Yesterday, off-blog, I was asked with the best of intentions as to whether or not people weren't generally stupider today than they used to be. This came out of a rather bloodless article from Andrew Sullivan (what else is new) which fails to produce any conclusion or indeed reason for being, except that apparently old Andy, when he hasn't anything to say, goofs together a bunch of quotes as though people out there are "arguing," "considering," "summarizing" or "pushing back" deep inside Andy's head.
If there is a depth that can be found sufficient to do more than wet the ankles.
I am not a fan of Mr. Sullivan. My primary experience with him is his occasional appearances on Bill Maher's show, in which he's one of the "good guys" - because he's basically a liberal - but in which he manages to say absolute shit without beginning to comprehend that he's just said it. He's a perfect example of the worst kind of liberal - heart in the right place, but lacking the least sense of practicality, reality or qualification. His "fame" results from that peculiar recent phenomenon of a blogger who has grown popular from his ability to research and link, while simultaneously offending only the tiniest demographic of the population: people who can read and who actually know anything.
Obviously, people who can't read aren't offended by him. They just don't know he exists.
According to Andy's talking puppets, we somehow A) know the memory of a resident of Athens 3,000 years ago; B) are able to use the uselessness of I.Q. tests in reference to Siberian hunter-gatherers has allows us to draw a historical conclusion about all human beings from non-modern persons; C) miss the fact that Stephen Hawking would have died nearly at birth 200,000 years ago, along with the fact that we have so few examples of human genes from 200,000 years ago that it would not be expected to find a comparative 1 in a million persons with extraordinary intelligence; and D) know that extreme selection is a thing of the past because we can guess everything about human development a million years from now - i.e., that now that we've established the modern world, human beings will never face any crisis that will need extreme selection.
Now, I'm sure that these four quoted people are quite brilliant, and that reading their whole articles does indicate that they don't believe any of the shit I just said in the previous paragraph - although Mr. Crabtree ought to read something about Athens in 1,000 B.C., since the whole Mediterranean basin was in an extreme dark age following the decimation of the Minoan and Mycenean cultures, a situation that didn't change for the next two and a half centuries. So, no bright, intellectually alive Greeks around at the time he quotes. But I'm quibbling.
What our friend Andy has done is carefully cherry-picked the articles to make ... well, not a point to be sure, but supposedly the "balanced" opinion of intellectuals today. It's what people do when they don't end the data they've gathered with their own opinion ... which is not something ANY supposedly educated person would have done prior to about forty years ago.
This habit of the University Bubble, to present arguments and 'facts' without examination, so long as they are notated, is the first reason to think that intelligence is dead. It doesn't matter what YOU think, or what YOU believe ... so long as you quote what others have squatted out in order to achieve their tenures, you get to be a 'scholar' too.
Funny that Descartes, Abelard, Erasmus, Luther, Francis Assisi and so on, the alive intellectuals of their day, don't spend all their time quoting and notating their sources. For some incomprehensible reason, they simply wrote under the assumption that if you were bright enough and open minded enough to actually read the words, you could make up your own mind if they were true.
This is SO unlike the modern age, where you only know it's true if it has the right stamp of approval following the words - a university degree, a cultural notation, some kind of evidence that the speaker is rich or powerful or at the very least had a job once where he or she sat next to the rich and powerful.
Fuck the words. The words they say don't matter. Their resume is all that matters, so that once they begin to write total shit on the page, like our friend Andy does with adroit fluidity, it doesn't matter because, for shit sakes, the man has been on television sitting right next to Noam Chomsky.
That proves he must be right, doesn't it?
I ask you - are we getting dumber ... or is it just that reading things with the intention of piecing out the truth ourselves is too much work? Perhaps it's so much simpler to look at the brand and feel the joy of having it stamped on our ass.