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    Survival Of The Stupidest
    By Johannes Koelman | April 5th 2011 07:39 PM | 121 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
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    I am a Dutchman, currently living in India. Following a PhD in theoretical physics (spin-polarized quantum systems*) I entered a Global Fortune

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    Is stupidity rising? Are we witnessing an alarming proliferation of irrationality and an exuberance of ignorance? 

    Stupidity seems a concern to a growing group of scholars. Last month alone two arXiv papers (here and here) appeared that both refer to a 35 year old essay by the Italian economic historian Carlo Cipolla entitled "The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity". In this humorous yet thought-provocative treatise Cipolla warns against the power of stupidity. Three of Cipolla laws of stupidity I reproduce here. The first provides a definition for stupidity, and the latter two highlight the abundance and the effectiveness of stupidity:
    "A stupid person is a person who causes losses to another person or to a group of persons while himself deriving no gain and even possibly incurring losses."
    "Always and inevitably everyone underestimates the number of stupid individuals in circulation."
    "Non-stupid people always underestimate the damaging power of stupid individuals. In particular non-stupid people constantly forget that at all times and places and under any circumstances to deal and/or associate with stupid people always turns out to be a costly mistake."
    Cipolla describes stupid people as an unstructured, yet powerful group. He argues that when you suffer due to the actions of others, it is likely not due to malevolent actions, but rather due to stupid actions:
    "Our daily life is mostly, made of cases in which we lose money and/or time and/or energy and/or appetite, cheerfulness and good health because of the improbable action of some preposterous creature who has nothing to gain and indeed gains nothing from causing us embarrassment, difficulties or harm. Nobody knows, understands or can possibly explain why that preposterous creature does what he does. In fact there is no explanation - or better there is only one explanation: the person in question is stupid."
    Since Cipolla's essay appeared in 1976, several authors have rediscovered his findings. In particular, Hanlon's razor
    "Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity"
    published by Robert Hanlon four years following Cipolla's essay, can be interpreted as a corollary to the basic laws of stupidity listed above. 
      

    A Darwinian Enigma

    Although the above thoughts on the effects of stupidity might seem compelling, they do leave us with an enigma ignored by Cipolla and his followers: how come stupidity abounds? Should stupidity not have been eliminated long ago by the process of natural selection?

    At first sight, stupidity is a characteristic that is expected in natural selection processes to suffer and to become extinct. After all, stupid persons by definition act in ways that tend to yield no gain to them. Place a stupid person in a competitive environment of non-stupid persons, and the stupid person will likely come out as the loser, and certainly not as the fittest.

    How then can stupidity survive and flourish?

    Let me attempt to provide a satisfactory answer to this question. I do not claim to have reached a definitive answer, but the mechanism I propose, if not fully explaining the survival of stupidity, at least contributes to it. Moreover, and as often is the case, the route towards the answer is interesting in itself. It will bring us from poker strategy to the limits of applicability of game theory. 

    Key feature of stupidity is that its power lies in its abundance. One stupid person is helpless, a herd of stupid persons can be invincible. Place a smart individual in a group of stupid persons and you will witness the smart person succumb to stupidity. In an environment infested by stupidity 'being the smartest' does not equate to 'being the fittest'. 

    To get a grip on the mechanism behind the effectiveness of abundant stupidity, we go back to 1997. In that year Andy Morton, a poker-playing molecular biologist posted a poker strategy article on the internet that can be summarized as:
    "beware of the power of stupidity"
    a catchphrase that equally well summarizes Cipolla's findings.
     
    In his poker strategy posting Morton effectively demonstrates that also in zero-sum games like poker the damaging effect of a stupidity can extend well beyond the person acting stupidly. Morton describes a realistic poker scenario in which you can only hope that your opponents make the right play, as a stupid move by one of them will hurt you. What happens in this scenario is that the stupid move by one of your opponents harms the opponent's monetary expectation as well as yours, and causes an opposing (positive) effect on the expectations of the other players. Note that this 'Morton effect' (a stupid move of your opponent hurting you) can not be present in a two-player zero-sum game. For the Morton effect to occur in a zero-sum game, you need to be facing multiple opponents.
     

    The Double Morton

    We are now ready to introduce the next and final step in our quest to explain the abundance of stupidity: the double Morton. The mechanism behind the double Morton is easy to understand based on the Morton effect in a multi-player games.

    Suppose you are playing a three-player game against Alice and Bob. Assuming this game to be enriched by Morton effects, Alice will have the choice of a stupid move that will make herself and you suffer while Bob will profit. But so can Bob: a stupid move is available to him that will cause himself and you to suffer while Alice will profit. 

    What will happen if both players will make such a stupid move? 

    The net effect will be that you suffer while Alice and Bob will gain. This double Morton effect is what makes stupidity disproportionally effective in groups infested by stupidity. It provides stupidity with a positive feedback loop that results in stupidity breeding stupidity.  Morton's example is specific to poker situations, but the Morton effect as well as the double Morton are abundant in many multi-player games. Constructing a simple example game that highlights the power of the double Morton is rather straightforward.
      

    The Tennis Dilemma

    You and two of your tennis friends are independently offered the use of a tennis court. Each of you has to decide on the spot and without any opportunity to negotiate or communicate which offer to take: 45 minutes of tennis at court A, or 60 minutes at court B. If all three of you opt for the same court, you can all play but you have to share the court amongst the three of you, so that each of you will play 2/3rd of the total time available. If one of you selects a court different from the choice of the two others, (s)he is alone and can not play any tennis, while the other two each have the court of their choice available to play for the full time allotted.

    Which tennis court do you choose?
     
    Do I hear 'B'? Good! With tennis court 'B' available for a longer period and all other things being equal, non-stupid persons will select option 'B'. Assuming that your two friends make the same rational choice, you will each enjoy 40 minutes of tennis. 

    "What is the dilemma?", you might ask, "there is only one reasonable choice! I know option 'B' is best, and so do the two others. I would never select 'A', that would leave me empty handed and give them the full 60 minutes of tennis."

    If these thoughts crossed your mind, you have fallen victim of Cipolla's law on non-stupid people underestimating the damaging power of stupid individuals. Let's see why this is the case.

    As we have seen, you will be doing well with your rational choice for option 'B' as long as at least one of the two others behaves rational as well. 

    But what if both others behave stupidly and select court 'A'? This changes things dramatically. You end up alone at court 'B' which gives you zero minutes of play, while the two others each enjoy 45 minutes of tennis.

    How stupid is that?

    Imagine the discussion afterwards. "You should have selected the other court" you shout at your friends when they have finished their game. 

    "Why would we?" is the calm reply. 

    "Choosing 'A' is a really stupid move!" you burst out, "choice 'B' gives much more playing time!"

    "How much time would we have received if we had selected option 'B'? 

    "We would each have had 40 minutes!"

    "Ha! We have played for 45 minutes. I think you are stupid!"

    Loud laughter surrounds you while your 'stupid' tennis friends walk to the tennis bar, leaving you speechless.
      

    Stupid2 = Smart

    The above tennis dilemma makes it trivially clear that two stupid choices, neither of them directed towards optimizing ones gains, can generate an unbeatable outcome. Two 'stupids' can make a 'smart'. This, however, is a destructive 'smart' as it effectively reduces the total benefit to the group (in this case by reducing the total player-time from 120 to 90 minutes). 

    Note that according to Cipollo's definition a player who selected 'A' is individually guilty of being stupid. Would this player have changed his choice from 'A' to 'B', he would have increased his time at the tennis court from 45 to 60 minutes and the total time of the two others also from 45 to 60 minutes. So by not selecting choice 'B' this player reduced not only his time on the tennis court by 15 minutes, but also the time of the others by the same amount. However, the two players who selected 'A' are collectively not stupid at all. With you opting for the rational choice 'B', there is no way they jointly could have pocketed more playing time.

    We see here the 'double Morton' in full swing: a critical mass of stupidity result in an unbeatable destructive force. This occurs at the poker table, but equally well in real life.

    The double Morton puts limits to the applicability of game theory, as this theory is based on the premise of rational behavior. In groups in which false beliefs like 'choice A is best' become popular, game theory is rendered of limited use. That does not mean a rational person will be a helpless victim of the irrationality surrounding her. She might work out that if at least 64% of the population adheres to the false belief 'A is best', the optimal response is to move with the majority and also select 'A'. So in a population dominated by stupidity, rational persons are forced to behave stupidly. 

    The following scenario is therefore entirely possible: three rational individuals participate in the tennis dilemma without knowing any of the other players. All three, however, do know that in the population they live in choice 'A' is made more than 64% of the time. All three of them therefore make the rational choice of option 'A'. When confronted with the outcome, all three think "pfew, good that I anticipated the irrational behavior of the other two!". Interestingly, it could very well be that in this population irrationality is a thing of the past: all individuals act rationally by responding to hard statistics. Stupid behavior is not synonymous to irrational behavior.

    It should by now be clear that the double Morton provides a mechanism for stupidity to be abundant. Provided double Mortons occur in the everyday survival game we refer to as 'living your life', stupidity, when abundant, will have a tendency to stay abundant.
      

    Victim of Stupidity

    We all repeatedly fall victim of the Morton effect. Someone acts stupidly thereby hurting not only himself but also you. The fact that this can happen in nonzero-sum games is rather trivial. Morton made it clear that this scenario extends to multiplayer zero-sum games.

    But even the person who knows best the power of stupidity remains vulnerable in the presence of such.

    When he disclosed his theory back in 1997 Andy Morton was aged 33. He tragically died a year later. The cause of his premature death? Andy fell victim of the Morton effect and paid the ultimate price for someone else acting stupidly. Andy was riding his motorcycle when a woman in a pickup truck approaching Andy pulled out into oncoming traffic and hit him head on, killing Andy instantly.
      
     
    ----------------------
    More Hammock Physicist articles on game theory:  
    - The Art Of Acting Rational
    - You're So Predictable!
    - You, Retaliator!

    Comments

    blue-green
    Well, that’s pretty depressing. The masses are asses … Who coined that one? The solution is for smart people to operate as independent of the masses as they can muster … ... and to quietly breed without talking about it.
    The three Cipolla laws that you have quoted already sum things up by their logic loop which demands that, inevitably, the "non-stupid" people are also stupid, because 2 & 3 will bring about 1!!

    The Stand-Up Physicist
    Don't forget sexual selection. By age 30, studies have shown there are no virgins, everyone has found a somebody for at least a one-timer. Remember some of those kids from high school? I don't know of any IQ/# of partner studies. I do recall that more money means a few more partners in a lifetime on average.
    Johannes Koelman
    Please note that Cipolla's definition of stupidity does not involve IQ or any measure of mental capacity. On the contrary, Cipolla asserts that stupid acts occur with the same frequency independent of mental capacity or education level. The tennis dilemma model confirms the same: beyond a critical amount of irrationalism, rational and irrational persons will all behave stupidly.
    The Stand-Up Physicist
    So I can have a high IQ and act stupid? I have plenty of data to support that thesis. Stupid can be amusing.
    Johannes,

    Your argument comes down to the fact that actors acting rationally according to game theory are predictable. Predictable actors can be gamed. And stupidity is a force to get out of a "prisoner's dilemma" sub-optimal local maximum. Because "stupid" is simply the destructive side of "nice".

    A case in point is revenge. Revenge is stupidity: Everybody involved suffers.

    However, the MAD power of revenge is well apreciated. A rational actor without revenge, would always back down if the expected damage from a challenge would exceed the loss of backing down. So this actor could be deprived of everything by small amounts (salami slice tactics). A "stupid" actor would take revenge very early at a large cost to himself and the challenger.

    The known danger of revenge, mutually assured destruction, would deter the challenger from trying. And in the end the "stupid" actor will end up better off than the rational "smart" actor.

    This tactic is widely used by humans, eg, blood feuds are the "stupid" way protect lives wherever there is no rule of law.

    And in all games, including game-theory, it holds: If you cannot win by following the rules, cheat!

    Johannes Koelman
    Rob -- you mention a number of interesting issues. Firstly: being predictable. This is not necessarily bad. In this particular game the circumstance of participants selecting always option B represents a Nash equilibrium (and in fact the Pareto-optimal equilibrium). 'Being predictable' is not the root-cause of the double Morton. The root cause is what Morton refers to as 'implicit collusion'. Effectively, by acting stupidly two or more players can stumble upon a joint strategy that rational people can only reach based on collusion. That is where your remark about 'cheating' come in. It should be clear, however, that cheating is not taking place, but the effect is the same. On revenge: at first sight acts of revenge might come across as stupid, but when you look at 'the larger game' these are paying off (as you also indicated). So revenge is not stupid (under Cipolla's definition). You also compared the Tennis Dilemma (TD) to the Prisoners Dilemma (PD). The end result in both cases is that the participants can end up in a non-optimal situation. Note however that the cause for this is in both cases opposite: in PD the participants end up in a sub-optimal situation because they behave rationally, in TD they do so if they behave irrationally.
    I guess this effect is behind all crackpot-talk too? Stupid crackpots harming the theory-building of smart ones? But brainstorming often yelds mostly stupid things, then there might be one good idea too. Bacterias use the same mechanism as shield against harm, they start to mutate in a deadly pace, but there might be one good solution. Is this a quantum tunnelling effect, or FQHE? Then sk.crackpots are the insurance of science and should be treated with respect.

    http://blog.vixra.org/2011/03/30/new-anti-crackpot-on-the-block/

    Ulla.

