What if I’m the Dumb One?

It was a funny tweet, a few or several days ago, I don’t remember who said it, I can’t give credit. It wasn’t me though:

“It just occurred to me – what if I’m the dumb one?” – Jeb Bush

I’ve always assumed that everybody thinks they’re smart. Well maybe everybody doesn’t think they’re smarter than the folks around them, but we all think we’re smart enough, right? Like we all have to think we know enough to get ourselves around, we have to assume we understand things, don’t we? Otherwise how do we get out of bed? How would we face the world if we really knew we were going to lose most of our transactions, if we really thought other folks knew so much more than we did?

My family all thought we were clever, well, except Dad, maybe, but all my siblings have or had degrees, mostly earned later in life, not straight out of high school. All but me, but I’m the only one that both survived and lived a surburban family life, same job for thirty-plus years and kids.

When I was maybe fourteen, we bought a supermarket IQ test booklet out of the comic rack and I think I beat everyone on it, got some crazy high number that made me think I had a brain forever afterwards . . . LOL. Doesn’t sound too clever when you put it like that, does it? (For the record, on better tests, it’s my oldest sister who has the most horsepower upstairs, I think we all concede it. Also, the evaluation I took when I got depressed and dropped out of school said I was “oh yes, very smart, but a real dreamer,” something like that.) I really do think my mother and my siblings were and are a smart bunch, and I think I was competitive around the kitchen table, but again – because we must trust ourselves and our minds, objectivity isn’t really possible, is it? Even our dog has to think he is looking after us, that he knows best. This is a huge source of conflict and stress for creatures in large social groups, I guess, to feel necessary and relevant in the face of some obvious redundancy. In order for us to feel important, apparently we need to think our minds are important too. We need to tell ourselves we know something they don’t. ‘Them’ meaning everybody else, our competition.

So it should be no surprise when a fool like me appears to think he’s clever – and it’s no surprise to me if you think you are too. We sort of have to.

It’s a puzzle, isn’t it?

How can billions of people and hundreds or thousands of distinct voices all think they’re right?

. . . so what I’m saying, Jeb, I guess, is . . . uh . . . yeah. Horrifying as it might sound, it’s a possibility we really do have to consider. Due diligence and all.



Nov. 14, 2015

Nature VS Nurture – Traits

Nature VS Nurture – Traits

I’m not saying that we are born with blank slates; that would be my first assumption too at this point in the conversation if I were listening rather than speaking, but no. Clearly, if our slates were really blank, how would we ever boot up, how would learning ever have a starting point? What I am saying is that we write very aggressively upon our children’s slates, and we start before we have any idea what it is we’re writing over, and before long what was there before we started our writing is buried forever, indecipherable.
The Nature VS Nurture argument has moved, I hope, finally, from the Blank Slate VS pre-determinism to the Unknown Slate VS Original Sin – at least that’s how I would frame it as regards children and parenting. Now I’m aware that the geneticists of the world will say that our slates are becoming known, more so every day, and yes, but I think we need some more social science before we have a meaningful list of traits to match with our genetic discoveries! I mean if ‘persistence’ or ‘mild-tempered’ are simple things that are either present or not, yes or no? If the qualities we ascribe to one another are also unimpacted by life experience and we can match them to a gene, terrific. But they’re not, are they?
The genetics, and its daughter-disciplines, they are coming along, no argument. Genetics and its offspring will have terrific success when it can be applied to things we understand, like medicine. However, they are already way out ahead of our ability to understand social things and how to live. Our DNA is real; of course, ‘traits’ are imagined things, mirages. I suspect that the old issues are not going away, and Free Will may still apply.
The traits, our behaviour – that we may still have to figure out in the human sphere, not with microscopes, but with honesty and love.

Nature VS Nurture

The answer to the nature-nurture arguments is very often nature, but I don’t see it’s less nurture because of that. It’s not an either/or thing: we have natures and we have a lot of nurturing to do, it’s not one or the other.
As impressive as some of the ‘nature’ studies and experiments are, still there are some large bodies of knowledge that prove the importance of nurturing as well. The premise upon which all of psychology and psychiatry is founded is the idea that abuse hurts and damages people, – statistically, not every person, every time – impairing our normal functioning. Mountains are the studies and evidence for this factual case of the importance of the nurture side of things.
I don’t know what we plan to do with this information showing how much of what we can excel in, or fail in, is hardwired, our natures from birth. Are we planning to marry and breed in a more scientific manner? Mandatory sterilization of the inferior?
What our function is, what we can do, is nurture, and there is room for improvement. We could work on our nurturing. Any improvement we can make in our nurturing of our young has the potential to bring everyone’s lives up a level. Anything we learn about the hardwired part of ourselves is good to know, but I’m suspicious it may not be a good sort of knowledge to actually use. In terms of the law, and actual nurturing of children, it is the nurturing aspect of life that should concern us.