10 September 2010

Intelligence & Uncertainty

The Dunning-Kruger effect is a cognitive bias that supports a rather disappointing observation:
People who don't know much tend not to recognize their ignorance, so they fail to seek better information.
Ignorance & Confidence

Perhaps the Dunning-Kruger effect explains the correlation between ignorance and confidence.

Would-be Qur'an-burner Pastor Terry Jones is a confident public speaker. Yet this man can't possibly comprehend his seemingly unbounded ignorance.

It never occurred to the cock-sure George W. Bush to doubt the veracity of US intelligence reports on Iraq's WMDs, or to welcome conflicting viewpoints during his Presidency, or to make informed decisions, or to seek better information.

Fact gathering and critical thinking are like a curse to truly ignorant people.
Stupid is as stupid does
~Forrest Gump
Intelligence & Uncertainty

On the flip-side, there seems to be a positive correlation between intelligence and uncertainty.

I was demoted to the slow reading group in 3rd grade for disruptive behavior. This branded my prepubescent psyche with the awkward self-consciousness of the characterization below-average.

By college, a few latent talents emerged. I grew into my native intelligence. A theme in my adult life is reversing the limiting self-image of below-average-ness.

A windfall of moderated self-esteem, and the recognition of ubiquitous uncertainty, is that it drives one toward knowledge. Moderated self-esteem and uncertainty has driven me to doggedly seek better information whether voting for school board members, or making consumer purchases.

Is it possible, in one's lifetime, to truly plumb the depths of one's ignorance?

Uncertainty, or an an appetite for certainty, is one driving force behind many of human-kind's most significant discoveries. This is true in science.

An appetite for certainty is human nature. The weak-minded have the same appetite for certainty as the much-celebrated physicist Albert Einstein or contemporary cosmologist Stephen Hawking.

Unfortunately for civilization, the weak-minded's appetite for certainty is often sated by the pseudo certainty derived from dogmatic religious beliefs. Deity worship, and other superstitions, atrophies critical thinking and renders one intellectually lazy.

Further Reading

The Comfort of Ignorant Bliss by Lane Wallace.

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