    PS, I wonder why a little factor like me can make someone upset?

    Ulla,

    Crackpots are indeed "stupid" in the context of this post. They cannot "win" the science game when playing by the rules, so they cheat and deny the rules.

    What crackpot sites never acknowledge is that science is a social enterprise. We are in it together. As Karl Popper already said, if you find the absolute truth on your own in complete isolation, you are not a scientist. It is not about whether or not you are right, but whether you want to play with the others.

    All crackpot science I have ever seen refuses to acknowledge the work of scientists (I think I can leave out the word "other"). But many (all?) complain that others do not want to acknowledge their "brilliance".

    The idea that a site like viXra will harbor the work of some some undiscovered truth leads to the same problems as Maxwell's demon does: You can extract heat from cold and information from noise, but it takes a lot of work. More work than it is worth.

    RobvS,
    I must express my stupidity and ignorance. In what way has I cheated?

    If the 'rules' are set by M-theory, it is clearly wrong. Also the 'rules' must be discussed. Just to call those people ugly things doesn't solve anything. Like I said - MAYBE there is something essential.

    Remember that the stupidity also grows in the mass. It is like a degeneration of common sense, seen in mass hysteria, as instance. What this article so brilliantly tells us.

    @Ulla
    "I must express my stupidity and ignorance. In what way has I cheated? "

    I would not know, as I did not read your contributions. And I do not understand a syllable about M-theory, so you could very well be right that M-theory is completely wrong. I was not "targeting" the work itself in my criticism.

    A person cheats in science when s/he does not build upon the work of others (leaving out relevant references, ignoring others), does not communicate in the language of the trade (refuses to use the relevant mathematics), and does not want to be involved in peer review and the larger exchange of ideas.

    The aim of science is not so much to find to truth. That is just the start of the real work. You have to teach and convince others about it. If you do not succeed in communicating and teaching your truth, you have failed as a scientist.

    Authors and actors fail when they fail to reach an audience. The same holds for science where the audience are other scientists. That is hard, and I admit that I have failed in this myself (too) many times.

    See, you can be the most brilliant person on the face of the earth, discover the truth about the universe, and still fail as a scientist.

    And posting your thoughts on viXra can be a valid strategy. But then my question would be how you are going to use that post to teach and convince? My experience is that the SNR is simply too low to make exploring it rewarding. But that is just my personal sensitivity. Maybe you know ways to build a community around viXra that will teach and convince?

    So do you think you cheated in this sense?

    No, what a relief. I thought i was accused of cheating. I have not left out information, but I think perhaps Mr. Motl has done so. In that case he is the real crackpot. Or stupid person, doing harm to community, if we follow this post. Thanks.

    @ulla,

    With hindsight, the word "cheating" was badly chosen. I intended it to refer to games and game theory and the rules of the rational actor. But the meaning of real "wrongdoing" in research is much too strong. Hence the miscommunication.

    So to clarify, I have never even wanted to suggest that those posting on viXar did in any way lie or commit any falsehood. As far as I am concerned, they are honest and write truthfully unless there is definite evidence saying otherwise (like it is in science and any other human enterprise).

    socrates
    The aim of science is not so much to find to truth. That is just the start of the real work. You have to teach and convince others about it. If you do not succeed in communicating and teaching your truth, you have failed as a scientist.

    Nicely put, Rob. Being a scientist means fulfilling certain responsibilities, not the least of which is intellectually honest communication (teaching), which you have so eloquently articulated here. Bravo.
    Citizen Philosopher / Science Tutor
    Gerhard Adam
    I'm afraid that these examples don't actually address the larger issue as it occurs in human societies. 
    Should stupidity not have been eliminated long ago by the process of natural selection?
    This is where the entire discussion seems to unravel.  Natural selection is based on an increase or decrease in fitness (fertility and survival).  Unless you can relate a "stupid" action to those two elements then the question is irrelevant.

    In short, to discuss gains or losses in game theoretic terms is fundamentally meaningless unless it can be demonstrated that there are severe consequences (i.e. loss of life) attached to the act of being "stupid".  The is precisely the problem we run into with social animals (specifically humans) where all manner of beliefs or actions are buffered by the social group to which they belong.  As a result, the consequences of such behavior are not just minimized but may actually be mitigated by the group.

    In other words, their behavior as individuals is irrelevant so long as the social group can exert a greater influence in protecting them from the consequences of their choices or beliefs.  Therefore if you're going to seriously ask that question you need to consider whether a stupid individual is more use to the group (regardless of how they might behave individually) or a liability.  If their utility to the group is greater, then game theory explanations of their individual decisions becomes irrelevant.

    I believe a strong argument can be made that in societies, greater value is placed on the ability to be a "team player" and to following direction/orders than in making individual decisions.  The overwhelming majority of our social organizations are based precisely on this principle, which I suspect is an "evolutionary adaptation" to maximize benefit for the group regardless of how "stupid" individuals within that group may be.  If they can take direction, then they are useful.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Johannes Koelman
    to discuss gains or losses in game theoretic terms is fundamentally meaningless unless it can be demonstrated that there are severe consequences (i.e. loss of life) attached to the act of being "stupid".  Gerhard -- evolutionary game theory teaches us that the even slight increases or decreases in survival probability can have major consequences over the course of many generations. From this persective it seems plausible that 'stupid' behaviors in the everyday game of life would go extinct. The example of the Tennis Dilemma is intended to demonstrate that this need not be the case. I agree that group survival (as modeled by the selfish gene concept) is key element in this discussion.
    Gerhard Adam
    Gerhard -- evolutionary game theory teaches us that the even slight increases or decreases in survival probability can have major consequences over the course of many generations.
    I disagree with this use of "slight increases or decreases"?  An animal either survives or it doesn't.  It either reproduces or it doesn't.  There's nothing slight about it, except as it applies to the overall population in question.   So unless you're suggesting a fixed genetic relationship to stupidity, there's no basis for invoking natural selection.  More to the point, for a trait to be subject to natural selection it must also be heritable.  So unless you're prepared to argue that "stupidity" is fixed in the DNA and subject to being passed to future generations, there is no natural selection argument.

    Unless an individual "stupid" decision results in death or the failure to find a mate, there are no evolutionary consequences and no reason to invoke natural selection.  This is also why the group becomes an important buffering consideration to protect those that, on their own, may well initiate their own demise.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Johannes Koelman
    Gerhard -- have you missed the word 'probability'? In a large ensemble of individuals the stupid and the non- stupid ones can have slightly different survival characteristics. My objective is more modest than you seem to assume: I wanted to verify with the above post if Cipolla's claims can be rendered consistent. (My initial thought was that his model of stupidity is fundamentally at odds with the concept of survival of the fittest, surprisingly, this appears not necessarily to be the case.) So yes, I am starting from the premise that stupidity (in the Cipolla sense) contains a genetic component. As Cipolla states it: "One is stupid in the same way one is red-haired; one belongs to the stupid set as one belongs to a blood group."
    Gerhard Adam
    OK, but then I think the idea of "stupidity" is being used in a manner that requires considerably more definition if it is to be applied to natural selection, except as a colloquial buzzword.

    Perhaps I'm being overly sensitive, but it seems that this trivializes the biological component just to create a scenario for a game theory explanation. 
    Mundus vult decipi
    But if you take a look at the world history, the stupids are far more prolefic than the smartest one. During the French Revolution and all communist butcheries, the elites were decimated and... the peoples who lived in those areas of the world still live there... and more numerous.

    I kick myself for not having recalled Cipolla's essay in thinking about the current fiscal "deliberations" and "negotiations" in the US.Your precis and these excellent comments should be a mandatory sidebar to every "news story" out of Washington.

    This is my thougth:

    + ignorance -> + stupidity
    + ignorance -> + happiness

    If human kind keeps looking for happines, eventually human kind will fall in stupidity.

    Degenerancy makes stupidity grow, a lower evolutionary level?
    Althruism,and to help each other (or listen to each other) makes happiness grow, a higher evolutionary level?

    Gerhard Adam
    There are no "higher" or "lower" evolutionary levels.  There's only evolution.
    Mundus vult decipi
    So you and an amoeba are at the same level then?

    Gerhard Adam
    Yes, in the sense that we've both followed our respective evolutionary paths for the time that we've been on the planet.  It isn't as if amoeba have stopped evolving and represent some sort of anachronistic existence.

    It's like your use of the term suggesting that there is such a thing as degenerating.  This indicates a direction to evolution which isn't true.  You can certainly consider "higher" or "lower" with regard to complexity perhaps, but not with respect to evolution.
    Mundus vult decipi
    I thought evolution was complexity. It is differentation anyway.

    Evolution can indeed degenerate. This fact is wellknown. And stupidity expressed by a crowd of people may very well express something like that. Or the contrary, depending on the leaders. This is what an superorganism express, and an amoeba may well represent such an organism. Bacterias at least are known to cooporate and function as one organism at population level. They express quantum charachters.

    Some expressed this as a tendency to extremes.Either negentropy or entropy,and stress tends to get the curve towards entropy, or stupidity. War in other words :)

    Gerhard Adam
    Evolution cannot degenerate.  It can move towards increased or decreased complexity, but to talk of degeneration suggests a direction which doesn't exist.  That is a value judgement.

    I'm not sure what you're getting at regarding superorganisms, but the same thing applies there.
    Mundus vult decipi
    http://www.complexsystems.org/abstracts/superorg.html from 2002.
    The so-called "organismic analogy," which has graced social and political theory (off and on) ever since Plato, has reemerged in evolutionary biology in recent years as a way of characterizing key properties of social organization in the natural world - although the preferred moniker these days is Herbert Spencer's term "superorganism". (Biologists often give credit to one of their own, William Morton Wheeler, but Wheeler's writings appeared several decades later.) As Spencer himself argued, the organismic analogy is justified by the existence of common functional properties at "higher levels" of biological organization, including especially "functional differentiation" and "integration" with respect to overarching, collective goals or objectives; there is a functional commonality between organisms and superorganisms. But more important, superorganisms may also constitute a distinct unit of selection (and adaptive change) in the evolutionary process. In accordance with the so-called "Synergism Hypothesis," the combined functional effects that are produced by "wholes" are the primary causal agency underlying the evolution of cooperation and complexity in nature. It is the synergies (the economic payoffs, broadly speaking) that are the drivers for evolutionary complexification.

    human superorganisms (and their political systems) are not sui generis but are variations on a major evolutionary theme. Indeed, it is likely that social organization played a key part in human evolution, and in the rise of civilization.

    He talks of devolution. Some hints here http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/life/evolution/natural-se...
    http://berkeley.academia.edu/BrianJohnson/Papers/152327/Deconstructing_t...

    Evolution is degeneration, http://www.onelife.com/evolve/degen.html
    The human conquered its environment with tools, clothing, shelter, medicine, high food production and compassionate cultures. It gained a long life span and huge population growth. The environment no longer removes deleterious mutations unless they are immediately fatal. The human's gene pool is no longer maintained. The result is a rapid degradation in body and mind due to the accumulation without control of degenerating mutations in the gene pool. The rate of human descent is perhaps thousands of times faster than the rate of its ascent. Unless checked, the modern human (Homo sapiens), as a species, will soon collapse. The degeneration is already apparent.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15653557 Cave-fish.
    The evolutionary mechanisms responsible for eye degeneration in cave-adapted animals have not been resolved. Opposing hypotheses invoking neural mutation or natural selection, each with certain genetic and developmental expectations, have been advanced to explain eye regression. We conclude from these studies that eye degeneration in cavefish may be caused by adaptive evolution and pleiotropy.

    http://www.evolution-is-degeneration.com/index.asp?PaginaID=1116 Degeneration exists.
    there is normally also a natural lower boundary to degeneration, and that is the age at which an individual can still reproduce. .. The genome of organisms which live (much) longer than is necessary to reproduce is (probably) less degenerated than that of comparable organisms which reproduce and die soon afterwards.

    This would explain the mechanism of altruism, which is thus contrary to degeneration.

    Ask any genetist and you get the answer that degeneration in evolution exist.

    Gerhard Adam
    Sorry, but your mixing and matching too many different concepts here.

    In the first place your argument about "degeneration" isn't correct.  You're attempting to describe a particular trait which you have evaluated as degenerating, based solely on your value judgment of it.  It has nothing to do with evolution or biology. 
    The evolutionary mechanisms responsible for eye degeneration in cave-adapted animals have not been resolved.
    This is a misuse of terminology, since it can hardly be argued that an organ that isn't needed is "degenerating".  Natural selection can readily favor those animals that don't waste resources on supporting superfluous structures.  While one can make the point that the eye, itself, is less complex (or even eliminated), over other eyes, one cannot argue that evolution is degenerating the species.  It just isn't true.
    The result is a rapid degradation in body and mind due to the accumulation without control of degenerating mutations in the gene pool. The rate of human descent is perhaps thousands of times faster than the rate of its ascent. Unless checked, the modern human (Homo sapiens), as a species, will soon collapse.
    Sorry, but that's just rubbish.  There's no question that human technology has affected natural selection (just as it has for domesticated animals), but to argue that humans are degenerating is simply not true.  This is the simplistic argument used by those that support eugenics.

