For some reason I never really got into these guys (
by Dan Burns
Aug 9, 2019, 7:00 AM

I have seen the nadir of the human intellect, and it is Trump

Corporate media has done a piss-poor job of informing the public about the major issues with Trump’s mental health, especially his delusional and narcissistic disorders. But it’s been even worse when it comes to how “President” Donald Trump is so god-damned pathetically just fucking unbelievably stupid. The absolute idiot seems completely unable to distinguish fact from fiction at even the most basic levels. He is a veritable mental black hole, from which nothing – nothing – intellectually valid and worthwhile is ever able to escape.

I’ll unpack what I mean by that. Most people still think right away of “Intelligence Quotient” (IQ) as the standard on this. Basically, though, that’s just a measure of someone’s ability to do well on certain kinds of standardized tests. And that fact has long been well known among the general public, as is evinced by the common use – and generally in an at least mildly pejorative way – of the phrase “book smart.” It’s used to describe those who are perceived to have high IQ but relatively little in the way of practical, real-world intelligence – in the vernacular, common sense.

There does seem to be a loose consensus among researchers that intellectual potential is about half inherited and half the result of one’s experiences in childhood. That is, about 50/50 nature/nurture. I don’t consider that to be particularly relevant, though, in practice, because most people go through life far short of realizing their “intellectual potential.” They choose to do other things than spend all of their time with their noses in books, and I don’t blame ’em.

If you ask me, what matters more in this context than some vague concept of “intellectual potential” (IP) is curiosity. That, too, is considered to be about 50/50 nature/nurture. A kid with moderate IP but a lot of curiosity is, I would argue, likely to do better academically, and in the “real world,” than one with higher IP but less curiosity as motivation to develop it.

I think it’s relevant to note here that from 1979-83 I was an undergraduate at a highly selective, “elite” university, namely Stanford. Don’t go thinking that everyone who gets into a place like that (especially yours truly) is some kind of blow-your-mind genius. Certainly a higher percentage are than in the general population. But that percentage is still in the low single digits. The vast majority are very diligent, determined types who – and this is the key point – are from backgrounds where academic achievement was provided a great deal of emphasis and support.

I, personally, generally go with thinking of intelligence as:

1. The ability, and willingness, to reason from fact. I believe that it’s willingness, not ability, that’s generally the problem. But that’s another discussion, which I’ll present in due time.

2. Freedom from motivated reasoning and cognitive rigidity. I’m using “motivated reasoning” to refer to the entire complex of mental gymnastics that people, again including myself, use to believe what they want to believe, often pretty much regardless of fact and reason. Confirmation bias and the Dunning-Kruger effect are just a couple of examples.

Numbers 1 and 2 above are in many respects just different descriptions of the same thing. I also put a lot of stress, especially in political contexts, on what I call the intelligence/ego ratio (I/E). Most elected officials are not, by generally accepted standards, unintelligent – many have law degrees, for example. But a great many, including every right-winger that I know of, are far gone in motivated reasoning and cognitive rigidity. And they won’t come out of that, even a little bit, because of their gargantuan egotism.

So, based on the above, when you have a negligible intellect, combined with the ego associated with pathological narcissism…that’s where the title of this comes from.

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