A smart jerk is still a jerk

Okay, so you’re a rocket scientist… that don’t impress me much. – Shania Twain

As dangerous as a little knowledge is, even more dangerous is much knowledge without a strong, principled character.  – Ghandi

And if I … understand all mysteries and all knowledge, … but have not love, I am nothing. – 1 Corinthians 13:2*

This year I graduated 22nd grade. You heard me – a full decade of post-high-school education! Yowza. I’ve been deep in the dark recesses of academia for a while, surrounded by all the smartie-pants.

They are many fab things about working around and being friends with smarties. They sharpen you. They don’t let you get away with lazy thinking, or holding too tightly to untested assumptions. Even my lunches have been subject to the critical appraisal of my labmates, no lolz. So, I highly recommend having at least a few hard-core smarties in your life.

Shania gets it, y’all.

**BUT** please don’t romanticize the intelligentsia. Being smart and/or educated (trust me, these are not mutually inclusive!) just means that .. you’re smart and educated. It doesn’t make you a good friend, it doesn’t give you good character, it doesn’t give you wisdom. It doesn’t even necessarily mean that you live out what you know. Seriously – people accuse Christians of being hypocritical, but great googly moogly! I know so many academics who – in stubborn refusal to acknowledge decades of nutrition research  – rebelliously guzzle diet cokes and stuff pizza in their faces as they listen to a talk on the risk factors of Alzheimer’s disease.**

Smarties can also be arrogant and dismissive, especially to those who are not as intellectually gifted. #dumblivesmatter

Smarties can also apply their knowledge in a destructive way. I hate to play the Nazi card, but I’m going to play the Nazi card. Germans were highly educated. They weren’t in-bred rednecks who got super drunk one night and decided to go on a killing spree. There is a horrifying logic to eugenics, actually.

So what’s my point — not that being intelligent makes you evil. It’s just.. one – and only one –  feature that’s pretty coolio. But please, please don’t over-glorify it. Being loving, kind, joyful, a peacemaker, humble, good, faithful, gentle, having self-control*** those are the qualities that are truly unique and praiseworthy. Maybe being intelligent will help you live some of these out more fully, but being smart is not sufficient, and probably not even necessary to have this kind of character.

So sure – let’s all give up a golf clap for smart people, but let’s not go into standing ovation territory. And if you happen to be brilliant, get over yourself – and make sure you seek out the mentorship of people who will help corral your smarts for good and not evil.



*edited for conciseness, but it’s a beautiful chapter so read the whole caboodle!

** FYI artificial sweeteners and diets high in saturated fat can increase your risk of AD #thatonewasforfree #yourewelcome #shamelessselfpromotion

*** You good church folks are probably noticing I’m getting a little FRUITY!!

You can not speak good and still be right

I recently watched the Jimmy Kimmel interview with George W. Bush, and I recalled how everyone used to talk about what an idiot George W. was when he was president. That always annoyed me – I mean, the dude went to Yale and he became President of the free world – obviously there’s something going on up in there. Plus, anyone with that good of a sense of humor has to be intelligent in at least some capacity. Yet because he’s not very articulate, a lot of people consider him to be stupid.*

Confession: I have a celebrity crush on the W. JUDGE ALL YOU WANT! (pic from youtube screenshot – hopefully no copyright issues there??)

Now, put this together with people’s snobbery in general towards Southerners, &/or people who don’t use perfect grammar. If you see a fb argument and someone accidentally uses “their” instead of “there,” the argument is over. That person is destroyed and must fall on their cyber sword. I’m not hating against using standard English or talkin’ fancy, especially in writing (some people’s writing is so bad that I seriously don’t even know what they’re trying to say). But there are two points here I want to make –

1) You can be a terrible speaker/writer and still be really smart, and you can be a great speaker/writer and still be fairly basic.

I don’t think this needs much explanation, but if I stuttered through my dissertation defense – wouldn’t the quality of my dissertation itself be the same? Yet if an 8 year old child memorized my presentation, took acting and diction lessons, and rattled through my defense presentation perfectly… would that kid be smarter than me, or have a superior understanding of my dissertation topic? Nope-ity dope-ity.

Okay, second point is kinda sorta loosely related to the first.

2) Using good logic or extrapolating from known data doesn’t guarantee you will come to the right conclusions, and being illogical and subjective doesn’t necessarily make you come to the wrong conclusions.

Example 1: “It’s okay for people to force inferior beings to work for you without pay. Black people are inferior to white people. Therefore, it’s okay to force black people to work for white people without pay.”

I intentionally chose something super inflammatory to make the point that the argument above isn’t illogical, but it has a very flawed assumption – that black people are inferior to white people. At the time, though, there was “science” that people used to “prove” that white people were superior. If you argued against them at that time, they could have accused you of ignoring the data, or being anti-science, or being illogical. And maybe they weren’t even trying to be sinister — I’m sure there were people who believed in the scientific racism at the time and thought it was high quality science. And truly, if you accept their interpretation of the data, then the statement above is logical. But as (I hope!) you would agree, it was an evil, wrong conclusion.

Example 2: “It’s not okay to use black people to do work for you without pay, because I like black people and I just don’t feel right about forcing them to work for free.”

The example 2 argument is not a good argument. It draws on subjective feels and intuition. At one time, it would have gone against the “scientific data.” But as (I hope!) you would agree, it’s the right conclusion.

So my point: this is not an “anti-science” post. I love science. I am a scientist. But at the same time, I just want to caution academics and other members of the intelligentsia to not be intellectually arrogant, and to at least consider the possibility that the intuitive, subjective conclusions that the uneducated masses from Podunkville have made could be right. The same applies if you’re an outsider evaluating the merit of different choices or options. It’s important to use logic and good data to draw conclusions and make assumptions, for sure. But 1) think critically about all the assumptions behind the logic and 2) at least consider the possibility that the data is incomplete, limited, or even just wrong.

Finally, also consider what incentive people have to either agree or disagree with the data. For example, if someone presented data that strongly implicated that my Dad was an ax murderer, I would be *WAY* more critical of that data than some random person in Moscow would be. And being more critical of that data wouldn’t make me less intelligent, it would just mean my life history gives me a very different threshold for convincing. In fact, rando in Moscow would probably be less qualified than me to look at the data, because this person has no personal experience with my Dad. Yes? *anyway*

Main point: don’t be a snooty-pants. ❤


*all politics aside – I’m not talking about stupid policies. That’s a whole ‘nother can o’ worms.

FOR THE LOVE OF GEORGE W. BUSH, LIKE, COMMENT, OR SHARE! (even if you didn’t like it, I want to know! Please and thank you 🙂 )