    You also need to stop quoting from people that don't actually have any research backing them up.  This link is nothing but a guy trying to rewrite evolutionary theory.

    Your whole point about superorganisms is a discussion of culture, which also has little to do with evolution (except as it applies to humans).  There's no question that culture can influence natural selection (Behavioral and Symbolic Inheritance Systems).  However, after you wade through all the extraneous rhetoric, it is little more than an argument for group selection (which clearly occurs for social organisms).  So I'm not sure what your point is, but it is applicable only to a subset of organisms on this planet.

    Also, note this quote from the website you indicated:
    The views expressed in this text are not consistent with those of professionals in the fields of genetics and evolution.
    http://www.onelife.com/evolve/degen.html
    This would explain the mechanism of altruism, which is thus contrary to degeneration.
    What does this have to do with anything being discussed?
    Mundus vult decipi
    Ever seen Idiocracy?

    Plot

    "During the prologue, a narrator (Earl Mann) explains that in modern society, natural selection is indifferent toward intelligence. In a society in which stupid people easily out-breed the intelligent, the result is a world that has degenerated into a barely functioning society held together by a rapidly crumbling, mostly automated technological infrastructure that was created by intelligent individuals many years (perhaps centuries) earlier that few, if any, of the less intelligent members of 26th Century society know how to operate or fix. In the 26th Century, highway overpasses have collapsed, structurally failing buildings are tied together for support, automated vacuuming systems barely function, voice-prompted machinery regularly misinterprets commands, computers automatically lay off workers without anybody knowing how to stop it, nuclear power plants leak and go unrepaired, and buildings often have huge holes in their roofs."

    See also, Fertility and Intelligence:

    "Fertility and intelligence research investigates the relationship between fertility and intelligence. Demographic studies have indicated that in humans, fertility and intelligence tend to be negatively correlated, that is to say, the more intelligent, as measured by IQ, exhibit a lower total fertility rate than the less intelligent. It is theorized that this trend may lead to a downward spiral in the entire population, known as dysgenics. Other correlates of fertility include income and educational attainment."

    Scary, innit.

    IT GOTS ELECTROLYTES AND SHIT.

    I have taken your tenis example one step further.
    Having 4 players in the 2+2 configuration gets the best use of resources for the complete group!
    So the certain amount of stupidity provides optimal solution without any communication or control!
    That is the part that rocks.

    "Fertility and intelligence research investigates the relationship between fertility and intelligence."

    There is some confusion about the relation between intelligence, stupidity, and happiness on one side and evolutionary success on the other.

    First, fertility is NOT fitness. The point is not to produce more children, but to produce more children who have children themselves. Indeed, poor people tend to produce more children. Over generations, poverty is not particularly strongly correlated to intelligence or stupidity, so it does not work as a good evolutionary sieve. And the reason poor people produce more children is that they can spend less resources raising them (Lifetime reproductive effort in humans
    http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/277/1682/773.short). With poor people, more children will remain themselves childless.

    In practice, the higher fertility of poor people is not compensating for their reduced (phenotypical) fitness.

    Furthermore, the time it takes genetic drift to "dumb down" humanity runs in the hundreds of millions of GENERATIONS (#generations ~ #humans). So, if all selection stops now, it will take billions of years to increase the number of "mentally weak" humans.

    If you want to read a very entertaining account of why ignorant people are not happy, and mostly rather fearful, read Charles MacKay, "Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds" (http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/24518). This book is also very good supporting evidence for the "The basic laws of human stupidity".

    Gerhard Adam
    First, fertility is NOT fitness. The point is not to produce more children, but to produce more children who have children themselves.
    You're saying the same thing.  The more children you produce, then greater the likelihood that your offspring will outproduce anyone that has fewer offspring.  Without fertility there is no biological future.  Day to day survival is simply the requirement to exploit that fertility.

    However, your point about genetic drift is completely immaterial until you can:

    1.  Define precisely what you mean by "stupidity".
    2.  Demonstrate that "stupidity" is heritable.
    3.  Demonstrate that as a heritable trait it generally expresses.

    Specifically the first item is problematic since it was expressly stated that "stupidity" doesn't necessarily relate to intelligence.  Therefore what's the criteria?  This is by no means clear even in the Tennis example, after all, the only criteria that seems to be assumed there is that the choice of "A" appears to be less than optimal (although this is demonstrated to be wrong when more than two people make it).  So how does that become a "stupid" act?

    In fact, it can be argued that if an outcome is better when more people choose it, then isn't it a "stupid" act to go against the group?

    Without a better definition this is a meaningless relationship that unnecessarily invokes natural selection.
    Mundus vult decipi
    "The more children you produce, then greater the likelihood that your offspring will outproduce anyone that has fewer offspring. Without fertility there is no biological future. "

    Nope. If a blue whale produces 100 small calves, they will all die, without exception. However, if she produces one large one, it may survive. That is why humans produce some dozen children in a lifetime, and flies thousands.

    And whether stupidity is heritable is irrelevant. If it is evolutionary important, then some heritable trait will arise to either banish it or stimulate it, whatever increases fitness. Unless, stupidity is linked to another trait that is even more important. Say, stupidity is "laziness" which is helpful in more ways than stupidity is harmful.

    Gerhard Adam
    Nope. If a blue whale produces 100 small calves, they will all die, without exception.
    Sorry, but now you're just being silly.  No one is talking about how many offspring are produced in a single birth.  If a blue whale produces 100 small calves OVER A LIFETIME, then she will outproduce other whales.  There are NO exceptions.

    What you're referring to is simply how many offspring are produced at one time, which isn't relevant to the discussion (with respect to fertility).  You're confusing reproductive "strategies" with fertility as an indicator of how many offspring can be produced.  Of course, the volume being produced is dependent on the species lifestyle, but there's absolutely no question that without that ability to reproduce, then they will be outnumbered by those with more aggressive strategies.

    Your comparison is also flawed, since the question wouldn't be between whales and flies.  Instead if you compared birth rates within comparable species (i.e. competitors), then those that produce more offspring will eventually dominate the environment.
    And whether stupidity is heritable is irrelevant.
    Where did you get that?  It's absolutely relevant, since without heritability there is no discussion regarding natural selection.  That's the way it works.  You then proceed to link "stupidity" to another heritable trait (which may be more important) as if that explains it away.  The point is that it must be heritable.  Whether it is "selected out" will be determined by whether there may be more important traits that are correlated to it to prevent it from being isolated. 

    More to the point, though is that the entire discussion is seriously flawed since "stupidity" has not been properly defined.  It has been arbitrarily linked to low-intelligence, which isn't what "stupidity" is.  Even if true, there is no actual definition of intelligence, so to suggest that there is something specific to "select" is a flawed argument.  In addition, even if you are postulating that intelligence is a desirable trait, you'd have to demonstrate that it actually has survival value before you could conclude that it is a necessary trait.  Certainly that is generally assumed, but actual evidence that supports that perspective isn't very clear.  In fact, "intelligence" is actually a rather novel trait when all the biomass is examined, so it isn't at all clear that it has much applicability regarding selection. 

    You would be hard pressed to demonstrate that individual human intelligence has much bearing on anything, since the achievements we're so proud of have little to do with innate intelligence and are the direct result of our unique social organization.  So our civilization is a product of human social intelligence and not isolated individual intelligence.
    Mundus vult decipi
    "Sorry, but now you're just being silly. No one is talking about how many offspring are produced in a single birth. If a blue whale produces 100 small calves OVER A LIFETIME, then she will outproduce other whales. There are NO exceptions."

    Please read the linked article.
    http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/277/1682/773.short

    The maximal Lifetime Reproductive Effort is fixed. If a female produces more offspring, she will invest less effort in each. Less effort invested by mother means less chances of reproduction of the child. If a whale produces 100 calves over a lifetime, each will have to be smaller and weened faster. Which means they will *all* die. That is exactly why blue whales produce only a single calve in two years.

    "Where did you get that? It's absolutely relevant, since without heritability there is no discussion regarding natural selection. "

    If a non-genetic phenotypical feature affects fitness, genetic traits will evolve to bend its appearance. That is the basis of evolution by natural selection. If stupidity affects fitness over long periods, there will evolve a genetic basis to change its frequency. Because, there is no trait that cannot be affected by genetic factors.

    To make things even more clear. Stupidity could be a non-genetic accident of "nurture". However, not everybody will be equally susceptible to it. And that susceptibility will have a genetic component. So if stupidity affects fitness, susceptibility will be selected for.

    And I think stupidity has no relation with intelligence, just like those great examples of stupidity, revenge and jealousness. So I do not see why intelligence should be invoked.

    Gerhard Adam
    You're mischaracterizing what "fertility" means.  No one is suggesting, nor has suggested that an animals natural reproduction process is changed.   The point about fertility is always within the context of normal reproduction.  It's simply a statement indicating that the maximum number of offspring that a species can produce will always produce domination of an environment if it exceeds that of its competitors.

    If you're arguing that "stupidity" may be a byproduct of other non-genetic factors (such as nurture) there's no argument, but it must be heritable (at least in that sense).  If it does not manifest in a reasonably consistent fashion then there is nothing for selection to operate on.  However, since you indicated that "stupidity" is not linked to intelligence, then you'll have to provide some definition that indicates why it should be considered a trait and not just some arbitrary behavior which occurs on occasion.  If it is the latter, then there is nothing for selection to operate against, since there is no correlation between those that survive and those that may occasionally behave "stupidly".
    Mundus vult decipi
    @Gerhard
    "It's simply a statement indicating that the maximum number of offspring that a species can produce will always produce domination of an environment if it exceeds that of its competitors."

    This statement is based on the hidden assumption that the average quality of offspring is equal, irrespective of the number of offspring produced. Which is simply wrong.

    Your view only holds, in first approximation, if females invest fixed resources per child. So in such a case, a successful mother will produce more offspring which will, on average, be of equal quality to those of other, less successful and less fertile mothers. Which makes the successful mother produce relatively more grand and great-grandchildren.

    But you (and some other commenters) extrapolate this "standard" case of evolutionary success to UNsuccessful (ie, poor) women who produce more offspring with much, much less resources invested per child. In such a case, more children each of less quality will be produced. Their chances of successfully reproducing are much less than those of the, fewer, children of successful (rich) women.

    A poor mother who has food (resources) for 2 children but gets 6 will have 6 (or less) starving and probably incapacitated children who are unable to care for themselves (if they survive) less even for any children of their own (think of the plight of children in the ghetto).

    A rich mother who has resources for 6 children but gets 2 will have 2 healthy and successful children who most certainly will raise 2 healthy and successful children each of their own. It takes some mathematics on real life data to determine who will leave the largest imprint on the future. But it is most certainly not the case that the poor mother was three times as successful as the rich mother.

    And no one lives in average normal circumstances having average standard kids.

    @Gerhard
    "If it does not manifest in a reasonably consistent fashion then there is nothing for selection to operate on."

    Yes, the whole point of the original post of Johannes was to argue that stupidity might be a trait that might have an unexpected positive influence on fitness. And as such, there would be a selective pressure on any genetic trait that would influence it's occurrence. And there are bound to be genetic traits that have a direct or indirect influence on any type of behavior or character. Evolutionary theory is based on the assumption that organism will acquire genetic traits to influence their fitness. Even for phenotypical traits which had no heritable aspects before.

    @Gerhard
    "However, since you indicated that "stupidity" is not linked to intelligence, then you'll have to provide some definition that indicates why it should be considered a trait and not just some arbitrary behavior which occurs on occasion."

    I treat stupidity, niceness, laziness, jealousy, and feelings of revenge all as a kind of emotions. They are all orthogonal to intelligence.

    My hunch is that stupidity is the result of mental laziness. With every decision we have basically two choices: Reason or remember. You either think before you do and try to find the best solution based on your knowledge or you do what you did before in a situation like the current one.

    If you have not enough knowledge, your reasoning will probably fail, and you would have been better off to act on a hunch. But you never know for sure whether you have enough information or not to make a good decision. Stupid people are those who go for an incorrect hunch when they should have reasoned. Or those who failed to see their own ignorance when they reasoned.

    Think of the definition of "fool" by barbara Tuchman (a march of follies) : A fool is someone who considers s/he does not have to think because s/he already knows. That is also a good view on stupid people.

    Gerhard Adam
    Regarding fertility, you're basing your entire point on the questionable issue of modern human women.  This has nothing to do with anything.

    As far as "stupidity" being a trait ... well the point is that unless it is heritable and linked in some fashion to a predictable outcome than it's little more than random chance and has little effect on the long term direction for the species.
    Mundus vult decipi
    "Regarding fertility, you're basing your entire point on the questionable issue of modern human women. This has nothing to do with anything."

    Where does this rely on modern women? The relation between number of offspring, maximal lifetime reproductive effort, and resources invested per child are universal features of animals, or even all seually reproducing organisms.

