Confidence Mismatch

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Confidence Mismatching with Intelligence

The visitor should be familiar with homeostasis and pk’s take on it before entering here. Also be aware of my chronic point that myth often suits discussion better than facts: myth may be representative; whereas fact may be merely incidental, accidental.

Dan Brown’s Angels & Demons concocts a plot in which laboratory creation of antimatter coincides with the Illuminati plot to attack religion by destroying the Church. An antimatter sample is stolen from CERN and planted as a bomb in the Vatican just as the Cardinals are electing a new Pope. The CERN director calls in a Harvard symbologist who teams up with the antimatter’s maker. They go to the Vatican where their efforts to save the Church are hampered by the necessity of teaming with personnel who have no idea of what they’re talking about. And here’s my main point this time around: naturally, those who don’t understand at all are securely in charge of those who do understand a little bit.

The novel is bullshit; but that particular pattern, rhythm, limit … is right on the money.

The Vatican is protected by the Swiss Guard. A honcho in the Swiss Guard doesn’t even know what antimatter is. But that doesn’t hinder his confidence in the authority of his leadership for long. Even when he is put in his place by the temporary dictator of the Church, he’s back to his old habits a moment later.

Do a bell curve on confidence in the human population. An estimate will have to do: we lack the competence to be “right.” Now do a bell curve on intelligence in the human population. Again, an estimate is the best we can hope for. Take both graphs with a grain of salt, but now, match them. Mismatch. As “intelligence” increases, so does humility. But as confidence tends toward absolute, the chart for intelligence recedes.. Harvard has doubts; the Pentagon doesn’t. At crunch time, “the Pentagon” will run “Harvard.”

‘It is better to be fooled than to be suspicious’…
the confidence trick is the work of man,
but the want-of-confidence trick is the work of the devil.

Howards End

In Angels & Demons, I don’t doubt that Harvard and CERN will somehow, against all odds, manage to save us once again, for a little while longer. Myths that contain a truth don’t sell well unless they’re layered among other myths which are false. Still, we should be glad of truth, even in minute amounts: even where many basic facts betray the ignorance of the myth-maker. (Brown here says that Galileo originated the heliocentric theory of the solar system! ??? Brown here says that Christianity borrowed “eating the God” from the Aztecs! !?!?!?)

@ K. 2004 06 30

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About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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