July 27, 2010

Brilliance Isn't Enough

Marc Comtois

Thomas Sowell, writing about a planned vs. free-market economy, remarks on the contrast between wicked smart planners and the small decisions made by the average Joes and Jills:

How was it even possible that transferring decisions from elites with more education, intellect, data and power to ordinary people could lead consistently to demonstrably better results?

One implication is that no one is smart enough to carry out social engineering, whether in the economy or in other areas where the results may not always be so easily quantifiable. We learn, not from our initial brilliance, but from trial and error adjustments to events as they unfold.

Science tells us that the human brain reaches its maximum potential in early adulthood. Why then are young adults so seldom capable of doing what people with more years of experience can do?

Because experience trumps brilliance.

Elites may have more brilliance, but those who make decisions for society as a whole cannot possibly have as much experience as the millions of people whose decisions they preempt. The education and intellects of the elites may lead them to have more sweeping presumptions, but that just makes them more dangerous to the freedom, as well as the well-being, of the people as a whole.

Yes, too many of our "brilliant" elites continue to mistake intelligence for wisdom.

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No, science shows that the healthy brain continues to develop new connections well into 60s. The brain matures in the later 20s. That has nothing to do with maximum potential.

Of course, those studies do not factor in the long-term effects of FoxNews and Glen Beck - which may, in fact, over - stimulate the amygdala to the deteriment of the cerebral cortex.

Better than Beck -

Posted by: Robert Balliot at July 27, 2010 8:04 PM

On the question of brain "maturity", I do not have at hand the "science" of this but it is well known that most geniuses do their most important work before they are thirty. I also note that they seldom become department heads at that age.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at July 27, 2010 8:45 PM

Disdain for science and scientific expertise has been a hallmark of the Reight-WingNuts Tampering with reports on climate change, suppressing science within the U.S. Department of Fish & Wildlife, radically misrepresenting the research potential of existing stem cell lines—these are just a few cases where the wing-nuts have distorted scientific research to appease political and business interests.

Previous Republican administrations have proved willing, on occasion, to subordinate science to politics. As Chris Mooney argues in his book, The Republican War on Science, disregard for scientists and the scientific method has grown and ripened with the modern conservative movement. From Barry Goldwater's anti-intellectualism, through Ronald Reagan’s sympathy for creationism and Newt Gingrich's passion for science "skeptics," on through the present day, Republicans have shown a marked preference for politically inspired fringe theories over the findings of long-established and world-renowned scientific bodies.

Posted by: Sam at July 27, 2010 11:05 PM

How did "wing nut", a lowly fastener, become a term of disdain?

Posted by: Warrington Faust at July 28, 2010 4:55 AM

Ah, yes... the neo-fascists railing against the intellectuals.

11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts is openly attacked, and governments often refuse to fund the arts.

Oh, and never mind that Dr. Sowell is an Ivy League educated, intellectual (clearly one of those eggheads we should ignore).

Posted by: Russ at July 29, 2010 9:56 AM

"Yes, too many of our "brilliant" elites continue to mistake intelligence for wisdom."

Could Thomas Sowell be one of them, or does he get a pass because he is a Rose and Milton Friedman Senior Fellow at The Hoover Institution?

I can't recall any grass roots organization springing from the Hoover Institution. Nor do I recall Milton Friedman calling for populist control of society. He seemed to greatly favor large capital intensive corporations.

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at July 30, 2010 1:26 AM
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