    Claiming poor and unintelligent humans will "outbreed" rich and smart people was already pondered by the likes of Galton who really did not understand much of population genetics and selection pressure. You can easily trace back the reduction of "fertility" of the rich to the classical Romans. And it never worked out.

    Even the most cursory glances at theories lifetime reproductive success and fitness would point out that poor people have more children to compensate for their lack of reproductive chances (eg, their children tend to die early). Whenever the chances of reproductive success of their children increases (they get rich), women reduce their fertillity, and reduce it dramatically. That is because investing your time and effort in a few children will make them much more competitive. Which again makes them outcompete the children of the poor.

    However, applying these models on modern humans is rather pointless, as the changes are much too fast and the genetic mixing much to complete to allow for any determination of selective pressures.

    Gerhard Adam
    The relation between number of offspring, maximal lifetime reproductive effort, and resources invested per child are universal features of animals, or even all seually reproducing organisms.
    Not at all.  The majority of animals do not even care for their young let alone invest resources in the manner you're describing.  This is precisely why many animals produce huge numbers of offspring so that a few may survive.

    In addition, in your example you associated wealth (rich vs poor) as an indicator of success which has nothing to do with biology.  That's a value judgment, but it is irrelevant to the point.  If someone produces 6 children over a lifetime and someone else produces 2, then those that regularly produce 6 will dominate and it doesn't matter how rich or poor they are.  The only factor that would affect the outcome is if those 6 children couldn't survive to adulthood to reproduce themselves.  If they did, then your "rich" person would quickly be outnumbered.

    Once again, your entire point is steeped in human cultural evolution and has little or nothing to do with fundamental biology.  Certainly if more offspring are produced to compensate for a higher mortality, then that becomes factor, but the point remains because larger numbers are necessary to achieve the same objective.  The ONLY exception to this rule is modern humans, due primarily to technological interventions that have improved the odds (and hence the relationship to wealth).

    So, by your own argument, you've made the point that poorer women need to have more children because of higher mortality rates.  Consequently, their success REQUIRES higher levels of fertility than those that have a more secure existence.

    You're not talking about biology, but rather the effects of culture (and the support infrastructure) of human women.  Nothing in your discussion is reflected in other animals beyond those that have been domesticated by humans.
    That is because investing your time and effort in a few children will make them much more competitive. Which again makes them outcompete the children of the poor.
    What's the basis for this statement?  You're making some sort of a class/culture statement here that simply isn't true.  In effect, you're arguing that poor children are poor because of biological constraints.
    Mundus vult decipi
    "Not at all. The majority of animals do not even care for their young let alone invest resources in the manner you're describing. This is precisely why many animals produce huge numbers of offspring so that a few may survive."

    Sorry, you just failed your high-school biology. If you enter "lifetime reproductive effort" (with quotes) into Google Scholar, you get around 144 papers. Do it on Google and you get close to 50,000 results. Each of them would explain how wrong your quote here is. (hint: women invest resources pre- and post-natal, and mammals and birds all invest resource post-natal, mammals even by definition)

    Why did you not inform yourself about "reproductive effort"? Even the dictionary definition would have been enlightening: The proportion of its resources that an organism expends on reproduction.
    (http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O14-reproductiveeffort.html)

    This discussion is developing like an opinionated biologist arguing against general relativity because he does not believe in the twin paradox. You also seem to be stuck in 19th century (popular) ideas about social Darwinism. It is not that it cannot be argued that the unintelligent and stupid are currently outbreeding the smart. That is an empirical question that can be answered by gathering evidence. It is that such evidence should be based on an understanding of reproductive biology that goes beyond the 19th century ideas of Galton cs.

    Somehow, I also get the idea that you do not actually read the comments that are posted. I cannot remember having seen a study that did NOT find that poor people and their children were disadvantaged by poverty (bad health, bad schooling, etc.). Nothing that could not easily be mended by better food, health care, teaching, and housing. But they still are not mended. Where did any comment here said otherwise?

    I also see your responses developing into an illustration of Johannes' original point.

    Gerhard Adam
    ...women invest resources pre- and post-natal, and mammals and birds all invest resource post-natal, mammals even by definition...
    Once again, you're simply cherry-picking the data.  Birds and mammals do not constitute the "majority of animals".  I didn't indicate that no animal invests resources. 

    I also don't understand what your point is regarding that the poor are disadvantaged.  This isn't in dispute.  The point is that increased fertility is a requirement of ensuring enough offspring survive.  You indicated that the poor would tend to reproduce more simply to improve the probability of some surviving (precisely because of disadvantage).  This indicates that they must be more fertile and reproductively active just to ensure parity with those that are more advantaged.

    The point you seem to be missing is that an animal's reproductive success will determine its representation in future generations.  You seem to want to digress. instead of recognizing that the number of offspring produced must be sufficiently high to ensure survival.  As a result, fertility is absolutely a criteria for ensuring such success.  For example, instead of comparing the rich and the poor, let's assume two rich people where one has two children and the other has one.  Even just using this human example, it should be clear that the one that produces two children has a higher probability of increasing their representation in future generations.  There are limits as to the amount of resources that can be committed to offspring before there is no more return.  So the point remains, that higher fertility will increase the probability of higher representation.

    You also seem to insist that being "unintelligent" and "stupid" are necessarily the same thing as well as being heritable.  They do not necessarily correlate and the prime point of being "stupid" is the idea that it occurs with normal intelligence.  This is part of the problem with the vagueness of the definition, because for the concept of "stupidity" to be meaningful it must be associated with someone that is actually capable of acting differently.  So, the point remains ... how is that to be selected out, if your criteria for selection is intelligence?  Unless stupidity can be shown to represent a consistent behavior that would impact fitness, there's nothing for natural selection to act on.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    For example, instead of comparing the rich and the poor, let's assume two rich people where one has two children and the other has one. Even just using this human example, it should be clear that the one that produces two children has a higher probability of increasing their representation in future generations. There are limits as to the amount of resources that can be committed to offspring before there is no more return. So the point remains, that higher fertility will increase the probability of higher representation.
    Too true!


    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    We should notice that this chain of comments it's "stupid" itself by the definition of Cipolla. No one has nothing to gain from this, instead you are wasting time writing "smart" comments while "stupid" guys are outside dating girls.

    This is an April 1st article. It is stupid that it appears April 5th.

    We are most likely hurt by a lot of stupid things, many of them caused by ourselves. If Andy hadn't been stupid, he might have been in a car, instead of a motorcycle. Indeed, the woman who hit him with her car was stupid. However, if Andy had been in a car with a seat belt fastened he probably would have survived.

    Gerhard Adam
    Indeed, the woman who hit him with her car was stupid.
    See, that's the problem I have with this kind of discussion and abuse of terminology.  What's the basis for asserting this woman was stupid?  Careless; perhaps.  Stupid? ... based on what?

    By this reasoning, couldn't we argue that riding a motorcycle in the presence of automobiles is also a "stupid" act?  After all, what is the benefit to the rider versus the risk of sharing the road with vehicles significantly more powerful than themselves?

    Overall, the concept of stupidity in this discussion is seriously flawed, since the nature of "stupidity" is precisely that it occurs in rational, intelligent people.  However, it is also taken as a perspective on behaviors that we may not agree with, but is not necessarily defining behaviors that can even be agreed upon. 

    Certainly one can argue that driving while drunk is stupid, but is that really true, versus irresponsible and careless?  We can certainly argue that making such a decision while drunk isn't rational, but we can't very well claim that they were operating with their full mental faculties, so how can we conclude that the behavior is stupid?

    Probably the best single definition of stupidity is:
    "-a delusive inability to gather accurate information and a neurotic inability to match behavior to environmental contingencies"
    from Understanding Stupidity, James F. Welles, PhD.  p.2

    So rather that arguing that stupidity is arbitrarily behavior we disagree with, or that it is linked to intelligence (or even ignorance) misses the point and doesn't address the underlying issue of stupidity.  It is for precisely this reason that it is extremely difficult to argue that it is subject to natural selection, since it is a part of our behavior which will affect us all regardless of our intellectual level.  In reality, most references to stupidity are simply matters of disagreement rather than an accurate assessment of what "stupid" actually means.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Agreed - I think that the car accident is a bad example. I would add to this discussion by saying that there must be a deliberate choice in a person's actions. An "accident", in and of itslef is not a choice so can't be a proper determinant of stupidity. However, if I am driving a car and make a delibrate choice to run into your motorcyle then I am stupid - you have just died and I have gained nothing from this act. (In fact, I may incur loss(es): my car is now damaged, possible jail time for manslaughter, friends and family disown me....)

    Gerhard Adam
    ...if I am driving a car and make a delibrate choice to run into your motorcyle then I am stupid...
    I still have to disagree, although a deliberate action is necessary, however such deliberation requires that I ignore information to persist in my action.  For example, driving on a slippery road above the speed limit would qualify as "stupid" because it specifically ignores information to persist in a particular decision.  If I elected to drive blindfolded, that would be an act of stupidity because you know that vision is a requirement to drive, so it would be deliberately ignoring information.

    In other words, stupidity is not the action itself, but the results of taking an action while ignoring relevant information to control the outcome.  So, deliberately striking your motorcycle is not stupid.  Driving fast and seeing how close I can come to it on a slippery road, would be stupid.  It can't be considered stupid if you produce the outcome you intended.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Cipolla seems to focus mainly on the impact of one's actions (the outcome) on oneself as well as on others. His definition of a stupid person is one who: "causes losses to another person or to a group of persons while himself deriving no gain and even possibly incurring losses." The examples you give don't seem to fit the model so one can possibly classify those actions as dumb or some other useful term.
    Piggybacking on your example: If you drive above the speed limit on a slippery road, my assumption is that you get some sort of thrill or adventure from it (a gain). Let's say you have a friend in the passenger seat who also considers this a thrill (a gain), then you are in fact (per Cipolla), an intelligent person since everyone benefits. However, if you crash into another car and kill someone as well as yourself (a loss), then you are stupid - since everyone loses.
    My interpretation of stupidity per this definition is that the same person can be intelligent and stupid (so I agree when you say stupidity is the results of an action). I stop agreeing up to the point of ignoring relevant information. The regulations (speed limit) is a preventative measure in the case of an accident. However, it also limits the ability of someone to gain the thrill as per the above example. Hence, that information may not necessarily be relevant to you.

    FYI - I'm basing this on: http://www.cantrip.org/stupidity.html?seenIEPage=1

    Gerhard Adam
    Hence, that information may not necessarily be relevant to you.
    I think that actually makes the point.  It isn't that the information isn't relevant, since it clearly is.  The point is that in an effort to obtain your "thrill" you've intentionally ignored pertinent information.  Even if nothing negative occurred, many people might view your thrill-seeking as "stupid".  Certainly if something negative did occur, then that viewpoint would become more pronounced.
    "causes losses to another person or to a group of persons while himself deriving no gain and even possibly incurring losses."
    In my view this definition is insufficient because it fails to take into account whether I can afford the loss.  Such actions may be quite intentional if I view the harm done to myself as an acceptable cost to gain retribution towards you.  This is where the game theory explanation fails, since it presumes that all players are equally harmed by a particular choice, but we see this all the time.  An individual with a great deal of money may spend a disproportionate amount to sue you, just to make the point.  Certainly they've incurred a loss, but it isn't substantial enough to offset the gain in making you suffer.  This action is clearly not "stupid" and doesn't belong within the context of that definition.

    This has also been discussed within the context of the game "Greed".  While it might seem rational to accept the offer, it is more rational to "lose" resources in an effort to "gain" a reputation to avoid future abuses and losses.  So once, again this fails to rise to the definition of "stupidity" being claimed.

    In the end, for stupidity to occur we must have relevant information and the ability to assess it.  We must then choose to intentionally ignore that information or apply it inappropriately to the circumstances we are in.  In that case, we have created a "disconnect" between the significance of data and our application of that.  In effect, we are attempting to exclude pertinent data so that we can pursue our original objective. 

    This is no different than an individual insisting that they can fly and proceeding to jump off the roof of a building.  They aren't causing a loss to others (excluding emotional costs), but their behavior is clearly stupid.

    Mundus vult decipi
    Isn't it called blissful ignorance?
    If this has been said by somebody before me, sorry, but I'm not going to read 104 stupid comments.

    Everyone:
    Leave your feelings at home and look at whats happening.
    right now in industrialized societies the stupid are heavily outbreeding the smart, and also getting fat in the process. They die not from malnutrition but from stupidity and ignorance in a society that leaves way too much time for cultural activities that they simply cannot enjoy, so they eat, spend money on chinese crap, fuck and procreate.
    In many poor countries lifespan is also rising and women ave not had time to get educations however they live longer-hence we have become 4 billion more in the last 35 years a 50% increase!
    more STUPID people or more SMART people?
    as life gets EASIER to survive it requires LESS skills.
    Until we reach the point of no return, that is.. when recourses start running out and material capitalism will have to be replaced by a higher form of consciousness..think of Rivindell and the Elves, we mortal humans are still primitive beasts that enjoy power and pleasure and status through the acquisition of things.
    If poetry, sensibility and intelligence made women happy and not power and brute force then evolution would surely change its course.
    As it is men spend their talent trying to get enough prestige, make a career, and gain power (after current standards) to attract a female, the so called feathers of the peacock effect.
    We are all still oh -so primitive!

