Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Stupid People

Please excuse the red and yellow fonts in this text. Blogspot is being stupid and won't let me change them, no matter how many times I attempt to edit this post.

Deep in the human brain four stages of our evolution can be identified, like the rings on a tree. Near the brain stem, making up a lump of brain mass, is the somatic brain, which is the oldest and most primal of our 4 brains and offers stunning testimony to the behaviours of some of the simpler creatures on our planet. This brain does nothing but control the ability to eat, breathe, reproduce, etc.

Around the somatic brain a different brain grew, over the course of millions of years! This is the reptilian brain and is almost identical to the brain the dinosaurs had, evidence of which can be found in modern day crocodiles and other left-overs of earth's distant past. This brain is responsible for territoriality, aggression, visual response and other more primal behaviours.

At some point between the last days of the dinosaurs and the rise of the mammals, the limbic brain evolved, which we humans share with all the other mammals on the planet (it should be noted that all the other mammals also have the before-mentioned two brains), and is what gives us emotions, particularly towards the creation and care of young. The limbic brain is so well-fused with the reptilian brain that researchers aren't sure if the two are indeed separate brains, although modern-day reptiles and birds have only the smaller brain.

Finally, separating us from all other species on the planet (whales and dolphins aside, which have an extra brain on top of the four humans have), is the neocortex. This brain is responsible for all the remarkable achievements humans have performed over the past 8,000 years. The neocortex gives us speech, logic, art, intelligence and the ability to deal in abstractions. The neocortex is truly an awe-inspiring brain.

Unfortunately for we humans, the other three brains, particularly the reptilian brain, continues to hold much sway over the way we think and behave. The feeling of revenge for a slight or a threat is a great example of the power the reptilian brain holds over our neocortex, which should, if given full control of our heads, come up with a much better response then "I'm gonna kill you, muthaf**ker!"

Scientists and psychologists, who have been studying the brain and its workings for a long time (Egyptian and Greek doctors in antiquity had detailed descriptions of the human brain, unfortunately, many of those documents were lost when the Great Library of Alexandria, the storehouse of classical knowledge, was destroyed by religious zealots), have been keen to keep an emotional distance from their studies, which is a good thing when conducting any scientific expirement. Unfortunately they have left certain theories up to philosophers. Today, some of those theories are considered politically incorrect although there is a great deal of evidence to support them. Nobody wants to offend the (so-called) sensibilities of those who might fall into a certain categorization. Nobody wants to be called "stupid".

Thank goodness for the internet, however, because now I can present to you my own theory on stupidity, although unfortunately it won't stand the test of intense peer review. I am well-aware of the scientific method; the development of a hypotheses, the application of expirement to see if the facts fit the hypotheses, the anylisation of the results, and the disciplined need to shelve any theories where the observed evidence doesn't support the hypotheses. Science is not the exclusive realm of a few elite, but the natural inquisitiveness of all humans to understand the world, and the cosmos, around them. When a baby first learns that gravity can make her fall down, and she begins questioning how, she is conducting science. When a happy couple stare at the stars in a telescope together, romantic indeed, they are in fact observing the nature of the universe and are conducting science. And when I'm on the Moscow metro and observing the people pushing and jostling and falling down, and developing a hypotheses as to the workings of stupidity, I am conducting science.

The Hypotheses

Originally I wanted to show that there are people who are innately stupid, and then there are every one else. First I had to come up with a working definition of "stupid", which, for the purposes of this expirement, means "slow to understand, lacking intelligence, permanently confused and prone to repeatedly making incorrect decisions".

My test was to see if people were indeed organically, biologically stupid, and for this I needed a control group of those I considered intelligent. I would then apply the same observations of my control group to the rest of the people I was observing (neither the control group nor the test subjects were aware that they were under observation). For my control group I chose a mix of people from different cultural backgrounds; one American male, one British female, one Korean male, two Russian males and two Russian females (as the test subjects would be Russians in Moscow, it was important to gather lots of information about Russians from my control group).

After two months of study of the control group*, I found that they all had the ability to think clearly even under different stresses, and when alcohol was added to the equation the level of clear, intelligent thinking diminished at different rates for different individuals (but that, of course, is a different study that is well documented). The American male was, for example, able to keep a clear head when using Moscow's notoriously over-crowded public transit system, and thought ahead of seating arrangements and other details. The Brit was able to maintain a calm and clear and objective demeanour even when imbued with alcohol. The Russian control subjects showed themselves to be no different in behaviour than Americans or Brits, either when sober or when alcohol was introduced.

*Of course, I didn't know I was actually performing a control expirement on my friends until AFTER I decided to test a hypotheses about the infinitely stupid.

After looking at the information I had about my control group and then applying their behaviours to those of the general public in Moscow, I quickly found that my original hypotheses, that there are the naturally stupid and then normal, thinking people, was grossly simplistic. I had to shelve the theory and develop a new one. Basically, I believed there were varying levels of stupidity that could be categorized, but I wasn't sure what they were. After nearly a year of studying both intelligent people and idiots, in Moscow, London and Ottawa, I have come up with a theory to categorize stupid people.

Category 1: The Involuntarily Stupid

These people make up a large mass of the human population, and usually come from countries where access to education and/or intelligent upbringing is denied them. They are not biologically stupid, as if given the opportunity to shine C1 (Category 1) stupid people would be quite succesful. Instead, culture, institutions and official carelessness has forced these people into a certain level of stupidity, and many have no idea that it is so.

