Monday, May 20, 2019

Overrated Human Intelligence

One of my repeated topics for my mental offal is how I have seriously doubts as to whether human beings are an intelligent species. In fact one of my earliest blogging buddies took considerable umbrage to my proposal that while a few humans show true intellect or innovation, most Homo sapiens seem content to spend their entire lives going to work, eating, sleeping, and engaging in some form of lowbrow entertainment.

I fully realize that our civilization is not geared to pushing its people to make the most of themselves. Many smart and talented individuals are forever condemned to menial, low paying jobs because they didn't get a proper education to prepare them for college, or simply cannot afford it. Even if a person graduates from college, the job they often end up with is anything but enjoyable or fulfilling. They spend their days stuck in a cubicle dealing with various forms of stress, long hours, and stagnate wages. And we all know the ingrained prejudices of our society cripple many from ever escaping poverty and ignorance.

But where I begin to think humans are just glorified, hairless primates is that many of us do not have the barest inclination to better ourselves. We refuse to do anything but shove empty calories in our mouths while watching hours of low-quality crap on the television or computer. Sure, I have my guilty pleasures like a Three Stooges marathon or some bullshit action movie with explosions and ladies clad in tight spandex. Where I separate myself from the modern Hoi polloi (rednecks or dregs of society) is that I actively investigate multiple sources of new information, which involves the radical act these days of keeping an open mind. Most of all I read everything I can get my hands on, even items that do not support my preconceived notions or beliefs.

The actor Jim Carrey is not a role model for me. While I have enjoyed many of his movies, I understand he holds anti-vaccine views I find incredibly backward and dangerous. But when I saw this quote, I realized he stated my thoughts far more succinctly than I have in all my years of blogging. The vast majority of people I interact with on a daily basis are little more than automatons when it comes to understanding the world. These individuals perform a single function extremely well but when it comes to the topics of basic history, politics, science, or even elementary geography it would be easier to get blood from a granite stone than an informed opinion from them. Their lack of understanding of the world defies description, and yes many subscribe to some of the most outrageous conspiracy theories.

What I find darkly funny is how there is a movement to promote technical trades with the idea that a college education is not worth the cost. I understand the point, but we already have a situation where many people cannot find the United States on the map, recognize a picture of the seating vice president, or answer simple questions on history. I can't imagine how our democracy could even begin to function with a population even more ignorant of civics and history.

I know it's futile to even write this but if humans want a purpose to life the easiest one to suggest is that we spend at least a little of our time seeking to better ourselves in some way. Seeking a deeper understanding of the universe is simply too much to ask for the vast majority of people. Their desire to blow off the steam from a frustrating job is understandable, but we should have more respect for ourselves than to continuously wallowing in abject ignorance. Then again, I still hold the view that our intelligence is highly overrated.


Geo. said...

Excellent post! It's pretty obvious we're here to learn. For that, we need curiosity, method, constructive research, morality and self-reliance. Those essential qualities in combination demand we also be damn good jugglers.

sage said...

Not everyone who doesn’t go or drops out of college for technical fields lack curiosity. Some of the most intelligent people I know don’t have a degree. Of course, they may be the exception. My daughter is one. She’s incredibly curious, a reader and listener of books, who decided to take a break from college with a GPA that was very impressive (much higher than mine). I worry about her, but she seems to be doing well and still learning. Maybe we need to work more on teaching people to learn and helping them be curious.

The Bug said...

I'm definitely guilty of vegging out after work in the evenings instead of trying to expand my mind. I think it would be really valuable to have some sort of required continuing education - maybe one free course per quarter in the subject of your choice - for people like me who won't do it if I don't have to.

P.S. I wonder if Jim Carrey's antivax views changed after he & Jenny McCarthy split up? I guess I could go research that couldn't I. Ha!

Pixel Peeper said...

I have a former co-worker in South Carolina who is exactly the opposite of the redneck you describe, and I'm always very excited to see there still are people like him and you out there. We worked together when he was in his late 70's and early 80's and he would bring in science journals for me to read. He would listen (and still does) to foreign language tapes (well, now they are CDs) and we would endlessly discuss the importance of always learning new stuff. The place we both worked for had to let him go about 10 years ago (when he was 82), because the company insurance wouldn't insure him any more.

When we had dinner a week ago, he was all excited to tell me that he has a job again: he's driving auction cars from Atlanta to Columbia once a week.

When I grow up I want to be just like him - always learning, always trying to better himself. But I agree with you - he is definitely a rarity.


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