    Gerhard Adam
    The funny part is that no one posting opinions like this ever considers whether they might just end up being classified among the "stupid" if their activities and behaviors were examined.
    ...the stupid are heavily outbreeding the smart...
    Just exactly who are these "stupid" people, as well as who are these "smart" people.  Beyond calling people stupid whom you disagree with, just what exactly is the basis for this line with which you've separated the population.  I would also like to know how you differentiate someone being stupid, versus simply behaving stupidly. 


    I'd also be really curious to know what the basis is for your thinking that you might not be in that category yourself.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    If poetry, sensibility and intelligence made women happy and not power and brute force then evolution would surely change its course. As it is men spend their talent trying to get enough prestige, make a career, and gain power (after current standards) to attract a female, the so called feathers of the peacock effect. We are all still oh -so primitive!
    Sorry Gerhard, but I have to agree with this comment.

    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    There's nothing wrong with that.  My point is simply that people are using the word "stupid" to mean all kinds of things and to argue that "stupid" people are outbreeding "smart" people is impossible to demonstrate.  We tend to be rather flexible in who we consider "stupid" despite the reality that "stupidity" occurs in intelligent people, that's what makes it stupid.  If an individual lacked the intellectual capacity to behave intelligently, then we wouldn't call them stupid.

    As a result, such blanket claims about evolution are not just ill-defined, they are simply wrong.  There is no direct genetic or causal link to stupidity which is why natural selection (evolution) doesn't modify it.

    This is a classic case of language abuse, where definitions become important.  We shouldn't use the word "stupid" if we mean ignorant.  Lacking intelligence does not equate to being stupid.  The reason why I'm being such a pest about such details is that general statements about "stupid" people tends to sound arbitrary and becomes little more than an opportunity to feel superior to others we choose not to understand.  It's like the point made at the end of the article where the woman that killed Andy is automatically called stupid.  Why is this considered stupid?  As I've argued elsewhere, she might have been careless or any number of other things, but why stupid?  More importantly, why is riding a motorcycle not considered stupid?  How do we know that the motorcycle rider was not being careless?  What are the boundaries that we're discussing here?  Once again, my point is that this actions may be the result of carelessness, irresponsibility, etc. but stupid?  On what basis, beyond setting ourselves up to act superior to the woman in the pick-up truck for no better reason than that Andy is the "hero" of the article.

    If our point is to engage in a serious discussion about "stupidity", then let's define our terms.  Otherwise this is little more than arbitrary name-calling so that everyone can rail against how stupid other people are, since it would never occur to them to consider that they might also behave stupidly.  Somehow that comparison is always different.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    We tend to be rather flexible in who we consider "stupid" despite the reality that "stupidity" occurs in intelligent people, that's what makes it stupid.  If an individual lacked the intellectual capacity to behave intelligently, then we wouldn't call them stupid.
    That must mean that there is no such thing as a stupid idiot then? Someone needs to tell Hank :)
    If our point is to engage in a serious discussion about "stupidity", then let's define our terms.  Otherwise this is little more than arbitrary name-calling so that everyone can rail against how stupid other people are, since it would never occur to them to consider that they might also behave stupidly.  Somehow that comparison is always different.
    Gerhard, somehow I don't think this is ever going to happen. The word 'stupid' has too many connotations to too many people, so it is almost impossible to define these terms, and yet the stupidity of mankind is probably the most important thing that does need defining, examining, understanding and then ideally one day drastically reducing, as it causes so much harm to this planet and everything on it. Or am I just being stupid thinking this? If so, then at least I can't be a complete idiot.

    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    The word 'stupid' has too many connotations to too many people, so it is almost impossible to define these term...
    Actually it's not if people want to have a serious discussion.  This is especially important when one wants to drag this into a scientific discussion featuring game theory and natural selection.

    A good definition (that I've mentioned elsewhere) is:
    "-a delusive inability to gather accurate information and a neurotic inability to match behavior to environmental contingencies."
    From "Understanding Stupidity", James F. Welles PhD.
    There's obviously a great deal more that can be said about it (which is why there's a book), but it begins the process of attempting to define what we mean. 

    Using the term "stupid" is often used stupidly, because it is a convenient vehicle to label one's opponent so that their ideas or thoughts don't have to be examined.  Sometimes there's nothing of substance to examine, but sometimes there are alternate perspectives that may be relevant.  Specifically this occurs within the political context, where we refuse to acknowledge that our opponents may also want to solve particular problems, but instead of discussing our differences, we just label them as "stupid", so that we dismiss them as irrelevant.

    Another quote from the book illustrates the problem rather well regarding why relevant, available information is often ignored:
    "This is likely to occur when a person senses that learning more about a particular matter might force him to undergo the most traumatic, terrifying experience one can be called upon to endure--he might have to change his mind."
    As I've said before, if the only purpose in using such terminology is to simply allow us the liberty of arbitrarily feeling superior to others, then there's nothing much to discuss and it certainly isn't scientific.  On the other hand, if people want to continue making ignorant statements about "stupid" and "smart" people, while invoking natural selection, then perhaps they need to get their definitions straight and stop behaving "stupidly"(*).

    (*) Note that my use of this term is specifically intended to convey that relevant information is available and these people intentionally choose to ignore it because it upsets their personal belief system.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    "-a delusive inability to gather accurate information and a neurotic inability to match behavior to environmental contingencies." From "Understanding Stupidity", James F. Welles PhD.
    Hopefully this will not also become the definition of humanity's understanding of anthropogenic climate change.
    On the other hand, if people want to continue making ignorant statements about "stupid" and "smart" people, while invoking natural selection, then perhaps they need to get their definitions straight and stop behaving "stupidly"(*).
    Another way of looking at this is from the IQ perspective. I know that IQ is not necessarily intelligence but it does measure something called IQ which is designed to correlate with intelligence, whatever that might be. I find it interesting that in many ways it often seems easier for a person with an IQ of 100 to fit in to their society than it is for those with IQs of less than 60 or greater than 140 and that these are often the people who are most likely to be called 'stupid' by the majority with an IQ around 100. It would also be interesting to know if population IQs are changing in any way over the decades in different societies and populations with the advent of easy contraception in some countries and just for the privileged and/or educated in other countries.
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    As I said before, what people call each other reflects their individual bias more than any actual definition.  I don't believe that IQ relates to much of anything, much less anything resembling intelligence, but even so, it wouldn't be a factor in assessing stupidity.

    The whole point of "stupidity" is that it occurs when intelligent people willfully ignore pertinent and relevant information in making decisions and then act inappropriately to the circumstances.  As a result, anything that suggests inferior intelligence cannot (by definition) reflect stupidity.  In other words, one can only behave stupidly when one has the ability to act otherwise, but elects not to because of information bias.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    I understand and agree with what you are saying but most people don't see stupidity the same way as you Gerhard. If they did then they wouldn't be calling each other 'stupid idiots' so often would they?
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    Most people don't understand quantum mechanics either, but that's no reason to ignore the definitions.  What people say in their personal lives is one thing, but this article isn't a personal exploration, its premise is game theory and natural selection.  Therefore it doesn't get to claim colloquialism as an excuse.
    Mundus vult decipi
    @Gerhard. It seems * you * are ignoring the definition. The author (or rather Cipolla) defines stupidity in an operational way (an act of stupidity is without benefits to the person himself and has negative consequences to the total group). Subsequently, the author shows that with stupidity thus defined, there is no reason to believe stupidity should disappear with time. This is even the case when assuming stupidity has a genetic component and survival of the fittest is acting with full force.

    You might disagree with the author on the usefulness of Cipolla's definition of stupidity, but I can't see how you can disagree with the conclusions.

    Gerhard Adam
    I find it difficult to entertain the idea that a literary vehicle that was written "tongue-in-cheek" should serve as the basis for a definition which clearly doesn't satisfy the conditions for which it is claimed.  There is no operational definition of stupidity, within the context of the discussion.  If the intent is simply to employ a humorous, or "tongue-in-cheek" essay, then there is no basis for discussion, nor is there a basis for asserting that it has anything to do with natural selection.

    On the other hand, if these definitions are to serve as the basis for such a discussion, then they need to be examined, and they are deficient to satisfy the criteria they are set up for.  The author clearly fails to demonstrate any instance of where the resultant behavior is actually stupid (even according to Cipolla's definition). 

    While one can argue that it might not be optimum for the group, it is presumptuous to declare it as "stupid" simply because one party fails to benefit (while those supposedly making the "stupid" choice, clearly do).
    This is even the case when assuming stupidity has a genetic component and survival of the fittest is acting with full force.
    How can this be the case, with a set of ill-defined concepts that were never intended for a serious discussion, especially not within the context of natural selection? 
    You might disagree with the author on the usefulness of Cipolla's definition of stupidity, but I can't see how you can disagree with the conclusions.
    There's nothing to disagree with, since they were never intended to be operational definitions.  It's like asking someone to defend themselves against the punchline for a joke.  Basically it comes down to the simple fact, that people need to make up their minds as to whether they intend to discuss something seriously, of if they are posting something humorous.  If it's the latter, then it fails to translate.  If it's the former, then they are seriously misguided in their sources.

    Mundus vult decipi
    any instance of where the resultant behavior is actually stupid

    Define 'actually stupid'..?

    Gerhard Adam
    An obvious instance is the example of the tennis players and the rule that describes someone as being stupid when they do harm to themselves and others for no apparent gain.  However, the example shows that this didn't happen.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Aitch
    Hopefully this will not also become the definition of humanity's understanding of anthropogenic climate change.

     Funny you should say that, .....Franny Armstrong made a film about that....

    Age of Stupid: Trailers: Original Theatrical Trailer from SPANNER FILMS on Vimeo.


    I can recommend to download and watch the whole movie

    Aitch
    I wouldn't say this film falls under the "survival of the stupidest" category. A lot of people are sucked into the whole "man-made climate change" bullshit. People like Al Gore support this conclusion by saying "but there is PROOF the climate is changing." And, by golly, there is. The problem is the base premise: that CO2 causes warming. The problem is, if you look back through the historical data, CO2 FOLLOWS climate change, it doesn't lead it. CO2 FOLLOWS climate change. It is just an indicator that there IS climate change.

    Now, don't get me wrong. I don't think we should be polluting our environment and I think the biggest security problem of this country is our dependency on foreign oil. It also costs us 10 fold more than people realize. Pump prices aren't the only cost of keeping our oil addiction going. But the "fact" that we are causing climate change is complete malarkey.

    We had better start looking at ways of DEALING with climate change and stop wasting our time, energy and money on trying to stop it.

    Again, as I've said before, any time that people (like Al Gore) make money hand over fist by promoting fear, you REALLY have to pay close attention to the science behind it, because it is usually a con game.

    Aitch
    For a bit of the history of the science behind what we call climate change, and our involvement and effect on it, see

    http://www.science20.com/chatter_box/moon_and_telephone-82029

    There is a lot more than fear involved....and most that gets generated is done so the oil companies can continue to 'maintain the status quo', and fool people that there's nothing to be concerned about - there's the con!

    Stupid wears many hats!

    Aitch
    Hmm, well I will have to spend time reading that article to find the info you are trying to reference. In the mean time, here are a couple of articles that are much clearer about the effects of CO2 on climate change:

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn11640-climate-myths-ice-cores-show...
    http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn11650-climate-myths-global-warming...
    http://www.newscientist.com/data/images/ns/cms/dn11640/dn11640-1_738.jpg
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/copenhagen-climate-change-confe/6762640...

    As I've said, if there is money involved, you really have to look at the science. ALL the science. The fact that a lot of people just accept that CO2 is a "greenhouse gas" and accept that humans are a major contributor to CO2 in the atmosphere and then run their science from those assumptions is what is in question. Of course we are having climate change. The climate ALWAYS changes. We are still coming out of the Little Ice Age, so it only makes sense that global temperatures are still raising. If anyone is disputing that there is climate change, they are delusional. However, there is still substantial scientific debate as to whether we are having much, if any, impact on it and, if we are, if there is anything we can actually do about it and how much payoff those efforts will be.

    However, as I've said, that does not change the fact that we need to stop polluting our environment, and we need to get off of a centralized grid system before a CME knocks it out altogether. It doesn't change the fact that we consume way too much non-renewable energy as a society. It doesn't change the fact that we are running very low on easily obtainable fossil fuels and they are only going to get more and more expensive. And it doesn't change the fact that, as I said in my previous post, our security as well as the world's security is directly related to how much money we pump into the middle east. We don't need a "war on terrorism." We just need to stop funding it.

    We can either put our time, energy, and money pursuing something that may or may not produce results (trying to "clean" CO2 out of the air) or we can just move forward in becoming more secure and stop wasting non-renewable energy. If we focused on the later, then the debate would be moot, plus we would save tons of money. However, focusing on the former may or may not provide any productive results, meaning we could potentially waste all of our effort AND money.

