Stupidity is a Moral Defect

Increasingly complex societies demand increasingly complex solutions. We can only find these if we also devote more intelligence to them. There are two ways to do this:

  1. Create more natural intelligence;
  2. Create more artificial intelligence;

Work is busily underway on the latter, with more and more instances of artificial intelligence being created to make our jobs easier and at the same time to occupy new parts of the intelligence space that we do not yet cover today.

There are several problems with the former. First, the human growth curve is flattening out, and we’ll peak at 9.7 billion people on the planet around 2060 before it starts to decline. And then you get the feeling that people are getting dumber.

While the Flynn effect says otherwise, namely that the tests recruits have been taking for the past century show that average intelligence has increased worldwide, the phenomenon that says we are getting better at dealing with abstract subjects and thus excelling in IQ tests has also seen a flattening or even decline in recent years. The phenomenon, which says that we are getting better at dealing with more abstract topics and thus excelling in IQ tests, also sees a flattening or even decline in these tests in recent years.

Some would even say that stupidity is increasing. Not only the already deceased Berkeley professor Carlo M. Cipolla, who studied stupidity and stupid people and established 5 basic laws of human stupidity, dealt intensively with the topic, also the Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Stupidity with the Nazis

Bonhoeffer was a pastor in Finkenwalde near Stettin when he had to witness the misanthropy of the Nazi dictatorship for himself. After his arrest, while in prison, he began to examine the root of this wickedness of his country of poets and thinkers and came to the conclusion that it was not so much wickedness as stupidity that led to this contempt for humanity. Bonhoeffer held that stupidity was a more dangerous enemy of good than malice.

While it is possible to protest against evil and to expose and prevent it through the use of violence, we are defenseless against stupidity. Neither protests nor the use of force accomplish anything here. Arguments fall on deaf ears.

The stupid person is self-satisfied. He has no doubts whatsoever about his opinion and presents it confidently. We know this today as the Dunning-Kruger effect. If, on the other hand, he is contradicted or feels irritated, he quickly becomes violent.

Stupidity as a moral defect

According to Bonhoeffer, stupidity is thus not an “intellectual” but a “moral defect”. People allow themselves to become stupid. The increase in power of a party, religion or a group “infects” the members with stupidity. Even if people are smart as individuals, in the group they become stupid. It is therefore a sociological rather than a psychological problem.

The solution is not to shove facts and data in the noses of these stupid or morally defective people and hope they will become wise. To solve the problem, power must be broken. So to speak, not the “inner liberation” from stupidity comes first, but the “outer liberation” from power.

Stupidity today

Even today, this stupidity seems more present than ever. COVID deniers, who get drunk on the power of their volume in social media and on the streets, or Putin-understanders, who also here with the help of troll armies and bots think they are more numerous than they are, come to mind.

It does not help here to lecture these morally defective people, but first of all to take away their power. This can be done by eliminating the troll armies and, conversely, by showing that they are in the minority.

Bonhoeffer’s stupidity cost him his life. Two weeks before the liberation of Flossenbürg concentration camp by American soldiers, he was hanged.

In the following video, the topic of stupidity is explained in a clear manner and with excellent illustrations by Pascal Gaggelli:

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