Saturday, December 10, 2011

Intellectuals and dumb ideas

Intellectuals are often associated with great ideas and also with some truly awful ideas. This has led to the observation, often attributed to George Orwell, that "some ideas are so stupid only an intellectual can believe them." The question, of course, is why is so. I think that Frank Fleming explains it well:

The main problem may be confusing “simple” with “dumb.”

If something is simple, then dumb people will believe it. And if dumb people believe something, then soon some conclude that smart people should believe something else. There’s a flaw in that philosophy.

Why shouldn’t you touch a hot stove? There’s no complex, smart answer to that. You’ll get roughly the same answer from Stephen Hawking you’d get from Forrest Gump: It’s hot, and it will hurt.

But say you were going to argue that you should touch a hot stove. That would have to be a very complex answer, since it defies basic logic. And some people could run with that, talking in detail about pain receptors and the brain’s reaction to stimulus, and come up with a very smart-sounding argument on why touching a hot stove is a great idea.

Others will go further and mock all those ignorant people in the flyover states for their irrational fear of hot stoves and announce, “The most enlightened thing to do is to press one’s face against a hot stove.” Those people are what we call intellectuals.

Hat tip: Instapundit.

No comments:

Clicky Web Analytics