Saturday, 27 April 2013
The Mystery of Stupidity
STUPIDITY, a 21st century bliss, seems a Darwinian mystery at first.
Idiot genes don’t serve any obvious evolutionary purpose, yet are present in prodigious abundance. How did that happen? Perhaps people supported imbeciles because they’re cute? After all, plenty of garbage DNA, such as those that make pooches, are bred for their adorably lack of intelligence.
But people rarely adore idiots like they do poodles. In fact, even dummies despise idiots. Unlike folks sharing other handicaps, there is little evidence of solidarity among the stupid. One possible reason is that fools don’t know themselves to be stupid, therefore unable to recognise their own kind.
Idiots don't survive on sympathy either. Even unconditional liberals tend to be unkind to idiots. People refuse to understand that nobody is dumb by choice, so it’s not really the dummies’ fault.
After much thinking, I've come up with two dumb explanations.
On the surface, “Survival of the Dumbest” defies Darwin’s theories. My simpleminded interpretation of Natural Selection is that those fittest to survive in a given environment live longer, reproduce more, so their genes thrive. Unfit ones die off, taking their virginal genes with them into oblivion. In the beginning, the ruthless selection forces mainly came from nature. But human societies have long tried to compete with “nature”. For the sake of this analysis, let’s pretend that “social selection” were an independent selection mechanism, which it could be, for a while.
In social selection, dummies and smarties each started out with a useful role. Until recent time, a fool was valuable if he had hardworking muscles, or a brave heart which led him charging down battlefields, crying the name of his god or King. On the other hand, his scheming fellow men were better at directing and coordinating communal muscles for the strength of the collective. Society, like a body of human organs, was a symbiosis of brain and brawn, each serving different vital functions. One was not superior to the other, naturally. But the brain, being trickier, would be tempted to exploit the unwitting brawn, upon which it depended for survival. Exploitation was born many thousand years before capitalism.
Anyway, that was how non-brainy genes got passed down in quantity.
Then one day, a huge fkng idiot mistaken for a genius had an appalling idea. Greed, grossly excessive greed, he pronounced, should be unchecked, enshrined, institutionalised. The reign of money thus began. Selection pressure shifted, breeding a new strain of politicians. They are good looking and fast talking, amorphous like amoebae. The brain is marginalised, unless it knows how to entertain popular inanity. Intelligence without a market is useless, therefore unfit for survival.
The role of the stupid has also changed. Muscular genes have been made redundant by technology. A few brave hearts are retained for the military, charging down oily killing fields, shouting new slogans. The rest are mostly turned into fat. They wallow in giant sofas, mouth stuffed with chips, eyes on TV, thoughtlessly wailing adopted opinions. Their new social function is to borrow, consume, and vote. They are the backbone of democracy, organic lubricants of the economic engine.
Modern humanity, basking in self-determined stupidity, feeling proud and free, thumbs its nose at natural selection.
James Tam (Guo Du) 27.04.20