Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Virtual Intelligence: By Jimmy Petrol

There are few scientific experiments that the layman can fully appreciate; the level of knowledge-base that is required to work in the sciences has become so great that most work is beyond our general understanding.

Of course, there are the many that believe themselves to be such intellectual giants that they can pontificate on any subject, no matter how esoteric, with incisive and amazing results. Many people, for example, who have never seen an explosion, have not the slightest inkling of the complex mathematics of trajectory, compression or mass, believe that they are able to analyze the collapse of the Twin Towers by watching a video.

Of course, nobody can tell this sort of monkey anything. The Idea that they may possess an intellect that is too empty of information, knowledge or humility to be of any scientific use is an affront to the generations of Americans that have always been told they are special and have come to expect to be a winner via the wholesale distribution of trophies in schools. There is no wonder that this great, powerless, overeducated portion of American finds it within his expertise to expound loudly on subjects which only a few much more intelligent, experienced and informed monkeys truly understand.

So it is that I regularly hear from people that want me to publicize the news that they are the smartest monkey in the room. Oh, they pretend that they want me to talk about how they have discovered that the Twin Towers were dynamited, global warming is a hoax, or some such other astounding stretch of the imagination, but what they really want me to acknowledge is that they alone have got it all figured out.

This amazing mental viewpoint, that people with no experience whatsoever, working in a complex field, can ferret out a truth that escapes even the most jaded, but experienced and specially educated monkey, is so common today as to merit special comment.

While most of us smile knowingly at these lay-theorists, we tend to ignore their mental gymnastics for what they really are; a litmus test for our societal mental-health.

It is not just the kindergarten intellectuals who overstep their analytical abilities, but every one of us that is a product of this modern, self-congratulatory society.

The sad fact of universal literacy is that once literate, it is impossible to convince a monkey that it does not, in fact, understand everything it can read. When faced with technical terms, equations or concepts that are unfamiliar or unfathomable, the literate monkey tends to digress to the familiar. The rules of discussion (a scientific use of language) fall to the easily manipulated rules of debate and the ideas that are supposedly under discussion become secondary to the oratorical abilities of the participants.

Even the terms "debate" and "discussion" are misunderstood by the general public. People clamor for a political debate, when in fact the rules of debate have nothing to do with discovering truth or analyzing information.

Debate relies on principles like "discredit the source", which of course can often be done even though the information said "source" provides is accurate. Truth is not the goal of debate.

Clearly, a debate is the last thing the public might really want; the fact that we clamor for it is symptomatic of our lack understanding. If it were otherwise, when we heard someone in the public arena utilize the principles of debate we would know them as liars and cheats; we would ignore them and refuse to have anything to do with them. What a society we have that has raised the vile principles of debate to veneration and acceptability!

So it is that we have hoisted ourselves by our own petards, neatly using our intellectual abilities to prevent us from rational thought.

Today, just for today, I will not pretend to understand everything that is going on around me, to realize that the machinations of the economy, the government and the religions are beyond my poor abilities.

Instead, I will focus on the facts of human nature. I will not pretend that I care a toot for anyone outside of my own little group. I will not pretend that I want the truth, but rather admit that I am interested primarily and exclusively with getting more for me by whatever means I can find to use. This, of course, means discovering our own amoral hearts. Which means, oh mighty monkeys, who have sovergniety over the earth (for now) that we will do anything to anyone if it suits us.

Yes, you will.

Unless, of course, admitting it makes you blanch.

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