The Dunning-Kruger Effect taught us that our perception is defined by the limits of our understanding. Anything more complex than what our brains are wired to handle seems absurd, insane, and stupid to us.
Humans, the stupider they are, see less of reality. This includes the abstract, intangible, conceptual, and that which requires sensitivity and discernment, but also distance and time. Most people focus on their friend groups, jobs, and neighborhoods during the next pay period only (two weeks).
A really dumb person lives in the present tense and the places they normally frequent only. To them, the idea of faraway events, centuries of history, or even abstractions like mathematics or science seem bizarre and ludicrous. Who would care about that kind of made-up jibber-jabber?
Our human narrative tends to focus on nice versus mean and good versus evil, but very few realize that nice and good require a certain level of intelligence. To people below that level, they are just silly abstractions unrelated to what is important.
Such people find “what is important” to mean what can fulfill their desires, appetites, and need for self-image in that moment. Stupid people want to be validated and to have a place not in a hierarchy but in a group of equals so they can be important, too.
Of course, the world does not work that way, but they do not know this and even more, they cannot know this because their brains are not complex enough. Like a computer from the 1970s, they do not have enough circuits and memory to load up programs from today.
Even more, stupid people are incapable of considering alternatives to actions to what they have done, lack the creativity to understand what other options might exist, and do not understand how things can be better. They just want “their share” right now, no questions asked.
They are oblivious to the consequences of their actions. Since they do not understand much of the world, its responses are arbitrary to them. They find themselves surprised when they did not win the lottery, get arrested for crimes they committed, or set themselves on fire.
Worse still is that we are all somewhere on the stupidity scale, which is the same thing as the intelligence scale. The smarter something is, the more time, space, and structure it can perceive and therefore, the greater chance of doing good it has.
It is a popular trope among egalitarians — many of whom are not so much stupid as cowardly and dishonest, therefore going along with the current thing — that there are some smart and bad people, therefore intelligence is bad. That is where we are on the democracy decay scale: smart = bad.
Generally the only people who say such things are not that intelligent and they have an inkling of this fact. It is sour grapes for them. If they are not going to be given intelligence, then intelligence must be bad and they should wage war against it. This explains the last few centuries at least.
However, a realist view shows us that the smarter people are the only ones who can understand a morality of anything but convenience. For stupid people, morality means not getting caught. A few evil smart people does not change the fact that generally, stupid people are immoral and selfish.
At some level, even someone with 160 IQ points is out of his depth, but somewhere past a tipping point in the 125-130 zone, people start to be able to understand that there are things beyond their understanding, and become more likely to investigate systematically as a result.
If the West had a core, it was transcendent understanding, which consists of seeing beauty in the world, therefore assuming that there is goodness to the whole of its structure, and because of that, investigating it systematically in order to understand more of it.
We all fit somewhere on the Bell Curve. The West, by virtue of having a high average IQ and a natural instinct for transcendental good, pushed itself to escape the narcissism inherent to stupidity and consequently was able to build the most functional civilization on Earth.
Once the egalitarians took over, however, the anti-intelligence bias came out of the closet. They hate intelligence because they do not understand it like most of the rest of the world. To them, it is magic from a demon god who lives under the earth.
They prefer their simple god who loves them, will give them whatever they want, and will tell them that all of their errors — especially the ones arising from greed, high time preference, and lack of impulse control — are the work of Satan and the humans involved have no culpability.
Since stupidity is immoral, it tends toward destruction of everything around it that might rise above it. Stupid people spray graffiti on their cities, burn down tenements, vandalize old buildings, and steal or mutilate whatever they encounter. Their brains cannot do any better.
The moralists among us talk about how they could have done better, but an honest realist will see that they cannot understand any better and in fact it is baffling and enraging to them, so they never will do better.
As we say around here: either the best oppress the rest, or the rest oppress the best. The former path leads to civilizational greatness, and the latter leads to the “third world system” of corruption, warlords trading favors, and subsistence existence.
In fact, our great enemy as big brained hominids is illusion. When we misapprehend the world or distract ourselves with emotional projections, we exist in a state of being fixated on illusion. This leads us to act in ways unrelated to succeeding, and often self-destruct.
For example, a man raking leaves with a straight-tined rake drops it in the grass. He is tired; he is done with it for now. It can stay there and he will not think of it. When he comes out later to get the mail, steps on the tines and gets a whack to the face from the lever of the rake, Satan did it.
Perhaps instead of worrying about good, evil, nice, and predatory, we should have departments of Stupidity Studies. We can understand the stupid and the degree of stupidity inherent in all of us that for emotional or perceptual reasons, leads us into illusion.
