Why Is There Stupid?

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The origins of idiocy

This rumination was inspired by a rather boring Huffpo post headlined “Science Has Determined How Not to Look Stupid.” It turns out that not looking stupid consists of not being overconfident about one’s abilities, controlling one’s impulses, and paying attention to what you are doing.

None of us manages to do all of that all of the time, so we are all afflicted with brainless moments, though most of them, thankfully, fall short of YouTube fail video compilation stupid.

The question that science is ducking, however, is why is there stupid in the first place? There are only two possible answers to this metaphysical conundrum, one provided by religion and one by science. Either God created stupid, or it evolved. Both provide extremely unflattering insights into human behavior.

First, let’s go Supreme Being. Was God, at the moment he removed Adam’s rib to whip up Eve, saying to himself “One day, one of this couple’s descendants is going to be a gun safety instructor who shoots himself while giving a lesson, while another will nearly kill himself using a power blower and an office chair. Sure, there’s going to be some smart ones, but many of them are going to use their clever minds to dream up things like trampolines, mechanical bulls and skateboards so the dumb ones can entertain us. It’s going to be a hoot. Bring me another beer, Jesus, then go clean up your room.”

You can hardly blame Him if this is the way it went down. Eternity is a long time, and if You are all powerful and all-knowing it can be a tad predictable, and nothing whiles away the eons like a little physical humor. There may well be other species in the Universe, ones God has made serious, deep-thinking and achievement-oriented, superior souls worthy of His thoughtful attention, but when He needs a break, He turns His gaze upon us, the Ass-Clowns of Creation.

​So the theology makes sense, which is rare in that branch of knowledge. What about science? Why did stupid evolve along with humanity? There are those who say it has been there all along, that Homo erectus was basically a dumbass, otherwise why would he have given himself a name that makes fifth-graders all over the planet giggle?

Others point out that primitive peoples, who presumably live today like our ancestors did thousands of years ago, seldom do anything stupid, at least when the cameras are rolling, unless you regard  having a bowl cut and painting yourself ochre as stupid, which, if you are hanging around these tribal souls, you better keep to yourself unless you want a poison arrow in your hiney.  No, these pre-civilized people live in harmony with nature, solemnly passing on their survival skills and boring origin stories to their descendants, knowing nothing of boneheadery, at least until the missionaries arrive and start selling them “I’m with Stupid” T-shirts.

So stupidity seems to be a function of civilization. Civilization takes great pride in itself, which is probably mostly undeserved. For every significant human achievement, there are probably ten thousand non-achievements. While great scientists probe the universe, regular guys perch buckets on the tops of doors and wait smirking for their roommates to come home. For every white-coated lab worker patiently searching for a disease-free future, there are hundreds of people waiting to get tattoos they will hate for the rest of their lives. For every brave astronaut riding a pillar of fire into the sky, there are thousands of horny drunks riding around in leased sports cars hoping their wheels will get them laid.

You get the point. So science answers the question Why is there stupid? with this supremely logical reply: Without stupid, most of us wouldn’t be anything at all.

Thank God it was invented.

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