    If you had the choice of doing something that was only possibly semi-productive and cost a lot of money, versus doing something that was definitely productive and saved you a lot of money, which would be the better choice? And why aren't people choosing it? Solar furnaces and solar water heating systems are simple, cheap and people start saving money immediately (perhaps a few months for the systems to pay for themselves) and yet, how many people actually have these? How many utility companies provide these? Anyone who doesn't use these systems are making the choice to continue to support the power companies and oil cartels. Whether you believe in man-made climate change or not, why haven't you made this choice? (directed at all readers of this post, not just you, Aitch.)

    Aitch
    I think you are making too much of the money link with Science.....many Scientists AREN'T that well paid, nor agendist
    Dr. Roger Pielke Sr, as someone often referred to as a denier, has recently agreed that CO2 is CAUSING global climate change

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/sks-and-pielke-sr-agree-on-the-important...

    There is more on CO2 myths here, number 12 on the list

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php


    I am an ex-environmental activist, so won't argue with many of the points you make about pollution, and oil/funding the deniersphere being a huge problem in getting the facts understood, but it's no use knocking Scientists, who essentially want to help understand our world
     - the bad apple syndrome is universal, and cherry picked facts abound, despite rebuttal proofs having been published.....so discernment is the missing ingredient, as opposed to discrimination, which has become politicised.....but basically - sift the facts from the BS is the order of the day, on both side of the equation

    It seems to me irrelevant to suggest alternate modes of energy use, such as solar furnaces, or solar water heating.....if that indicates no requirement to think about the sheer quantity of energy WE collectively use....and expect to continue to do so regardless of consequence

    My personal solution is use only what is minimal and necessary....especially if it is non-renewable, in human lifespan terms, like oil and coal
    Grow more trees and be careful about taking food producing land for fuel use
    It is, after all, stupid in the extreme to have enough power to run technological tools and luxuries, if you are hungry because you forgot to factor in human energy itself, or the effects of climate change and/or pollution on food production - last year in Russia and this year in the US and Canada, grain yields are down due to climate related events - this would probably be exported globally to places where food producing land is already taken for fuel use......
    Whose demand is being catered to, there.....?

    Aitch
    Hank
    Dr. Roger Pielke Sr, as someone often referred to as a denier, has recently agreed that CO2 is CAUSING global climate change
    He never disagreed but anyone and everyone who stuck to science conclusions and valid calibration rather than jumping on the bandwagon was labeled a 'denier' because fundamentalists on global warming are the same as the anti-evolution kind.  They use emotional verbage to frame the debate against science and vilify people into agreement.
    So, regardless of the fact that we are on opposite sides of the cause of climate change (not because of stupidity on either side, but because we lend more weight to opposing sides of the scientific argument), we appear to be on the same page of doing the "right" things, regardless of what it does for our climate. I think you are absolutely correct that we, as a society, waste way too much energy.

    My only real question about your stance is this: how do you justify an attitude where you say do everything or nothing? The two largest areas of energy used in the average household is used in heating water and the house. Why do you think that substituting those 2 factors for no cost whatsoever would be "irrelevant"? If 3/4 of the households in this country all of a sudden dropped their power consumption by 40-60%, you actually think that is irrelevant? Without legislation, we can't do a lot to change businesses (I know, I know, you will say we SHOULD be doing that. And I agree.. ;) but why not start working on the problem on a personal level as well?

    The whole point behind this post is dealing with stupid people. Do you really think that telling stupid people "you just need to stop using 1/2 the power you normally use" will work out well? Especially when there is an alternative, which is that they can make no changes to their lifestyle but potentially cut their energy bill in 1/2?

    You are correct, we DO need to stop using so much energy, but it's going to be a long row to hoe to get most people to inconvenience themselves, but it would be a lot easier to get things started if you could show people the cost savings of simple change. You have to take baby steps with most people.

    Great, and in a fresh challenge to claims that there is scientific "consensus" on climate change, Prof Ivar Giaever (who shared the 1973 Nobel award for physics) has resigned from the American Physical Society, where his peers had elected him a fellow to honour his work.

    Prof Giaever is one of the most prominent scientific dissenters challenging the controversial man-made global warming claims of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and former US vice-president Al Gore.

    Several prominent members of the American Physical Society have expressed frustration that it has refused to reconsider its position – drawn up in 2007 – in the light of the "Climategate" controversy about the findings of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/environment/climatechange/8786565/War-o...

    As Prof Giaever states, it doesn't matter how many people claim to be "on board" with the man-made climate change assertion. What matters is if they are right.

    Aitch
    The American Physical Society, which has 48,000 members, has adopted a policy statement which states: "The evidence is incontrovertible: global warming is occurring."
    Prof Giaever, who shared the 1973 Nobel award for physics, told The Sunday Telegraph. "Incontrovertible is not a scientific word. Nothing is incontrovertible in science."
    The APS says it that its climate change statement does not assert that "anthropogenic" (man-made) climate change is incontrovertible – but that the evidence of global warming is. The society continues: "The graph of global temperature vs. time for the last 30 years shows just that. The statement also contains the following language: 'Emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities are changing the atmosphere in ways that affect the Earth's climate.' That statement is based on basic principles of molecular physics and thermodynamics.
    "Finally, the statement acknowledges uncertainties in the science: 'Because the complexity of the climate makes accurate prediction difficult, the APS urges an enhanced effort to understand the effects of human activity on the Earth's climate.'"

    More research needed!

    I hope Prof Giaever enjoys his retirement

    Aitch
    This ignores part of the psychology of "stupidity."

    Denial of facts becomes something of an emotional survival technique boosted by similar denial in others due to the necessity of ignoring terrible existential conditions in life in order to face the day. This behavior bleeds into everything and seems to be present in everyone to some degree. No one has enough "facts" to ensure that getting out of bed that day won't be horrid or destructive by chance. There is quite a lot of suppression involved in the average person just to forget a past full of failures and fruitless striving and random accidents that might otherwise prevent them from being optimistic about living.

    Gerhard Adam
    .. and how does this relate to stupidity?
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    When he disclosed his theory back in 1997 Andy Morton was aged 33. He tragically died a year later. The cause of his premature death? Andy fell victim of the Morton effect and paid the ultimate price for someone else acting stupidly. Andy was riding his motorcycle when a woman in a pickup truck approaching Andy pulled out into oncoming traffic and hit him head on, killing Andy instantly.
    This is why I keep telling my teenage son that he would be 'stupid' to buy a motorbike to ride around on in Brisbane, a city which is famous for people driving around in large 4 wheel drive vehicles. I once read that men often buy 4 wheel drives for their wives if they think they have poor driving skills, as they believe that their wives and families are more likely to survive a collision with another vehicle in these, than if they are driving in an ordinary car. Could be an interesting study.

      
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    I once read that men often buy 4 wheel drives for their wives if they think they have poor driving skills, as they believe that their wives and families are more likely to survive a collision with another vehicle in these, than if they are driving in an ordinary car.
    I'm sure that happens. I've seen it in my own family more than once. It's perfectly reasonable behavior from the standpoint of the individual, though at the group level it leads to a Red Queen arms race stalemate with almost everyone driving monster trucks (and looking stupid), just as you report in Brisbane. Same thing here in Colorado.

    Hopefully you have some off-road places reserved for kids to ride motorbikes around only other motorbikes. They really don't belong in traffic because no amount of individual smarts can make up for the combined stupidity of everyone else.

    Low Budget Dave
    If you can demonstrate a rational basis for acting stupid, then it is no longer stupid. In your tennis court example, if I correctly deduce that one of my tennis partners is a dimwit, and the other is logical, then I can choose to play 45 minutes of tennis against a dimwit, or 60 minutes of tennis against someone who is logical. Since I tire easily, and I enjoy winning, I might logically choose the former.
    My own observations is that the number of stupid people is just so overwhelming that they will not be reduced through sexual selection, just by sheer numbers.

    Stupid people rarely have to bear the consequences of their actions, and so never have to learn to not be stupid while other people, usually smart people, end up bearing the cost or having to compensate for stupid people.

    "Never underestimate the power of Human Stupidity..in LARGE GROUPS"

    "Quantity has a certain quality to it"
    -- Lenin

    the herd mentality + stupidity is powerful, I've seen in happen in amateur astronomy (mostly a bunch of undereducated bumpkins, as per Chris Petersen Caltech Physics alumni). Dr. Valery Deruzhin (developed optics for Russian space program) got involved with amateur telescope optics.

    "I couldn't believe he got GANGED [ by the idiot amateurs ]"
    -- xxx

    I got GANGED as well, but it's all about to BLOW UP. Big scandal about to hit Professional Astronomy (with a collateral damage effect to Physics), since some professional Astronomers fell victim to CRACKPOT amateurs.

    IQ scores have been consistently rising, especially in the United States, a country with an above average national intelligence.

    The issue of stupid comes from the public turning away from socialism. Many socialists attribute this to stupidity and not to the rancid failure of their own ideology to convince the public. The same with "stupid Americans", even though American college students have literally the highest average IQ in the world.

    Hank
    And America leads the world in science despite being told how dismal science education is - American students are not 'taught the test' so on international standardized tests relying on memorization of facts, students do poorly.  But acting knowing how to think they do quite well.

    Strangely, at a time when most of the world is trying to privatize its socialism, Americans want to move toward it.
    Low Budget Dave
    Every time I see someone talking about “Socialism” here, I have to read it a few times to make sure it is not sarcasm.

    Obviously, it would be sarcastic to claim that the rest of the world is trying to privatize their Socialism, or that the US is trying to move toward it. The US has the least efficient healthcare system in the world, for example, and we are willing to fight to keep it that way. We also are moving toward more capitalism in all aspects of the economy, in spite of the fact that it appears to be doing more harm than good. In the most recent elections, the US House was taken over by a party that plans to privatize Social Security, Medicare, education, the environment, and the U.S. Treasury.

    So, for example, the same people who ran AIG into the ground will now be put in charge of our health. The folks from Merrill Lynch will be in charge of our retirement, and the same guys from Enron will be in charge of US energy policy.

    With the money they save by denying healthcare and retirement to the elderly, they actually plan to cut taxes even further on the rich, to encourage “capitalism”, which is now synonymous in the U.S. with “sharecropping”.

    The US maintains a healthy lead in science because of the inflow of foreign students who were educated elsewhere. I think the argument that people in Europe would be willing to give up their great schools, their healthy retirement and their excellent medical care to live in ignorance and poverty in the US laughable.

    The only reason they are even having to back down on their pensions is that US-based banks stole all their retirement through a series of derivatives scams. Just because Greece is kicking old people to the street does not mean they have embraced the idea. It just means that they are experiencing the same downside of capitalism that we are.
    Hank
    The US has the least efficient healthcare system in the world, for example, and we are willing to fight to keep it that way.
    I was actually for nationalizing healthcare had they done it right but I am against what they did do.  Regardless of my beliefs on that, I never understand how anyone endorsing a big government solution can suddenly care about 'efficiency' in the private sector when it never seems to matter for government.   50% of the capital government takes in is immediately lost to bureaucracy and mismanagement but we are told the private sector is less efficient if they can be lawsuited out of existence over even minor mistakes, forcing insurance costs up, they have to do monstrous paperwork to get any money from the government or poor people - who already have health insurance, which forces costs up.

    I moved to California from Pennsylvania and neither my doctor nor my dentist in Pennsylvania took insurance of any kind.   Costs for a checkup were low but PA was not litigation-happy and these were general people and not getting sued if a handicapped ramp were off by 1/4" inch in height and other goofy stuff that happens out here.   It is simply impossible in California to have reasonable health coverage in the environment.

    So the solution to "least efficient" cannot be to spread even more inefficiency across even more poor people.    Regarding your puffery on Asia and how terrible the US is and how mighty everyone else is - well, show your data.   

    European and Asian kids do better on standardized tests long on facts and simple memorization - the very thing in No Child Left Behind that teachers in the US said would be bad - but that standardized test is new and given every 3 years and every time the US goes up in the rankings.    America leads the high end of science so I don't worry much about scores averaged out on the low end but you hate America and look for reasons to do so - and that's okay by me.

    Low Budget Dave
    That’s funny. You make sweeping statements like “50% of the capital government takes in is immediately lost to bureaucracy and mismanagement”, and then you challenge me to document my sources.

    As far as healthcare being expensive because of lawsuits, that is just a talking point from Fox News. It has about as much statistical validity as all the other sweeping statements you keep repeating. You can look this up anywhere, but since you constantly challenge me to provide MY sources, let’s start with: http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2011/05/why-is-healthcare-absurdly-expensiv...

    OK, let’s start with http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080612070406.htm Your turn.

    As far as your ad hominem attack that anyone who disagrees with you just “hates America”, I could play that game too. But I am not sure that name-calling advances your case much, unless you are trying to demonstrate the value of the arguments in the original article.
    Hank
    If you want to use a press release and some nobody's blog as a 'source', well, I can't help you.   In America, we waste a lot of money trying to keep people alive at the end of their lives - experimental treatments, expensive drug combinations, etc.   It fails and even if it works it only adds a month or two.   You must love his class war notion that doctors make too much money.   Way to go, comrade.

