WickedEye's Quotient

2/20/2012 at 19:53

Ignore me.

The fact that I haven’t written anything in a long time hasn’t been because I don’t have anything to say.

It’s because I have far too much to say, and most of it will offend most of the people around me.

From living in Carbondale—the smallest place I’ve ever lived—for five years, I moved to Springfield. The overall culture in both places is, to put it mildly, Midwestern to a fault. One of the more lamentable results is that I'm in daily contact with several intelligent people—colleagues, professors, mentors—who routinely make me either intended audience or bystander to statements which result in a loss of mental capacity on my part. Albeit indirectly, my professional education may be making me dumber.

The main source of destruction of my brain parenchyma is the dismaying number of people who feel the need to discuss subjects on which they’ve formed opinions without subjecting themselves to the tedious business of acquiring relevant facts. (In medical school, ipso facto, subjects other than medicine.) This tendency springs, I think, from a very basic lack: These people, despite their pursuit/achievement of terminal degrees, seem to be deplorably undereducated.

I say this because the fundamental component of any advanced education is a respect for knowledge. This includes a dedication to defining it precisely in order to delineate clearly what one does and does not know—and thus, to recognizing which problems one's knowledge is fitted to address.

This system of organizing the known and not-known comprises a large part of the validity, and value, of science. Those who (like me) believe in science believe in the importance of knowledge. This means that they notice when people—including many who should know better—talk a great deal about things of which they know very little.

Unless it’s your area of specialty, being a lawyer or legislator or physician or professor doesn’t mean you know politics. Or government. Or finance. Or climate change. Or oil spill remediation. Or evolutionary biology.

Being intelligent doesn’t mean your opinion holds water—unless that opinion is based on germane information. Being educated (or rather, degreed, since I’m drawing a distinction here) doesn’t automatically make you informed. Being informed requires that you bother to inform yourself about the subject under discussion.

And here’s perhaps the crucial point: Mere observation of a given phenomenon's existence does not provide enough knowledge to form an opinion of it.

Watching BP's efforts to extinguish the ecosystem of the Gulf of Mexico, in the absence of information on oil rig engineering and marine biology and petrochemistry, will not yield useful theories on oil spill remediation. Watching an electrical storm, in the absence of any information on electromagnetism and thermodynamics, will yield theories very different from those of someone with a scientific education.

You’ll get Zeus. She’ll get a Tesla coil.

Being intelligent enough to draw inferences won’t help you if you don’t have any relevant facts.

Put simply: Being highly educated/degreed doesn’t mean you know everything. No matter your formal IQ, making a habit of forming opinions without getting relevant, topical facts pushes you well past ignorance and into stupidity.

And I’m tired of stupid people.

There are a great many things I don’t know. In fact, I don’t know most things: It is virtually guaranteed that I will die knowing only the minutest fraction of the facts humans are capable of knowing. I hate it, but I resigned myself to it a long time ago.

What I’ve failed to resign myself to (despite a 6-year-long attempt) is a regular diet of dumbfounding proclamations from people who feel compelled to offer opinions on everything because—because—

Well, apparently because there are plenty of other ignorami out there who are part of the ‘discussion.’ And because the only criterion for entry into the ‘discussion’ seems to be the ability to form a sentence (and in the case of certain political figures, even that is suspended).

I give. Uncle. I’m tapping out. 

Save me the aggravation. Save us both the time.

Ignore me.

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