Carlo Cipolla, Robert J. Stenberg, and More on Stupidity | Part 5

JAMES F. WELLES in Understanding Stupidity:

In fact, confusion as to the relationship of wisdom to knowledge impeded our understanding of ourselves for years. Two hundred years ago, Rationalists believed that as we learned more about our world we would become wiser. That belief is no longer tenable. Knowledge accumulates; wisdom does not. For all our vaunted skills in communication, we still learn pretty much as do rats, with little wisdom passed on from one generation to the next and even less developed through education. Worse yet, each generation finds a new way to mess itself up because we do not behave even like knowledgeable rats. As knowledge accumulates, so do misconceptions, superstitions and idiotic ideas and beliefs of all sorts. These do as much to shape our behavior as do immediate circumstances, since it is through our cognitive world that the stimuli we perceive are interpreted.


Culture is also a means of transmitting behavior and values across generations. Further, it is a communication system, and it has been analyzed as a means for distributing both human and natural energy. However, no one yet seems to have considered culture as a means for fostering stupidity—promoting, developing and transmitting it throughout a society and through time. Perhaps it is this as well.


As a cultural constant, stupidity is routinely transmitted from one generation to the next by the time-honored mechanism of the vicious cycle. Poorly adjusted children mature into maladjusted adults, then using the same techniques their parents used on them to raise yet another generation of misinformed conformists or malcontented sociopaths. If there is some selection pressure acting to weed stupidity out of each generation, it is, apparently, easily offset by a willing disposition of people to spread it and encourage its continual, spontaneous synthesis.


James F. Welles, Ph.D was arrested for soliciting sex on the internet from a middle-aged policeman posing as a 15-year-old girl. How Ironic!

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