Thursday, December 03, 2009

Intellectual or Anti-Intellectual: Does truth matter?

Intellectuals are not ever really held to standards anymore. At least with how the term is usually used. People are intellectual because they are, or because they work at a university or something like that. Those who come along and buck the system are not intellectuals, they are stupid and ignorant, or at least they are until their team wins and then they are the party line and now intellectual. Which leads me to this question? Does truth matter when we are considering someone to be intellectual?

Take this recent bru-ha-ha about Global Warming. Some scientists, who were all considered intellectual and some of them at least had shared in a Nobel Prize, were all faking their data and making things up. The truth stared them in the face, and they went in the opposite direction despite the truth. Surely we can now recognize that these people are not intellectuals, but rather silly liars despite the Nobel Prizes and degrees hanging on their walls.

But do we have to wait for proof of out right fraud before we apply the truth to discerning whether people are intellectuals or not? Take Karl Marx for example. He still has millions of followers, but all of the Communistic countries like the USSR have been placed firmly on the “ash heap of history” or at least have altered their economic system to allow capitalism. Does Marx rate as an intellectual? What about the next step in John Maynard Keynes. His system does not appear to work, but still has devoted followers, at least politically. Milton Friedman led a critical movement of Keynes and for almost a generation economists agreed that his theories did not work. Is Keynes an intellectual? More importantly can both Keynes and Friedman be intellectuals? One of them has to be right and the other wrong? Is the one who is wrong still an intellectual despite being completely wrong? What role does truth play in who is and who is not an intellectual?

Let me get one step closer to a point. What about Charles Darwin or Jay Gould (inventor of Punctuated Evolution)? Are these men intellectuals? Darwin had a scientific theory. He proposed what he considered evidence, and even admitted the lack of fossil records, but assumed they would be found soon enough (they have not by the way). It is not really a testable theory as we cannot re-create the beginning of the world in a test tube. Gould’s ideas are even less testable as he makes the lack of evidence a sign of evidence for his theory, convoluting the whole thing even more. But the untestable point goes both ways, as there is no way to actually prove evolution either. Yet, these men are considered intellectuals. But, if they are completely and totally wrong then should they be?

The Bible tells us that the fool says in his hear there is no God, and the beginning of wisdom is the fear of God. Can one be both an intellectual and a fool? Maybe depending on the definition, I guess. But the point is that it seems odd to me that today we throw around terms of intellectual and anti-intellectual (or worse terms such as liars and skeptics)without regard for truth.


Anonymous said...

Lee, they are all surrogate (albeit camouflaged) priests: they run on their creeds, and everybody's expected to believe what they blather. No different than the RCC or the priests of pre-Christian eras.