We could start out with the The Five Laws of Stupidity:
1. Everybody underestimates how many stupid people there are, regardless of numbers.
2. The probability that a person is stupid is independent of and uncorrelated to any other characteristic.
3. A stupid person causes losses to others without gains to self.
4. Non-stupid people underestimate the danger of the stupid.
5. Stupid people are the most dangerous.
The most important point here is that the Dunning-Kruger Effect appears to go both ways: we do not understand and therefore mock anything smarter than us, but we also find incomprehensible anything dumber than us, so in order to be sociable we write it off as harmless.
In fact, the stupid are far from harmless, since every harm to humanity has come from illusion, and stupidity or “enstupidation” — making oneself intellectually blind for emotional, social, or fear-based reasons — are responsible for all of that illusion.
Stupidity also means a tendency to act in groups based on the lowest common denominator, called The Committee Effect, which leads us to become radically stupid in groups, even if many of the members are quite intelligent:
‘Stupidity is a more dangerous enemy of the good than malice. One may protest against evil; it can be exposed and, if need be, prevented by use of force. Evil always carries within itself the germ of its own subversion in that it leaves behind in human beings at least a sense of unease. Against stupidity we are defenseless. Neither protests nor the use of force accomplish anything here; reasons fall on deaf ears; facts that contradict one’s prejudgment simply need not be believed- in such moments the stupid person even becomes critical – and when facts are irrefutable they are just pushed aside as inconsequential, as incidental. In all this the stupid person, in contrast to the malicious one, is utterly self-satisfied and, being easily irritated, becomes dangerous by going on the attack. For that reason, greater caution is called for than with a malicious one. Never again will we try to persuade the stupid person with reasons, for it is senseless and dangerous.
‘If we want to know how to get the better of stupidity, we must seek to understand its nature. This much is certain, that it is in essence not an intellectual defect but a human one. There are human beings who are of remarkably agile intellect yet stupid, and others who are intellectually quite dull yet anything but stupid. We discover this to our surprise in particular situations. The impression one gains is not so much that stupidity is a congenital defect, but that, under certain circumstances, people are made stupid or that they allow this to happen to them. We note further that people who have isolated themselves from others or who live in solitude manifest this defect less frequently than individuals or groups of people inclined or condemned to sociability. And so it would seem that stupidity is perhaps less a psychological than a sociological problem. It is a particular form of the impact of historical circumstances on human beings, a psychological concomitant of certain external conditions. Upon closer observation, it becomes apparent that every strong upsurge of power in the public sphere, be it of a political or of a religious nature, infects a large part of humankind with stupidity. It would even seem that this is virtually a sociological-psychological law. The power of the one needs the stupidity of the other. The process at work here is not that particular human capacities, for instance, the intellect, suddenly atrophy or fail. Instead, it seems that under the overwhelming impact of rising power, humans are deprived of their inner independence, and, more or less consciously, give up establishing an autonomous position toward the emerging circumstances. The fact that the stupid person is often stubborn must not blind us to the fact that he is not independent. In conversation with him, one virtually feels that one is dealing not at all with a person, but with slogans, catchwords and the like that have taken possession of him. He is under a spell, blinded, misused, and abused in his very being. Having thus become a mindless tool, the stupid person will also be capable of any evil and at the same time incapable of seeing that it is evil. This is where the danger of diabolical misuse lurks, for it is this that can once and for all destroy human beings.
‘Yet at this very point it becomes quite clear that only an act of liberation, not instruction, can overcome stupidity. Here we must come to terms with the fact that in most cases a genuine internal liberation becomes possible only when external liberation has preceded it. Until then we must abandon all attempts to convince the stupid person. This state of affairs explains why in such circumstances our attempts to know what ‘the people’ really think are in vain and why, under these circumstances, this question is so irrelevant for the person who is thinking and acting responsibly. The word of the Bible that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom declares that the internal liberation of human beings to live the responsible life before God is the only genuine way to overcome stupidity.
‘But these thoughts about stupidity also offer consolation in that they utterly forbid us to consider the majority of people to be stupid in every circumstance. It really will depend on whether those in power expect more from people’s stupidity than from their inner independence and wisdom.’
-Dietrich Bonhoeffer, from ‘After Ten Years’ in Letters and Papers from Prison (Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works/English, vol. 8) Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2010.
Witness recent Western history. Despite having many intelligent men and women among us, we have consistently selected not very bright options like democracy, socialism, diversity, and equality because they appeal to others.
The Committee Effect means that one appeals to what the committee wants to hear, instead of doing the rough work of holding out for clarity and alignment of fact, logical fact, and goal. To make a genius enstupidated, put him on a committee and let it debate for a few hours.
Individualism means placing the self first before all other considerations. For the stupid, this means making stupidity equivalent to reality, and eventually stupidity seeks to quash reality so that stupidity is safe from those who Know Better.
In this way, human groups commit suicide from good intentions by trying to include everyone, therefore dumbing the group down to its lowest common denominator, and then driving everyone into illusion by forcing them to pander to the dumber in the group.