Friday, February 20, 2009

The Virus within Intellect

This is from a thread started at the Rigorous Intuition GD forum.

More than anything else, the mental experiments of my teen years have saved me from a life of mis-spent effort. Now, I was the smart kid in those days and I knew that I was quite ignorant. I mean, all you had to do is memorize a bunch of stuff that teacher said, arrange the stuff in the way that teacher liked, and then repeat it back. My questions ran more along the why track.

Like why did my dad, a bright good hearted man, seem to have his life coming apart at the seams. 1972 and recession coming on, he actually made some good moves. He bought forty acres and we moved to the country and built our 64’x32’ park ranger style post and beam house for our 9-kid family. And as long as change was in the air, my dad found it reasonable to switch from being a strong Catholic to being a strong fundamentalist. Anyway it all happened at a PERFECT time for me. I had radical epiphanies about the utility of beliefs. I liked the new church for a time as the people were great. The notion that Catholics and pretty much everybody else were going to Hell because they did not conform to the strident requirements of this sect did not bother me for while yet. After all, I had gone from skinny nerd (with an obscure sense of humor) to top dog just by getting in the car and driving for a half hour. And the girls, Oh man, -game to go, especially the deacons daughter. And I find myself asking, as I enjoy the tactile sensations involved with removing a bra and fondling the smooth and silky breasts of a nubile young woman, -why?

Meanwhile, back on the farm, we got the garden in, chickens, goats, cows, but truth be told we were not honest ‘country folk’. My dad had taken the attitude, “We are moving to the country so I can teach you kids how to live”, instead of “We are moving to the country because that is a better place for me to learn how to live”. And that is the trouble with bright people; they always think they know what they are doing. They have it all figured out, as long as they can ignore the impact of the stuff that is not figured out. Eventually reality bites, and the shiny new category classification system stops popping facts out like toast out of a toaster. (Or the facts start to have a strong downward tilt.)

In the 11th grade I took the position that, if the beliefs of religion were social constructs, then the facts of science were probably also social constructs. This took the form of the assertion; all knowledge is hearsay. This also gave me a tool that I could use to resist the conditioning pressures of society. See, I wanted to be a scientist, but I did not want to have my intelligence measured by a constant taking on and spitting back of facts. What if the assumptions that the science was built on was faulty. Faulty things can be seen as truth quite easily, you know. Now you may protest, but…but science is objective and experiments are examined closely for holes in the reasoning. But….but assumptions cannot be presented objectively, that is why they are called assumptions. The people that are best at ‘acting’ smart and ‘acting’ spiritual do the most damage in this world. It’s nice to see a smart person like Chris Hedges own up to a bit of it. The whole article, more like rant, is pretty good.

....I was sent to boarding school on a scholarship at the age of 10. By the time I had finished eight years in New England prep schools and another eight at Colgate and Harvard, I had a pretty good understanding of the game. I have also taught at Columbia, New York University and Princeton. These institutions, no matter how mediocre you are, feed students with the comforting self-delusion that they are there because they are not only the best but they deserve the best. You can see this attitude on display in every word uttered by George W. Bush. Here is a man with severely limited intellectual capacity and no moral core. He, along with Lewis "Scooter" Libby, who attended my boarding school and went on to Yale, is an example of the legions of self-centered mediocrities churned out by places like Andover, Yale and Harvard. Bush was, like the rest of his caste, propelled forward by his money and his connections. That is the real purpose of these well-endowed schools -- to perpetuate their own.

Well Duuh!


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