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iamthemob's avatar

Why do you think there has been no real serious academic inquiry into stupidity?

Asked by iamthemob (17159points) February 26th, 2011

Einstein said that there were two things that were infinite: the universe and human stupidity. And he also said that he wasn’t too sure about the former.

Marx said that stupidity was the third most important driving force in civilization, behind capital and violence.

So how is it that there is no serious academic research regarding stupidity? Is it partially due to that it’s so hard to define? Is it that finding subjects (human or situational) is too difficult without making a subjective judgment?

When it seems to be everywhere, why can’t we nail it down?

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28 Answers

ragingloli's avatar

Research into it would be the first step on the path of ending both forms, the lack of knowledge and the lack of the ability to use knowledge.
Both forms are essential for the ones in power to stay in power, so they want to keep people stupid.

hobbitsubculture's avatar

And yet there has been plenty of research on intelligence. Seems like there’d be some intersection. Maybe it’s just harder to get stupidity research funding. Someone, somewhere, would probably be offended.

Ladymia69's avatar

I think there must be one somewhere…but there would have to be a consensus on what the definition of stupidity actually is, wouldn’t there?

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

We study light but not darkness because we know the latter is defined in terms of the absence of light.

Since stupidity is defined by reference to intelligence, there is no need for separate academic study of the lack of, or failure to apply intelligence.

chyna's avatar

No research necessary here.

Ladymia69's avatar

@chyna Now we are talking about Darwin Awards, aren’t we?

hobbitsubculture's avatar

@ladymia69 Maybe Walter B. Pitkin had the answer. “There is little novelty and excitement in watching thickheads as they rove from befuddlement to befuddlement.”

Then again, maybe not. America’s Funniest Home Videos is still on the air, right?

iamthemob's avatar

@chyna – It’s funny – but that’s part of the issue. Stupidity is kind of like porn – we “know it when we see it.” But at the same time, why can’t we combat it? Shouldn’t that be the point of a directed research into it?

chyna's avatar

But how do we combat it once we see it or know about it?

hobbitsubculture's avatar

And won’t there also have to be research on how to effectively combat it?

Or not. If stupidity is successfully researched, maybe the findings will entail stupid ways of conducting anti-stupidity methods, and how to avoid them.

talljasperman's avatar

stupid people are needed for bio-diversity and innovation

Ladymia69's avatar

And for experiments with drugs and stuff! Go ahead and crucify me if you will, but I almost wish they would do drug/chemical experiments on stupid people instead of animals.

talljasperman's avatar

@ladymia69 and when they come for you?

downtide's avatar

Erasing stupidity would cause the collapse of the political system, the popular media and the entire structure of capitalism. Those in power would never allow it to happen.

optimisticpessimist's avatar

No matter how intelligent, we all do stupid things at one time or another.

starsofeight's avatar

“Stupid” is a judgmental classification made by those who seek to feel exalted above others.

It is not that I know more than you do, you just know different things.

I’ll not demand that you prove yourself to me.

Ladymia69's avatar

@starsofeight OK, so going by that token, you don’t consider certain politicians to the opposite side of your leanings stupid? You have never thought to yourself that someone else might be beneath you in some way? If we could get inside your mind, I bet we might see differently. After all, you are human as well.

starsofeight's avatar

@ladymia69 What some call stupid, others call needful of patient assistance.

starsofeight's avatar

@ladymia69 And speaking of politicians – in a computer connected world, do we even want them anymore?

hobbitsubculture's avatar

Just as there are different types of intelligence, there are different types of stupidity. Unwillingness to learn or question is one. Foregoing logical decision making is another. Assuming to know something instead of admitting you don’t is yet another. Then there’s a huge category of doing things that are dangerous for no good reason.

Like @starsofeight, I don’t think lack of knowledge and stupidity are the same thing, though they often go together. I’m not stupid because I don’t know much about electrical wiring. I would be stupid if I assumed I could fix the weird outlet in my apartment without first learning the required skills, or at least admitting that I have no idea what to do, and hiring a professional.

Ladymia69's avatar

I am confused as to what the definition of “stupidity” is here. I am using it in the sense of these such types of human behavior (just off the top of my head):

~having more children when you don’t care much for the ones you have (as in neglecting, abusing, or exploiting them)

~pitting animals against eachother in fights for profit or entertainment

~repeating incredibly self-destructive behaviors when you are well-aware of the results (we are probably all guilty of this at some point)

~riding motorcycles without helmets

~repeatedly involving oneself in relationships with people who abuse you

~not using birth control when one is aware of the methods available

~racism, bigotry, narcissism, sexism, tyranny

~...any behavior noted in the many Darwin Awards publications

augustlan's avatar

Is stupidity always the result of low IQ? If so, there wouldn’t be much we could do about it, would there? Unless you want to go around telling the currently stupid that they aren’t allowed to reproduce (thus reducing the future stupid?). I’m certainly not going to say that. ;)

starsofeight's avatar

@hobbitsubculture I was once stupid about electrical matters.

You know that little box in the back of a TV that you are not supposed to touch?

Well, I touched one. It blew a chunk out of my finger, and I itched for half an hour, but -

I got un-stupid in a hurry.

Ladymia69's avatar

@augustlan No way! We are all stupid about something, and have been stupid at some point in our lives.

augustlan's avatar

@ladymia69 Oh, yeah. I’ve definitely done my share of stupid things, no question. But I do think there’s a difference between being stupid about some things or being occasionally stupid, and just being generally stupid, you know? Still, I think the world would be very one-dimensional if we were all brilliant, all the time. Most of my biggest laughs have been as a result of my own stupidity. ;)

Ladymia69's avatar

@augustlan OK, I misunderstood what you were saying before.

You’re right about what you said there, sister!

See, everyone? Even our beloved moderator manager says that some people are generally dumb!

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