    To you, doctors busting their humps to try and prolong life is 'inefficiency'.  To me, that is what doctors should be doing.    If that means we spend too much overall, to have doctors that are the best and try to keep people alive, that's a pretty good place to live.
    Low Budget Dave
    Just because you have never heard of someone does not make them a "nobody". Barry Ritholtz made a huge name for himself, and a small fortune, by accurately predicting the end of the housing bubble. Science Daily is also a pretty good authority, compared to what you brought to the table, which was a few hasty generalizations unsupported by any links, research, or logic.
    In the end, your argument comes back to name calling. When someone points out the economics of the situation, you call it “class warfare”. It is a meaningless term. In America, rich people control a larger percentage of the economy than in most other industrialized countries, and enjoy a lower tax rate. Doctors have elevated themselves to a higher rung on the economic ladder in America than in almost any other country. These are what you would call “facts”. Your vague notion that government is more wasteful than insurance companies is what we call an “opinion”.
    Your assertion that our doctors are the best is also an “opinion”, and is not supported by any research that I have ever seen. You describe the inefficiency yourself, by pointing out that one of the most expensive portions of medical care in America only serves to prolong the quantity of life rather than the quality. And quantity by an absurdly short time.
    If it were your own money, then it is a free country: spend all you want on pointless end-of-life care. But for most people, it is not. It is paid for with dollars that come from a group, and money that goes to one person is denied to another. The government “rations” care, but so do insurers. So do doctors, if you count treating people right up to the point where they spend their last dime. (And the last dime of their family as well.)
    Even that would be OK if it were sustainable, but it is not. If the cost of end-of-life care continues on the path that it is now growing, it will easily surpass the rest of the total gross domestic product within our lifetimes. That is pretty much the classic definition of “unsustainable”.
    This takes us back to the original argument. We are living in a country where we are borrowing a billion dollars a day from China in order to spend it on tax cuts for rich people, pointless and endless wars, and medical care that borders on torture. And to you, that is a “pretty good place to live”.
    If so, I think the classic definition of “intelligence” is thinking beyond you own personal comfort, and thinking beyond the current month. You slander that as if it is some sort of socialism. I prefer to think of it as “economics”.
    Or do you really mean these arguments to apply just for you and just this week?
    Ladislav Kocbach
    So now I see the real meaning of Johannes' post. It is a socialistic propaganda! In his example of "stupidity" in tennis reservations he is trying to (wrongly, I assume) convince us that thinking about the group is less stupid than thinking only about oneself. No wonder, he has been educated in socialistic Europe.
    socrates
    @Johannes, thank you for a terrific article, well presented. I found it very insightful.
    @RobvS, I also found your comments to be very educational and I greatly admire both your command of facts and your patient adherence to civility and intellectual honesty in your dialogue.

    'nough said.
    Citizen Philosopher / Science Tutor
    Speaking of stupid, how about all the religious people in the US that think that religion should have influence over our government. They seldom think that THEIR PARTICULAR brand of delusion might not be the one that prevails, but that doesn't stop them from trying to get the concept pushed through anyway.

    Or the people who insist on making sure our children are as stupid as possible by pushing their superstition on them in school instead of allowing them to learn real, true science. Ya, it's a scary place out there!

    One thing I've always thought about with religion is that people use it to train themselves to be stupid. People pattern their brains to believe something that is obviously a complete fallacy, how can they possibly keep that separate from the rest of their lives. So they learn to make decisions based on emotions instead of real, true facts. Truly a sad state of affairs.

    Gerhard Adam
    While I'm no fan of religion, I think you're overstating the case regarding beliefs in things that aren't fact-based.  We all do it, and it is an essential part of our psychological well-being.

    Also, it isn't correct to refer to people as stupid, simply because you disagree with their beliefs.  Stupidity is a specific condition where one has the requisite intelligence and despite have the relevant facts, elects to ignore them to pursue an inappropriate course of action.  Religion doesn't necessarily qualify unless one associates consequences to such actions.  Even then, it doesn't qualify since an erroneous belief isn't necessarily stupid unless known facts are deliberately ignored. 

    It is easy to consider science as being fact-based and religion simply superstition, but in truth, many of the people that accept scientific conclusions (especially in medicine) do it with no greater level of knowledge than religious people accepting their particular beliefs.  An individual that blindly accepts scientific conclusions is treating science as religion.   While there are certainly many scientific conclusions that have stood the test of time, it would still be erroneously to conclude that all scientific views qualify in the same way.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Sure, I accept that we all believe things that aren't fact based. However, religion is a special case in that, not only is it not fact based, there is overwhelming evidence that it is nothing but delusional superstition. However, I did not say that people who don't hold the same "beliefs" (I think what you really meant was "opinion") as I do are stupid. As you say, "Stupidity is a specific condition where one has the requisite intelligence and despite have the relevant facts, elects to ignore them to pursue an inappropriate course of action." Since that is the very definition of religion, I think it does, indeed qualify, under your assessment. If you read my statement again, you will see that I actually DID associate consequences: people making emotion-based decisions over fact-based decisions, the desire to teach children delusional fantasies instead of real evidence-based facts in science classes, etc. And, in order to believe in religion, since there are mountains of evidence against the truth of it, people DO have to deliberately ignore those facts.

    As for accepting scientific conclusions, it is true that people usually do not have any greater level of knowledge than religious beliefs. However, we MUST consider the source of those conclusions. Scientific facts that are tested and peer-reviewed by people who have decades of schooling and experience in a particular field tend to be much more trustworthy than people who have no education or experience at all. This is the difference between scientific conclusions and religion. Religious leaders have no tested (or even testable) evidence, no experience in the afterlife, no greater "understanding" of any supernatural phenomenon than my dog, but are religious leaders simply because they are the most vociferous. This in no way makes them "experts" of anything but superstition. So, to accept any conclusions from these people is simply delusion. Accepting conclusions about astrophysics from Neil deGrasse Tyson, on the other hand, is accepting conclusions that you know have been tested and reviewed by some of the most brilliant minds that are among us. Big difference, there. Accepting scientific conclusions from people who have studied and tested conclusions is in no way treating science like religion.

    You are right is stating that not all scientific conclusions are equal. But no one claims that all scientific conclusions are equal. That is why we have Scientific Hypothesis, Scientific Theories, and Scientific Fact. We have classifications and all scientific conclusions are reviewed by the scientific community as a whole. However, all religious conclusions ARE equal. They are all fallacious. They are all fantastical (as in, based in fantasy). Scientific conclusions are based on what is known. They are based on testable, provable theories. As we learn more, we expand our knowledge. Some scientific conclusions we take as gospel. For example, I have never tried to calculate pi to its last digit. I take "on faith", if you will, that it is an infinite number. Why? Because the best minds of mathematics say so and I believe them. I trust that they have used supercomputers to try to accomplish that and have no succeeded. I have met several mathematicians who make this claim. Why wouldn't I believe them? They are experts in their field. Some I do not take as gospel. However, in general, when something cannot be explained by science, scientists acknowledge that. There is no claim to "special knowledge" based on feelings. Either it has supporting evidence or it does not. As we learn more, we adjust our "acceptance" of known facts. We learn, we grow.

    On the other hand, when a preacher says I must hate people because they are black, or because they are left-handed, or because of who they happen to fall in love with, I do NOT take them seriously. Why? Because I know that they have no greater knowledge of what their god wants than I do (and I don't even believe in their god). Because I know the bible better than they (apparently) do. I have studied the hundreds of contradictions, inconsistencies, logical fallacies and flat out lies. I have no better access to their religious materials than they do, I just bother to pay attention to what those materials claim. Religion claims "truth" with no supporting evidence whatsoever. As I said, for a person to believe in that ridiculous nonsense trains the mind to believe in ANY ridiculous nonsense, just because it makes that person feel better about your own ignorance. Religion does not want us to learn, it does not want us to grow. It wasn't us to simply accept nonsensical gibberish that is preached to us without question. Why is that, do you suppose? Does that make us better, smarter human beings? I think not.

    Hank
    Some scientific conclusions we take as gospel. For example, I have never tried to calculate pi to its last digit. I take "on faith", if you will, that it is an infinite number.
    Tell me what you know about adaptive radiation.   I am betting not much, which means you take biology on faith.   You also did use the word 'stupid' in regard to religious people and their beliefs three times in your previous comment, so retracting that now and saying you did not mean their beliefs were stupid is...stupid.

    The fact remains, we all take lots of things on faith, in science and in culture.   Granted, people who want to teach a sectarian viewpoint in science classes are a problem but that is a tiny minority and even most religious people object to their efforts.    You would know that if you weren't a hatemonger against religion and actually talked with people.  The bulk of religious people are not as intellectually immature as you seek to paint them, they simply have a belief many of us do not.  So what?  Celebrate diversity.  Be less intolerant.  It will be better for your blood pressure
    Accepting what multiple scientists have independently concluded about adaptive radiation is a completely different concept than believing superstitious nonsense from people who can not possibly know what they are talking about. Comparing the two is just idiotic.

    As for thinking that religious beliefs are "stupid", I absolutely refuse to retract that. "Faith" is believing something without any evidence (and as with religion, believing something that has mountains of evidence disproving it). How can that possibly be considered NOT stupid?

    Saying that we take things "on faith" is also completely different than religion. If you "take on faith" that taking a certain supplement will cure a headache, and when you get a headache, you take the supplement and it doesn't work, you discount the myth. For almost everything BESIDES religion, evidence can change our minds. Why is religion immune to logic and common sense? Why is something true "just because we take it on faith"? You are actually arguing AGAINST religion. You say that we take science "on faith" like it's a bad thing, but then you think taking your religion "on faith" is a virtue.

    Speaking of which, accepting what the scientific community says is NOT taking the information "on faith." It is accepting what much more educated and experienced people tell me. I know that they have evidence. That's the whole point of the scientific community. If the evidence is invalid, that scientist will get called on it. As opposed to religion, where you MUST turn off your intellect in order to accept what you are told.

    "Celebrate diversity." Ya, celebrating the diversity of religion is asking the religious to force their religion down everyone else's throats. That is a great way to have your rights completely destroyed by people who detest you for having an opinion. "Be less intolerant." Sorry, but who the hell do you think you are? What right do you have to tell me to tolerate people who want to enslave me? Who are you to tell me that I need to just shut up and sit down and let the religious teach my children that thinking critically is a sin and that they need to be superstitious and childish, that it is unacceptable to believe in logic and reason? Who are you to tell me that I am intolerant when the religious right feel it is completely acceptable to strip people's civil rights away from them because they are left-handed? Just exactly what god died and made you the moral judge, jury and executioner?

    Hank
    Accepting what multiple scientists have independently concluded about adaptive radiation is a completely different concept than believing superstitious nonsense from people who can not possibly know what they are talking about. Comparing the two is just idiotic.
    Look, you eliminate yourself from any reasonable discourse acting like you do in that comment.  I know you think you are a friend to science and all but you just look like a different sort of fundamentalist - you accept science on faith, you clearly do not know much.   You accept it because enough people told you to, which is fine, but your smug condescension is a detriment to science.  So, yes, make your religious jokes and feel superior in how rational and intelligent you think you are, but do it on the richard dawkins site or Scienceblogs, where that sort of intolerant invective is part of the culture.
    It'd be REALLY nice if you had any idea what most of the words that you use actually mean. Do you even understand what the word "faith" means? You sound much more like a fundamentalist to me. "Faith" is believing in something despite no evidence supporting (or in the case of religion, despite mountains of evidence DISPROVING) the opinion.

    How is it that you have determined that I "clearly don't know much" about science? Or even religion, for that matter. It has been proven time and again that almost every atheist that bothers to speak out about religion knows so much more about religion than the theists do. That is why theists lose in debates so often. That is, as long as the debate stays to the facts. Theists only "win" when they bring emotion into the fray because that is all religion is. The driving need to fill an emotional gap in a person's life. It has never been shown to be anything more than that.

    Why is it that you insist that religion MUST be excluded from any "rational" discussion? It is clear that there is absolutely no evidence supporting any of its claims, but somehow it makes me a "scientific loony faith-based fundamentalist" because I actually call it what it really is? Based on pure scientific reasoning, it is extremely clear that (especially the abrahamic) religions are all nothing but delusion. And, that also makes me intolerant, just for pointing that out? I suppose you would completely respect someone's belief that there were invisible pink unicorns dancing on your head? And if they started swatting at them with a news or pulled out a gun and said "don't move, this is for your own good", would you say you were being "intolerant" if you tried to stop them? If that person and started shooting at those invisible pink unicorns dancing on your head, you would be fine with that?

    Well, my friend, that is exactly what religion is. It is delusional fairy tales with absolutely not basis in reality. And the people who believe those fairy tales are only trying to force us to either believe them or at least allow them to force live us to live by the rules of their fairy tales. If they had even the most circumstantial evidence, then we can start talking about tolerance, but as long as their belief system sits firmly in the "delusional" category, I don't see any reason whatsoever that they views or beliefs deserve, let alone demand respect. Anyone who starts screaming about "tolerance" and "respect" usually just do it because they don't want their delusion to be brought out into the light of skeptical and reasonable thinking.

