Saturday, November 07, 2009

All men are not equal

One of the most difficult things, for opinionated people such as myself, is to own up to past mistakes and admit that we've been wrong; especially when it comes to long-held beliefs.

The reality is, it sometimes happens, and one has to show intellectual honesty and admit when one is wrong.

I own up, and admit I was wrong: not all men (and women) are born equal.

That is, when it comes to intelligence and common sense: my own change of heart, and realisation of past mistake, has come thanks to Prof. Cipolla's essay (cited below).  In there, he clearly ascribes to the theory that intelligence, far from being a meta-characteristic of human behaviour, is instead a congenital personal trait, very much like hair colour, or height.

It is worth re-stating here, that this is by no means a regression to Lombardism or a statement of some social, or, God forbid, racist, class superiority: I totally side with the late Prof. Cipolla's statement that "stupidity is an indiscriminate privilege of all human groups and is uniformly distributed according to a constant proportion."

Although having read it for the first time many years ago, on this specific point I always remained sceptical, mostly believing he'd made it in jest, as it added a dimension of fatality and finality to the stupid man's affliction.

In fact, for many years, I've clung to the evidence of men and women demonstrating great intelligence and achieving great things, and yet coming from deprived backgrounds, as evidence that, given an opportunity, our innate intelligence will shine through: I meekly realise now that I was commiting the same mistake I was berating against earlier (inverse causation, see my earlier post) and that this was, in fact, a blatant demonstration of the truths first espoused by Prof. Cipolla.

My personal epyphany came about this morning whilst reading in The Economist about another chapter in the saga of British banks' rescue by this hapless Government, and I was hit by the sheer stupidity and incompetence that drove Mr Brown to push for Lloyds' takeover of HBOS: in The Economist's words, "Gordon Brown’s desperate government, however, chose to waive the rules."

The end result? "[t]hat attempt was futile and the joint concern swiftly ended up a ward of the state, reliant on taxpayer support."

Now, I hear you asking, what's all this got to do with stupidity being a congenital trait, as opposed to an acquired via (the old nature v. nurture debate)?

Well, if you think about it, this was an act of sheer stupidity and, although, some may like to cling on to conspiracy theories as to why a supposedly "economic mind giant" such as Mr. Brown had allowed, indeed, schemed behind the scenes, for this to happen, I do prefer to subscribe to Hanlon's Razor ("Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.")

So, there you have it: many people in the Government and Treasury (chief among them Mr. Brown and Mr. Darling the puppet-Chancellor) all presumably from privileged background, all having received expensive (most likely, private) education, attended elite universities, etc. and yet all behaving incredibly stupidly.

I cannot think of any better proof of intelligence being a congenital trait, one which, alas, this Government is sadly almost totally bereft of.

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