Example behaviours of C1 stupid people include extended use of the reptilian brain (perhaps because the neocortex was not stimulated properly during development), resulting in aggressive behaviour. The intimidating and uncouth behaviour of many central-asian immigrants to Moscow and the many young Russian males in the city can be attributed to C1 stupidity. With different options in their lives, these people could be quite different. Thus, C1 stupidity is created by society, and is not a natural stupidity.

Category 2 Stupidity: The Voluntarily Stupid

At first I didn't even consider that people could choose to be stupid, but the evidence was overwhelming and I had to include C2 stupidity in this theory. Voluntary stupidity applies to those people who, for some reason or another, choose stupid behaviours even when all the tools to overcome stupidity are available to them. C2 stupid people are overwhelmingly found in advanced democratic states such as England, America, Canada, Western Europe and Australia. They can also be found in advanced cities like Moscow. Where educational programming, prestigious institutions, public internet access and a culture that emphasises knowledge is readily and easily available, some people just choose to be morons.

An example of C2 stupidity from my observations can be found with people who have no mathematical ability, or knowledge of history or geography, and usually claim "I'm good at the arts but not at math". Math, like all knowledge, is not a natural ability but is learned. If someone is good at one thing they can be equally as good at another with discipline and effort. A more extreme example of C2 stupidity is when people readily believe, without questioning the evidence or using their natural logical capabilities, the tall claims of politicians (such as when the Bush administration duped half the American public into the WMD threat posed by Iraq). These people refused to even question the claims themselves, and eagerly chose to be stupid.

Category 3 Stupidity: The Inately Stupid (or Biological Stupidity)

Not everyone, I observed, is forced by society or willingly chooses to be stupid. Many people are just biologically incapable of intelligent thought and behaviour. In large urban centres all over the world the phenomenon of C3 Stupidity is easily observed. For my own observations I was in Moscow, and was able to study C3 Stupid People up close and personal on the public transport system.

C3 behaviour includes walking into another person, or scrambling like a frightened animal to get a seat without regard to personal dignity or the others around (usually with wide eyes and flailing limbs). The best example of Biological Stupidity can be found in any person who is hit by a train. For an intelligent person, it would take a supreme effort to be hit and killed by an extremely powerful and heavy machine that rides on tracks which covers only three feet of space, and makes a lot of noise and light hundreds of yards before reaching the victim. For someone who is naturally an idiot, it tends to be rather easy. Simply review the Darwin Awards for other examples of C3 stupidity.

It is apparent in C3 stupid people that most of the brain functions are not working (evidenced by the way mammals stay out of the path of oncoming trains, although birds and insects are regularly killed by large vehicles). With effort, sometimes supreme, a C3 stupid person can fire a few neurons in the limbic or neocortex brains, but for most of their day they walk through life in a sort of unthinking daze, reacting (sometimes) to the various stresses and stimuli they are subjected to. It would be interesting to study if C3 stupidity is biologically passed on.

C4 Stupidity: The Divinely Stupid

Unlike the C2 stupid who choose to follow the authority of their leaders, C4 stupid people have no choice. For some reason, these people are biologically unable to question appeals from so-called "higher" authorities. There is a great mass of humanity that are divinely stupid, and although they show intelligent functions in other areas of their lives (thus not relegating them to C3 stupidity), the appeal of authority immediately cows them.

Examples of divinely stupid people include religious fanatics who come from intelligent, logical societies or upbringings (such as many of the evangelical Christians in America). Many Catholics, particularly in latin-European countries such as Italy, France and Spain, are C4 stupid. This level of biological stupidity doesn't only apply to religon, however. People who follow politicians blindly (without making the conscious effort to do so), are C4 stupid. The key here is that a C4 stupid person will always, for all their lives, maintain this behaviour yet show intelligence in other aspects of their lives.

Divine stupidity is also common among the followers of New Age religions, conspiracy theories, UFO-oligists, people who recycle old ghost stories and Loch Ness sightings (purported as "evidence"...many C4 idiots like to mask their biological stupidity with appeals to science) and, in extreme cases, cult followers (Jonestown may have been a mass removal of C3 and C4 morons from the gene pool).


There are some special cases that display traits of 2 or more of the categories of stupidity. A person who is both forced by society to be stupid, but when put in an environment where opportunities are easy to come by for improvement, finds they are unable to learn (or chooses), is poli-stupid.

An fantastic example of poli-stupidity can be found in Republic Senator Joe McCarthy during the 1950s, who displayed traits from all four categories of stupidity. The jury is still out on George W. Bush, as only history will decide if he was actually intelligent and conducting a policy of extreme stupidity for personal gain (which would make him quite smart), or if he was truly stupid. Chances are he knew what he was doing, and was exploiting the varying levels of stupidity in the electorate to pursue personal goals. He wouldn't be the first leader to exploit human stupidity.

There it is, my theory of stupidity. Naturally it may be completely wrong, but I do have lots of observed evidence to support it. More than likely some categories will need altering, and others added, but I'll leave that in the hands of science.

Error Bar: +/- 1.5


  1. I like the posts about your life in Russia rather than your philosophy or history lesson about stuff... I won't say: "Just sayin"

  2. The Wizard's First Rule: People are stupid.

  3. Yet, McCarthy was proven absolutely right, although the commies still don't want anyone to know that.