    Now, speaking of tolerance and respect, you appear to have no idea what those words mean, either. Because I don't try to hide my distaste for people believing if hobgoblins and magic fairies, you attack my understanding of science. I think that clearly demonstrates your level of rational thought and ability to have "reasonable discourse". Attacking my knowledge of science and the scientific process with jibs about how intolerant I am about people believing in Santa and the Tooth Fairy just doesn't seem all that relevant to me.

    Hank
    . Because I don't try to hide my distaste for people believing if hobgoblins and magic fairies, you attack my understanding of science.
    Attacking religion is the only thing you have shown have ability at doing.  If you show an ability to understand anything at all about science, then my conclusion will change.   You can condescend toward religious people all you want, I don't much care, it's just that actual people who know what they are talking about doing really think you know anything because you are 'on the same side'.
     
    I see lots of otherwise literate people who believe organic food is nutritionally different than any other food, for example, but I would never rant about their personal beliefs the way you do about religion.  As I said, you just exhibit a different sort of fundamentalism. To most, you aren't any different than a religious zealot, attacking everyone who doesn't get your worldview.
    You might want to look up the word "fundamentalist" since you obviously don't have a clue as to that definition. You might want to buy a dictionary, since you have so much trouble using words properly.

    As for people who believe organic food is more health, they aren't trying to shove their belief system down my throat. And people who believe that organic food is healthier for them do no damage with that belief. The religious do damage every day to our society, our way of life, our freedom, and our children. Religion destroyed the twin towers. Religion is what wastes hundreds of thousands of dollars of tax payer money trying to keep superstitious nonsense out of our schools. Religion causes war, famine, and disharmony like no other argument ever has. Religion actively tries to destroy scientific query. Belief in organic foods does not.

    It is extremely funny to me that you sit there with your pompous attitude, "determining" that I am intolerant because I don't support superstitious delusions and, apparently, god speaks to you about how everyone in the world "views" me. I have to say that it is a pretty clear sign of a weak mind that you have to just keep repeating "fundamentalist" and calling me a "religion of science zealot".

    You don't even know what the term "worldview" means, do you? Dude, there are dictionaries on line that you can access FOR FREE! Look some of these words up sometime. All your doing is throwing buzz words at me. LOL And the sad thing is, you don't even know what they mean. They just sound bad so you sling them around like mug. You obviously have no actually argument, you just feel the need to try to insult me (very poor job, by the way) my trying to label me. Are you a xian, by any chance? That tends to be their modus operandi when it comes to arguments like this. You have nothing to say, but your feelings are hurt because someone pointed out how delusional you are, so you have to resort to school yard name calling. The old "I'm rubber, your glue" type of arguments. I mean, you are getting awfully upset about me pointing out how and why belief in a religion is delusional, by definition, and detrimental to our society.

    Gerhard Adam
    I understand your point and I'm not necessarily disagreeing with the overall scope, but I think you're looking at the two extremes.  Most people's religious beliefs aren't extreme enough to have serious negative consequences, and most fall squarely within the same value system that has been philosophically established for centuries.  So, regardless of how they arrived at that mode of behavior, there's nothing fundamentally wrong or stupid about it.

    Similarly, science is one domain, but that isn't typically the one where our beliefs are tested.  After all, what real difference does it make what the 1000th digit of PI is?  Instead the problem we encounter is with the implementation of technology or the deployment of science which is much less rigid in terms of review (actually it may not be reviewed at all).   As a result, we are often faced with trusting people or believing those that don't actually have any real scientific backing, so it does become an article of faith.  For example, the recent nuclear plant problems in Japan have nothing to do with nuclear physics and little to do with science in any meaningful way.  Instead we are left with engineering, economics, and business managers making those decisions on the backs of scientific knowledge.  So when someone tries to frame questions about nuclear safety in scientific terms, they're talking about the wrong subject, since the science isn't the problem.

    Overall, my point is that we need to be careful that we assess "stupidity" within the context in which it has actual meaning so that it simply isn't used to denigrate those we disagree with.  It is difficult to argue with your assessment of religion, because I fundamentally agree with it, so I'm not the best individual to try and counter your points.  However, as I said, the point here isn't whether religion is rational, believable, or provable, but whether belief in it actually constitutes being "stupid".
    Mundus vult decipi
    But I believe my points DO speak to the "stupidity" of religion and how that affects other aspect of not only the religious person's life but the lives of us all. I think a perfect example of this is prop 8. My brother claims to be extremely patriotic. His proclaimed "hero" is Captain America (believe it or not, he is in his early 40s). He loves listening to songs about freedom, patriotism and supporting our troops. Knowing Prop 8 is about civil rights, how do you suppose he voted? Oh, one thing I forgot to mention; he's mormon. Regardless of the fact that prop 8 is about stripping civil rights away from people because you don't "approve of their lifestyle", he felt it necessary to vote "his conscience." Meaning that he was more than happy to screw over a group of people that his religious faith claimed were "not acting correctly."

    What is the end result? The government gets more control over people's lives, we lose yet more of our civil liberties, the constitution gets shredded and we end up having to spend millions trying to drag ourselves away from tyranny because the mormons and the catholics decide to force their religious nonsense on everyone in blanket legislation. And in the process, they step closer to losing more of THEIR civil liberties. Isn't that the very definition of stupidity outlined in this article?

    How about the drive of the religious to teach the nonsense of creationism in public schools? You and I both know that it is about as far from "science" as you can possibly get: it's nothing but fairy tales. And if the schools were allowed to teach it's theories (which are NOT Scientific Theories) along with why it has nothing to do with reality, it would be okay. But they would not be allowed to expose its lunacy. The religious are trying to get it taught as an "alternative" to real science. What is the result? Time taken away from true science. Young minds being manipulated into accepting superstitious delusion as fact. Time and money spent by the schools, who are already strapped for cash, in fighting this nonsense that was settled decades ago, but the religious won't let it go.

    Let's turn to politics. Do people vote for the most qualified individual for the job? Or do they spend time talking about what particular brand of delusion the candidate believes in? Did you know that over 50% of Americans would not vote for an Atheist, simply based on that one fact? He/she could be absolutely perfect for the office, could be able to fix all the economic issues perfectly, bring a perfect balance with government intervention and personal liberties, but they wouldn't get elected because they were not delusional enough.

    I find it interesting that the far religious right make amazingly inaccurate and ridiculous political statements, whereas the less religious people are, they tend to think much more realistic about politics. The traditional republican party line is less government, more personal liberties, individual rights and justice based rulings. But when you look at what the GOP stands for, the only personal liberty that they support is gun ownership. They believe in stripping rights away from people who want to marry "in the wrong way", stripping rights away from women to control their own bodies, more death penalties, more government to control people's lives. And they don't see the inconsistencies in these ideals. I believe that it is because they train themselves to ignore inconsistencies through their religious beliefs. That is the true danger of religion. I know a lot of people disagree with how dangerous I see religion to be. But I believe it's because they haven't really thought about how invasive the religious are in our lives. I hear people say "why not just live and let live?" I'm more than happy to do so, but the Atheist community is getting more verbose because the religious don't believe in that. The only time they say it is when they are in danger of losing their power to walk over other people's rights.

    Obviously, this is just my opinion, but I see lots of evidence to support it. :)

    Gerhard Adam
    I think you've put your argument forward in a very articulate and persuasive manner.  Since I agree with it, I can't really say anything against your points (or at least my heart wouldn't be in it).

    Personally, I think yours is an argument that does focus on the essential points of what "stupidity" represents and isn't simply a means of denigrating those you disagree with.  Excellent points.
    Mundus vult decipi
    After all, what real difference does it make what the 1000th digit of PI is?

    It is 9. Don't ya love that. It doesnt really make a difference but I care and I love that it can be calculated. Someone (well, lots of people, well, anyone who can do basic math and has a bit of time) can figure it out.

    I love science.

    I am being bullied at work and management is taking pains to prove that they are not acting in malice.

    I had to point out to them that I never alleged malice, that I have alleged incompetence - which has gotten their backs up and kinda proves the malice claim that I never made.

    Stupid people tend to act in their immediate and own self interest - often resulting in other people paying the price. This article helps a bit in that it's less personal when it's because they are stupid - not less hurtful, but less personal.

    I know what you mean. I have worked for my current employer for 6 months, been on a project for 5 months and have only managed to be able to do about 2 weeks worth of work because I can't get my immediate managers to give me the resources I need. They constantly complain that not enough work is being done by the team, but are willing to let people sit around for weeks at a time because they don't want to sacrifice 1 or 2 hours of a senior developer's time to train those us us who don't understand the structure of the application. I've pretty much determined that what will get me fired is not that the work isn't getting done, but that I'm complaining too loudly that I'm not getting the information that I need to get it done. Too funny!

    I don't know how many times I've come across this in my 30 years as an IT profession. Middle management gets pressure to get the job done, but they are so incompetent that they feel they can't allow 1 person to take 1 hour to train 5 people, so those 5 people waste 10s, if not 100s, of man hours not being able to pick up any slack. On this current contract that I'm on, I literally just wasted about 150 hours not getting work done, that I was able to finish up once I got about 1 hour and 15 minutes worth of training. And I was able to finish that work within about 2 hours.

    So these incompetent managers, even though they are "acting in their immediate and own self interest" (which they definitely think they are), are really screwing themselves because they are wasting so much of their team's time by not being organized and not understanding how to manage programmers.

    What if the so-called stupid people are not that much more stupid, than the so-called smart people?

    What if the "smart" people are not as smart as they think they are and only feel smarter, by contrast, by creating a category that they call stupid?

    If the "smarter" people really were so smart, wouldn't they by now have figured out a way to convince the "stupid" people to: 1) get smarter 2) not be influential 3) let the so-called "smart" people make all the decisions
    4) decide on their own, not to have so many offspring etc etc etc

    First, being smart doesn't automatically make a person charismatic, so a lot of "smart" people have a hard time talking "stupid" people into listening to them. Also, I think there are a lot of different characteristics that you can apply the terms "smart" and "stupid" to, so a person can be smart in one area, while lacking in another.

    I read an article a while back that the more incompetent a person is, the less they are able to recognize competence or lack thereof. I have found this to be true SO many times. Once stupid people get in charge, they tend to not only no be able to recognize incompetence from competence, but they tend to actually promote others that are incompetent. I think those people do recognize it in a very subtly, subconscious way, and are threatened by it.

    I worked for a company a while back that is owned by a guy that is a text-book example of this. he is losing over a million dollars a year, with the company in exactly the same position it was in when the operations manager (who is a complete moron) took over almost years ago, but will not even consider replacing the OM. The OM is literally driving the company into the ground, making horrible decisions that hugely impact every aspect of the company, but the owner and his CFO, won't even talk to anyone else in the company.

    Sometimes, it is truly scary to see incredibly people like these 3 gather and conspire. I believe the owner will allow the company to lose several more million dollars and then just close the doors without ever considering the replacement of the person who is the major contributor to the circumstances of the lose. I know that someone else sent a business plan complete with a time line that showed that he could turn the company around and be profitable within 12 months (this was about 18 months ago), but the owner wouldn't even respond to the proposal. Absolutely amazing.

    And I'm sure that, because he's a millionaire (he got his money the old-fashioned way - he inherited it), he is smarter than anyone else. The biggest problem is that stupid people don't know they are stupid. It's really too bad.

    This article proves that stupid people shouldn't write articles.

    What if your friends only wanted to play for 45 minutes, stupid?

    With my abundant stupidity,
    let me touch only Darwin vs Stupidity
    You are right in your argument but IMHO its only partially true because natural selection picks
    not the best/brightest/strongest but the most flexible. (Organised are trapped because of their rigidity) that leaves stupid double the chance to survive now I hope you got why Smart = Stupid^2

    Your tennis friends aren't stupid, they just aren't your friends. If they were really your friends they would have cared whether or not you got to play. Since they obviously don't care, they clearly made the right choice for themselves - they optimized for their own gain, which is what any economist would have expected them to do.

    That would be a valid comment if the players would have had an opportunity to communicate prior to making their choice. But text clearly state there is no such opportunity.
    The key point here is that irrational play, when selected with a high enough frequency, can lead to implicit collusion. Many commenters to this blog seem to miss this point.

    ABOYNE (vb.)
    To beat an expert at a game of skill by playing so appallingly that none of his clever tactics or strategies are of any use to him.

    A single person playing appallingly against an expert is doomed. But multiple persons playing appallingly can defeat any expert.

    The author is so right. Which leads me to my saying..
    "Darwin was an optimist"

    whitepanther65
    lol, I really had a good time reading this one Johannes. But I think there is a flaw in your reasoning. Intelligent persons draw right conclusions. Stupid persons draw wrong conclusions. If the majority of the population you live in is stupid, chances are your conclusions are wrong, my friend.

      Ciao Paolo
    Johannes Koelman
    "If the majority of the population you live in is stupid, chances are your conclusions are wrong, my friend."

    Sure. That is the whole point of this post. If you live amongst stupid (in the Cipolla sense), the conlusions that were right assuming others understand they are right, are no longer valid. So you better adapt and start acting stupid. Thus, a new level of smart (stupid squared) is born.
    whitepanther65
    Indeed.