and overestimate power of education.

    Steven Pinker, in his book, “The Blank Slate”, described this misunderstanding at considerable length. While the Right didn’t get off Scot-free, Pinker aimed most of his evolutionary biology artillery at the Left, with good accuracy and precision. Bottom line: we can only be molded so far before our innate traits kick in. (As an example, I pick up foreign languages easily, but can’t carry a tune in a bucket, while my sister struggles with English, but can play a melody by ear on the piano). Leftist intellectuals in particular find these characteristics of human nature to be frustrating to their goals to create a utopian society, so they attack the messengers, like Pinker, trying to discredit the science. But no matter how much they try, their efforts can’t give me the ability to sing on-key or enable Sis to read a newspaper in Thai.

  39. Artfldgr Says:

    nd only one in ten capable operate high level abstractions.

    and i would say even fewer who can construct abstractions for those people and not have them catch on.


  40. On the stupidity of intellectuals « Poumista Says:

    […] the stupidity of intellectuals Thomas Sowell, via neo-neocon: Bertrand Russell, for example, was both a public intellectual and a leading authority within a […]

  41. Bertrand Says:


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