Volume 1 Issue 1 - 2019
The Scientific Basis of Stupidity
Department of Psychology, PO Box 17, East Marion, New York, USA
*Corresponding Author: James F Welles, PO Box 17, East Marion, New York, USA.
Received: January 31, 2019; Published: February 04, 2019
In the grand, cosmic order of a deterministic universe, there can be no such thing as stupidity to a behaviorist. Behavior is simply (or complexly) caused, and the corruption of the learning process and limitations on a living system's ability to adapt are inherent in the process of life. Organic systems may be maladaptive and do fail, but because of the self-imposed restrictions of science, it is considered improper to interpret such debilitating conditions and events in terms of free choice.
On the other hand, within the microcosm of each particular cultural group, the self-deceptive language/perception complex, a social commitment to norms and pressure toward groupthink all can contribute via the neurotic paradox to setting up a posi-tive feedback system which carries a given learning pattern to self-defeating excess.
This learning mechanism can render normal human behavior maladaptiveso in human culture we may routinely find a striking revelation exceptions to the general Darwinian principle of life that normal is adaptive. Indeed, psychology may be considered a Lamarckian science dealing with the cultural inheritance of acquired characteristics. Against the background of nature as the ultimate selective field for all species, human culture is a biological anomaly with different groups and individuals commonly vying and dying to display their own particular form of the phenomenon we call stupidity. Behavior is properly termed stupid when it can be construed as failing according to and because of ends (purposes) and/or means (methods and morality) of the individual’s reference group.
Thus, not all failures are stupid-just those which betray a compromise commitment to perceptual accuracy, psychological balance and social integrity by going to a dysfunctional extreme. As a general principle of cultural life, stupidity is an expression of our inherent disposition to judge-specifically, stupidity indi-cates a subjectively shaped negative evaluation of predetermin-ed behavior. Stupidity is so common because people character-istically interpret their behavior favorably even if it leads eventu-ally and inevitably to failure. Indeed, the compounding of power with the perceptual/positive feedback mechanism of stupidity which promotes and perpetuates injustice makes Armageddon more likely than Eden but most probably courts a legacy of en-during, constant strife and corruption within and among all human systems. Unfortunately, while a university/industrial com-plex provides us with ever more knowledge, we have no institu-tion which addresses our major intellectual problem–what we do with information we have. Why do we not use it to help oursel-ves solve our eternal problems of poverty, starvation, war and stupidity? Perhaps because knowledge of stupidity does not pre-vent it any more than knowledge of gravity prevents someone who steps off a cliff from falling.
We are indebted to those who failed so stupidly in the past because their mistakes permit us to understand what we are pre-sently doing. More important, we are obliged to acknowledge that our actions will shape the future. In that context, our under-standing of how stupidity affects human behavior places a moral burden on us to be responsible not only for ourselves but also to those poor souls who will pay the price for our next stupid fail-ure and the next ...and the next.....L.....
“The most dangerous man, to any government, is the man who is able to think things out for himself, without regard to the pre-vailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane and intolerable,* and so, if he is a romantic, he tries to change it. And even if he is not a romantic personally he is very apt to spread discontent among those who are.” H. L. Mencken, 1922.
*and stupid.J Prejudices, Third Series
*and stupid.J Prejudices, Third Series
Citation: James F Welles. (2019). The Scientific Basis of Stupidity. Journal of Brain and Neurological Disorders 1(1).
Copyright: © 2019 James F Welles. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.