I. Introduction

Who are we? What are we? Why are we? When seeking answers to these eternal questions, we tend to flatter ourselves by being accurate when it suits us and partial when it pleases us. In terms of our technological ability to use tools to make tools, we are truly awesome. In more general cognitive terms, our intellectual capacity to solve complex problems justifies the gratifying conclusion that we are intelligent. However, if this is true, it is only part of the truth.

It is also true that young people are turning to drugs and suicide for the escape they bring from a world in which adults hypocritically preach peace while preparing for and pursuing violence. Basic social problems appear and reappear generation after generation in culture after culture. Not only have we failed to match our ability in mechanics and engineering with a comparable level of expertise in political and social relations, but our vaunted technological and intellectual genius is readily bent to destructive purposes which harm rather than help people. Thus, all things considered, we look pretty stupid.

Although students of human behavior have pointedly ignored our rampant stupidity, many have made careers by pounding intelligence into the ground. Rooms could be filled with the books written on the topic. No one could even keep up with the scientific literature produced in the field. Yet, as vast as this literature is, it leads to but one overwhelming conclusion—and nobody knows what it is. The only thing we know for certain is that whatever intelligence is, it has never been tested on intelligence tests. So even if we are intelligent, we are not intelligent enough to know what intelligence is, so we do not know who and what we are.

If it is understandable that so much energy and effort should be devoted to the scientific study of intelligence, it is somewhat bewildering to find the much more common, actually dangerous and potentially devastating phenomenon of stupidity totally neglected. One could read the entire literature in the social sciences without finding so much as a single reference to it. At best, it is dismissed as the opposite of intelligence, but this just sheds more shade on the topic. Certainly, a matter of this importance deserves a hearing in its own right.

stupidity.net