Where does stupidity come from? Is it only out of ignorance and ignorance? Then why are even the smartest people with one or more scientific degrees subject to various prejudices? And the main question is, is a world without fools possible? The most competent people tried to sort out these and many other questions, including Daniel Kahneman, Antonio Damasio, Ryan Holiday and many others. They wrote their thoughts, and Jean-François Marmignon skillfully compiled them in his book, which he called “The Psychology of Stupidity.”
Why do even the smartest people believe in nonsense?
Brigitte Axerald, professor emeritus of psychology and philosophy, believes that the more educated a person is, the more critical he looks at the world. Thinking critically both helps and hurts at the same time. The point is this. If, on the one hand, we can critically assess a situation and make the right decision, on the other hand, critical thinking often misleads us, finds facts that only confirm our conviction in something. For example, Jimmy Carter, American president and 2002 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, obsessively believes in the existence of alien life. During his presidency, he even sent a satellite with a special message to extraterrestrial civilizations. And once he even admitted that he saw a flying saucer.
The brain very often, if given an appropriate task, seeks confirmation of our beliefs.
For example, the esoteric beliefs of Steve Jobs, the ingenious inventor and founder of Apple, once ruined him. When he was diagnosed with a tumor in 2003, it was operable, the doctors glowed with optimism. But Jobs refused the operation. He decided to use the methods of alternative medicine, which, of course, did not help. When Jobs came to his senses, it was too late.
Stupidity can be massive. So, it’s not a secret for anyone that there is a society that believes that the Earth is flat, and the Universe and the Sun revolve around it. It would seem that such theories can only be believed by a child who does not yet know anything about this world. But no. The so-called “Flat Earth Society” includes professors and people with doctoral degrees. Among them is Robert Bennett, who claims to have a PhD in general relativity.
Unfortunately, there are endless examples of the delusion of titled people, so let’s just dwell on these three.
So what do you do? How to resist stupidity if even the smartest people on the planet are subject to it?
One answer is to develop critical thinking. Try to be objective. Do not adhere to any one point of view. Look at the world from different angles. Understand that there are no simple answers to difficult questions.
However, this is still not a panacea. In the modern world, stupidity evolves and takes on more sophisticated forms. Such that it is already extremely difficult to distinguish it from the truth. The modern world is an era of post-truth.
Sebastian Diegez, a neuropsychologist and researcher at the Laboratory of Cognitive and Neurosciences at the University of Freiburg, expressed very interesting thoughts on this topic.
Sebastian believes that our era has reached a total triumph of stupidity. And the minds that consider themselves enlightened offer simple answers for all tastes: Americans, society, politicians, pesticides, mosquitoes, aliens, etc. are to blame. According to Diegesis, our society is no longer just stupid, but a real bullshit.
What is Bullshit? This is when people, experts in one field, try to express their “expert” opinion on issues in which they know little. So, biologists talk about politics, politicians talk about ecology, and ecologists talk about politicians again. And no one is responsible for anything. This is bullshit, when you can say whatever you think and nothing will come of it. You won’t even be caught in a lie. And if caught, the bullshiter can easily evade responsibility, they say, “I was only asked my opinion, all people can be wrong.”
Why is it dangerous? Bullshit offers simple answers to complex and complex questions. It does it in such a way that you don’t even dig in. Post-truth differs from truth in that it very often operates not with facts, but focuses on the emotional component. Post-truth is a modern propaganda weapon that can be very difficult to resist. Any arguments to reason will be processed post-truth and expressed in distrust, distortion of facts and even indifference to them.
And that’s why critical thinking, according to Diegesis, is unlikely to work in the modern world. What is the way out then? Use bullshit as part of your own game. After all, if there is post-truth, then there may be post-stupidity, i.e. absurd stupidity, elevated to the absolute. This is a very difficult job, only satirists and science fiction writers can cope with it, but one of the effective means in the fight against mutating and infecting more and more people with stupidity.
The main thing to remember is that reason should serve reason, not stupidity.
What is the answer to the main question: is a world without fools possible?
The answer is no. We will always be surrounded by people who are deluded and try to convince others of their delusions. However, armed with the light of knowledge and objectivity, we can protect ourselves from stupidity. By curing ourselves of prejudices, each of us will make society healthier and more progressive. Teaching fools is stupid. Developing yourself is the right decision.
The book “The Psychology of Stupidity” is sometimes difficult, let’s not hide it. This is not pop reading, where authors chew on an idea and put it in the reader’s mind. The ideas of the authors should be discussed and thought about. They worry, you want to come back to them and reread them. Is it worth having such a book in the library? We think the answer is unequivocal – yes!
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