I am a pretty smart guy. The tests that are usually used to measure these things tend to place me somewhere in the smartest 5% of humanity, depending on the particular test and what kind of day I’m having. I am also smart enough to know the flaws inherent in these tests and am very much aware that they are not always accurate (unless, of course, you just want to run comparisons of middle-class, white guys of European descent).
So let’s allow for the less-than-perfect nature of intelligence testing. Let’s say I’m considerably less intelligent than the tests are wont to place me. For the sake of argument, let’s say that I actually place just inside the smartest 20% of humanity.
This means that every time I initially encounter another human being, there is an 80% chance that they will be dumber than I am. Although even the most determined moron isn’t stupid all the time, I think if we took the time to crunch all the numbers (and allowing for the relative nature of stupidity), we would end up with something like a solid 20-25% chance that any time another human being opens their mouth in my presence, something stupid will come out of it.
By now you may be thinking that I am arrogant. While I feel arrogance is too strong a term, I am the first to admit I possess an ego the size of Louisiana. However, my ego has nothing to do with with my intellect. Rather, it is a result of my upbringing. My family took pains to see that I developed a strong self-image. They did not foresee the monster they would create.
My intelligence, to the contrary, tends more often to have a humbling effect.
The smartest human being I have ever met (and believe me, children – she’s really fucking smart) once explained it to me this way: The universe is an enormous place full of stuff we don’t know. Somewhere in that immensity, we live inside miniscule bubbles made up of our knowledge. When we learn new things, the size of our bubble expands, but the net result of this is that the surface area of our bubble (the interface where our knowledge meets our ignorance) increases. Therefore, expanding our knowledge exponentially increases our awareness of just how much we don’t know.
This is why those who posses truly superior intellects are usually not prideful about it. Real intelligence instills humility. Real intelligence knows that it has arrived where it is through a certain amount of luck and is thankful for it. And real intelligence knows what it is – it needs no validation. This is why most people who are truly intelligent view their intelligence as just another physical attribute, like being tall or having blue eyes.
And then there are those who just think they’re smart. Those who are, in fact, not smart at all, but they believe otherwise because some test or web site or TV show told them otherwise. To be fair, they probably clock in at the smarter end of mediocrity, but they don’t actually ever cross over into the realm of intelligence. And stupidity that thinks it’s smart is the most dangerous form of stupidity.
You know the type – there’s no humility in this crowd. They’re oblivious to the vastness of their ignorance, mainly because they never look up from the shiny baubles of their amassed ‘knowledge’. They actually believe that they ‘know’ things. They speak of ‘truth’ and ‘fact’ that is ‘proven’ and ‘undeniable’ as if such things actually exist. And what really drives them crazy is when someone has the gall to question their so-called ‘knowledge’. This is when they leap to the attack, and their attack always takes the same form: they must prove you wrong. This is the only manner in which they can believe themselves to be right. The fastest – hell, the only – route to intellectual superiority lies in the ability to point to another human being and convincingly declare: You are wrong! It’s kind of sad, actually.
But here’s the thing that pisses off the genius wannabees the most: that it is unacceptable in our society to walk up to others and say “I’m really smart”. I mean, what’s the point of possessing a superior intellect if nobody notices? How will everyone else know they are inferior unless their betters point it out to them?
So the wannabees found themselves in a bit of a pickle. How can they show off their intellectual superiority without just coming out and saying it?
After applying their mediocre intellects to the matter, they eventually decided that the way to show off their brains was to be annoying. You know – needlessly correcting grammar. Obsessing on minute, meaningless detail. Memorizing acronyms and using the complete term instead. You’ve been exposed to the behavior. You’ve probably wanted to knee a groin over it.
Eventually, though, they managed to see through the fog of their mediocrity and noticed that all they were accomplishing was to piss everyone off. While they may have been exhibiting their superiority, the inferior masses were clearly not ‘getting it’. A new method was called for, and after much screaming and gnashing of teeth, one member of this ‘intelligentsia’ stood up and said “Um…what about this ‘God’ thing?”
After a brief fight, he managed to clear enough space around himself to offer an explanation: “I meant that we should profess ourselves as atheists. Everyone knows religion is for idiots. If we say we don’t believe in God, everyone will know we’re smart. And society allows us to go around saying we’re atheists.”
The rest – as they say – is history. Now the creme de la mediocre have adopted atheism as their own personal religion. And they cling to a few studies that support their primary idiocy, i.e., ‘smart people tend to be atheists’.
But what the mediocre minds really hate most is me. I show up and declare my atheism in complete (usually well-constructed) sentences, and they welcome me with open arms.
And then I go and ruin everything by explaining a few things to them. Like evolution is a belief, not a fact. Like unbelief is as much a matter of faith as belief. Like atheism is, in fact, a form of religion, as is science. And my personal favorite, the one they hate most:
The universe is a really big place. There’s enough room in it for more than one Truth.