Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Intellectual Confusion and Narrow Brilliance

I went out for a night on the town with some very bright and prominent young scientists this evening. Some notes on the experience...

Dinner is incredible -- the ambience is just right, the food and wine fabulous. We're all sitting back enjoying our wine, discussing our work and exchanging ideas, and just when I'm settling in for a nice time the conversation turns to politics.


First, the usual Karl Rove conspiracy stuff (they use the word "conspiracy" several times), followed by the idiocy of Bush, the sheer evilness of neo-cons, the war's costing too much, it's all about oil, the Taliban, the CIA, civil rights, etc. etc. etc. All of their information comes from Fahrenheit 9/11. I'm not just inferring this -- they keep mentioning the film. Inevitably comes the anti-Christian stuff. I say nothing. The conversation descends into a horribly misinformed, stereotype-invoking, hate-filled frenzy where everyone is feeding off of each other, and they all sound about as sophisticated as angry 15 year-olds. No one notices that three of us are stone silent -- me and the two South Americans in the group. I am wondering if it occurs to any of the Bush-bashers that perhaps not everyone at the table shares their views. I decide it doesn't occur to them. I am curious to know why the South Americans are silent. Is discussing politics at the dinner table considered rude in their culture? Are they bored? Are they as uncomfortable as I am? One of them, who has been quietly smiling at me throughout all of this, gets up and leaves.

From what I can gather, the frenzy-folks seem to be an odd flavor of leftist-libertarian. Strange comments betray their confusion. One of them accuses Bush of being racist, because the only Arabs he deals with are wealthy. She corrects herself and says it's all about money, but adds that wealth correlates with race. I wanted to ask her if she knew why. They don't like Democrats, because Democrats are dumb and lack direction. But they also accuse Democrats of being too nice, and (so help me) too honest. They claim to be soft on gun control, but then seethe with hatred when someone mentions Charlton Heston. One of them says she doesn't understand the need for semi-automatic weapons (I suspect she means fully-automatic weapons). The real gem of the evening comes when someone, in all seriousness, remarks, "I don't understand the Republican Party's position on guns. How are gun rights a religious-conservative thing?"

It's one thing to read about this kind of stuff on blogs and in books, and quite another to experience it first-hand. Spending three hours with the world's best scientific minds -- people with Ph.D.s from the best universities -- and finding out that when it comes to understanding culture and politics the most they are capable of is regurgitating what they saw in a Michael Moore film. Outside of the confines of their work, these people are incapable of original thought. An example of what our Curmudgeon refers to as "narrowness."

What an evening. I'm tired, bummed out, and going to bed.


Blogger Kevin said...

"people with Ph.D.s from the best universities"

People who are convinced by their acknowledged intellects that theirs is the only reasonable position - and who, for some reason, won't study politics as they would study a scientific idea.

Any wonder that science is losing some of its luster to those who make up the Great Unwashed?

10/19/2005 11:41 AM  
Blogger Stickwick Stapers said...

So help me, I actually expected more from these people, Kevin. I really did. But when the conversation turned from astrophysics to politics, I got intellectual whiplash. It was like being trapped with the inmates from the Democratic Underground.

Forgive the pun, but it was kind of academic to me before. Now I know first-hand. These people have a devotion to their ideology that can only be described as religious zealotry.

10/19/2005 12:07 PM  
Blogger Rusticus said...

We need a new Renaissance.

10/20/2005 4:05 PM  
Blogger Stickwick Stapers said...

Yes, we do, Rus. However, and maybe it's uncharitable for me to say so, I don't think these folks are capable of it.

10/23/2005 9:43 PM  

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