It’s The Stupidity, Stupid

My in-laws babysat their son’s three young children for three weeks many years ago. They were so frazzled toward the end of the ordeal that they did not recognize my wife’s voice when she called them. They also were appalled at the youngsters’ language.

Were the kids dropping the F-bomb or other such crude words? Far from it. Probably influenced by Arte Johnson’s nazi character on the TV show, “Laugh In,” (“Very interesting…… but stupid”) they happened to be enamored of the word “stupid.” I’m sure Miss Manners would say it’s not nice to call people stupid, but that does not alter the fact that many people actually fit that description.

Recently a woman I’d met expressed her dismay at how the anti-vaxxers are prolonging and worsening the pandemic, endangering and screwing up the lives of those of us who are immunized. Opting to avoid the nasty word I said, “I just don’t understand why they won’t get the shot.” Not being so constrained she exclaimed, “They’re just plain stupid.” To which I proffered no argument.

IQ as a measure of intelligence is a politically fraught issue. People cite it to promote the dubious claim there are cultural and racial factors that limit intelligence. Still, there’s no controversy about the fact that, putting everything else aside, the most reliable measure we have of intellectual attainment, if not potential, is IQ.

People require at least a certain IQ to graduate from high school or college. Or put another way, if you graduated from high school or college you will likely have an IQ within a certain range. I recently read that an IQ of 105 is the minimum required to obtain a high school diploma. Average IQ being 100, more than half the population lack the intellectual capacity to finish high school. But some get pushed through without really fulfilling the qualifications. Sure ’nuff, only about 50% of the population have a high school degree.

Years ago, I was taught the minimum IQ of a college graduate is 115. It’s dumbed down to 110-115 since then, probably due to grade inflation, but still there’s a good reason college grads make up only a third of so of the population. While there are many factors determining how much education a person may attain, and there is evidence more education can raise IQ levels, obviously intelligence, which like it or not is to a significant extent genetically determined, is high on the list of factors that determine how far in school, and in life, a person will go.

Very importantly, each point in the IQ scale represents not a linear, but an exponential difference in intelligence. Someone with an IQ of 101 is more than one percent more intelligent than someone with 100. Someone with an IQ of 100 is much, much smarter than someone with what looks close, such as 92 (which happens to be the average IQ in many of the deep red states.)

Higher IQ is related to better ability to engage in abstract, critical thinking, to sift through information to separate fact from fiction, synthesize the various aspects of the information, and formulate complex concepts that provide a nuanced comprehension of reality. People with lower IQs tend to think in simplistic, literal terms. This combined with their high levels of ignorance make them more gullible. They are excellent marks for advertisers, scammers, politicians and clergy who profit off of their stupidity.

It’s hard for those possessing high intelligence to appreciate just how much smarter they are than most people, which in turn makes them incredulous at the stupidity of most people. But the fact is that those with IQs of 100 or less, though they usually can get by OK in life, are none too bright.

No surprise to me, when the average IQ of “red” states was compared to that of “blue” ones, the “blues” came out way better. Actual numbers vary in the studies I’ve read, but significantly higher levels in blue states is a consistent finding in all studies. This is born out by the fact that deep red Mississippi with its average IQ of 92, has a high school graduation rate of only 30%.

Still wondering why those red states are sucked in by the Trumpublican con, refuse to wear masks and have abysmally low vaccination rates? Here’s a statistic recently reported in the Washington Post: In a poll asking whether people thought they had a moderate to high risk of contracting Covid in June and again in September, 32% of vaccinated people believed they had such a risk in June and 52% in September. Now get this. The unvaccinated reported thinking they had only a 22% risk in June and a 35% risk in September.

To my mind, nothing better demonstrates the poor judgement engendered by low intellectual endowment than the refusal to take a life saving shot in the arm or to wear a mask. These people are so (what other word can we find?) stupid, they would rather die than do what to any reasonably intelligent person is a no-brainer.

I admit that refusal to wear a mask (or to prefer to take a dangerous and ineffective horse pill rather than a shot that has been proven safe and effective on millions of humans) can be explained by more factors than one. Most of those reasons, however, seem to boil down to one common denominator. These people are, apologies to Miss Manners and to my late in-laws, just plain stupid.

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