By Bob Quarteroni
I read in the Times of Israel that researchers have identified “what’s said to be a previously undiscovered organ and may be one of the largest in the body.”
It’s called the interstitium and it just shows how ignorant we are, even of our own bodies in this supposed age of instant, total knowledge.
Not just our innards are terra incognita. Everywhere I turn I hear of how little we know.
In my amateur naturalist mode I’m learning about lichens and reading about how they sexually reproduce.
Well, I would, but according to Joe Walewski in “Lichens of the North Woods,” “This is all in theory, mind, since no one has ever seen it happen….”
Hell, we don’t know why we sleep or what dreams mean. We’ve only identified approximately 14 percent of the estimated 8.7 million species on the planet.
Gravity? Forget it. We don’t know why cats purr or even why we yawn.
Even with viruses, which kill us by the tens of millions, we don’t know if they are alive or dead (According to Scientific America, “viruses today are thought of as being in a gray area between living and nonliving,” a nice fudge if I’ve ever seen one).
You get the general idea. What we don’t know is a lot.
Unfortunately, what we THINK we don’t know isn’t.
We are, as a species, soooo sure of just how smart we are and how much we know.
We aren’t, and we don’t.
There is a phenomenon in psychology called the “Dunning-Kruger Effect.”
It is defined as “a cognitive bias in which unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than is accurate. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability to recognize their [own] ineptitude.”.
Which, not surprisingly, why Donald Trump comes to mind.
With Bloomberg View we didn’t need to even read the story: The headline sums it up nicely: “Trump’s ‘Dangerous Disability’? It’s the Dunning-Kruger Effect. We’re all ignorant, but Trump takes it to a different level.”
As a race we are sublimely convinced of our towering knowledge, just as we were when we were convinced the sun revolved around the earth and the world was flat and that our government was going to take care of us. “Absolute” truth which turned out to be absolute nonsense.
It is perhaps mankind’s biggest problem: The deadly combination of ignorance and arrogance.
This combination in our “leaders” has led to such debacles as Vietnam. No little brown men are going to be able to defeat the might of the United States military, said arrogant Robert McNamara, Defense Secretary: “The war in Vietnam is going well and will succeed.”
Well, if success is measured by the 58,220 dead American soldiers, I guess it was a success,
But the arrogance-ignorance monster lives on, and it’s the parent of everything from our 16-year debacle in Afghanistan to the simply unbelievable withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord and ongoing denial of the reality of global warming.
And it’s a worldwide problem, from Vladimir Putin to Assad and every other wannabe dictator, ruining the lives of their people when they aren’t just killing them outright.
And it’s prevalent in religion, misguided religion from the sickness of ISIS to the incredible – but deadly – fighting between Shia and Sunni Muslims over some fine points of theology.
We could go on and on – hear about how North Koreans are picking the kernels of corn out of excrement so they have something to eat? Or what the UN calls a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” in Myanmar?
Arrogance and ignorance rule. QED.
What can be done?
Well, we could nuke the planet and hope that the cockroaches or whatever take over have a finer moral compass than our current crop of leaders, which wouldn’t be all that difficult.
But short of that we have too, as individuals, get into the game and try to stop the AI train wreck wherever we can.
If ever the old chestnut of think globally but act locally was apt, this is it.
Is your school board acting like a bunch of Nazi thugs? Get active, complain and work to vote them out of office.
Is your congressman bought and owned by the NRA? Do your best to let fellow voters know and boot the bum out of office.
Are you sickened by the ignorance (“I’m like really smart”) and arrogance (“I could…shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters”) of our supremely crazy leader?
Then get off your behinds and do waht you can, all you can, to make sure that he and his cabal of lunatics are gone as soon as possible, relegated to the garbage dump of history where they belong.
And as for the epidemic of arrogance and ignorance itself?
We can’t change human nature but we can do a better job of recognizing potential leaders with this horrible disease.
They can only exist, they can only exert their maleficence if people let them, fearing they have no power to change the way things are.
But that’s a mistake. ALL the power rests with the people, if they just exercise it. And if the shape of the world today isn’t enough to stir you to action, someone needs to check you for a pulse.
It’s time. It’s past time we take control. As Winston Churchill said so presciently, “Dictators ride to and fro on tigers from which they dare not dismount. And the tigers are getting hungry.”