« on: November 30, 2014, 05:34:58 pm »
Recently I've noticed a category of people I've encountered all my life but never really thought about before; the nerd who isn't particularly bright.
My thoughts on this subject aren't particularly well-defined, but I thought I'd start rambling and see if anything useful or interesting emerges. This particular thought was triggered by a guy I know who has all of the trappings of nerd-dom and is undeniably a nerd: loves science fiction, reads voraciously, has a fantastic vocabulary and great grammar, adores tabletop gaming, and "loves science" in that way that nerdy people do... you know, by watching Cosmos, thinking Bill Nye is awesome, and liking the "I Fucking Love Science" page on Facebook. He prides himself on his intelligence, which he assumes is considerable, and has vast contempt for the unwashed masses and the stupid. Not that he's a bad guy, though; he just, like many people who consider themselves smart, has a low tolerance for stupidity.
However, he seems beneath it all to not be all that intelligent; when presented with a novel piece of information, he either accepts it or rejects it based primarily on how well it matches his internal models, without investigating it to find out whether it has solid support. The result is that he ends up believing things that are easily demonstrated to be false, and rejecting things that are easily demonstrated to be true, based essentially only on whether the premise fits his expectations and worldview.
Maybe this is just my personal definition, but it seems to me that fact-checking and critical thinking are key elements of intelligence. They are definitely key elements of science. From that perspective, he simply seems like someone who has been trained in all the trappings of intelligence but lacks the foundational capacity to retrain himself. On the other hand, it could be that he has the capacity, but has never been trained to use it.
I have a feeling we all know this guy, or someone like him. Maybe someone who is into Doctor Who and puns, writes science fiction, considers himself highly intelligent, and talks with the nerd lisp and is, bless his heart, just kind of dumb.
I'm not really going anywhere with this, I lack a punchline.