Tuesday 6 July 2021

The difference between stupid and evil

 One of the things which I despair of is the number of people who cannot differentiate between stupidity and evil. In our world today there is an abundance of both, which causes us many of the problems we encounter. The reason we find it so difficult to address these problems is because so many of us misidentify the cause of the problems. Whilst the difference is quite simple to describe, evil people do bad things because they enjoy doing bad things, whilst stupid people do bad things because they know no better, there is a stubborn refusal by many to admit this. We see evil people willfully causing mayhem and label them as stupid, when in fact they are acting in a calculating and planned manner. We also see stupid people causing mayhem and label them as evil, because their actions cause mayhem. Evil people generally have an agenda for their actions, stupid people less so (although they may convince themselves they have).

So lets start off by properly identify what stupidity is, as manifested in human behaviour. It is taking a determined course of action, based on either no evidence or obviously flawed evidence. Generally stupid people form an opinion, and once they have made their mind up, will stick to their position regardless of sound evidence that they are wrong. Intelligence is by definition, the ability to change ones mind when presented with compelling evidence. In the modern, information age, it is possible to find evidence to support just about any position one chooses. It is the quality of evidence that is the key. Research for many has become watching youtube videos and reading conspiracy websites. People with proper qualifications and experience are treated with suspicion, whilst providers of questionable information with no scientific evidence are seen as trusted sources. A prime example of this was the belief that 5G phone networks were responsible for the covid pandemic. You don't see too much about this theory any more as the covid deniers have moved to pastures new. An analytic and intelligent mind welcomes challenging information and understands how scientific method works. They understand that the basis of science is studies, where theories are tested and verified by repeatable experiments, statistical correlation between cause and effect and peer review of results.Stupidity works on a different methodology, usually unverified anecdotes and unproveable claims.  

With Covid, the situation is easy to understand. A virus can be observed, its effects monitored and the usefulness of treatments, vaccines, suppression methods measured and calibrated. The UK has had an efficient vaccination program, so we can see the effect of vaccines on hospitalisations and deaths. Other measures can be similarly assessed. It is perfectly sensible to challenge the methodolgies used, if you know they are incorrect. It is perfectly sensible to raise questions if there is something that seems to be incorrect. What I'd describe as stupidity is rejecting such studies with no rational basis, simply because you don't trust them. If you don't trust the science, then you are rejecting the same process that gave us vaccination that ended smallpox, diptheria, TB, etc. You may feel that the vaccines have been developed 'too quickly'. Bear in mind the first telephone was invented in 1920. The first iPhone was released in 2007. Look how that has developed. Technologies move more quickly. It is an iterative process, so each generation of development is more rapid than the previous one, as we understand the process better.

Finally it is worth remembering that even the brightest people do stupid things and make bad decisions. We are all prone to a bit stupidity. If we weren't the gambling industry wouldn't exist, and we'd all be eating vegan diets, as data amply demonstrates the sound logic in both cases. But that is not how we work as a species. So I am not saying I am in any way above a bit of stupidity.

Then there is evil. As I explained, stupidity is making decisions that fly in the face of reason, simply because one doesn't like the truth. Evil is a totally different thing. It is knowing that something is bad and doing it anyway, knowing it will harm others. It is the misrepresentation of facts, in the hope that other people will act in a way that is beneficial to the perpetrator of the evil. Evil thrives on the stupidity of others. There are two distinct types of evil. There is that which is undertaken for personal gain. Sadly this seems to often be normal human behaviour. We know something is wrong, someone will get hurt, but we don't give a damn and do it anyway. At least it is logical in that there is a clear purpose. The other type of evil is more pervasive. It is when people do bad things, just for the satisfaction of seeing the hurt it causes. Typically the people who perpetrate this type of evil are what we call psychpopaths, although many are very low level psychopaths. Often it can be difficult, if not impossible to differentiate this behaviour from stupidity as there is no gain for the individual beyond knowing they've hurt people. Often these characters embed them at the heart of what the more rational of us call crackpot causes. They recognise that there is a fertile community of vulnerable people, who can be mislead, exploited and taken advantage of. Such people rarely have any empathy with other people. They feel a great sense of superiority and entitlement and are never slow to explain how they are better than the rest of us. They are often quite feral in their behaviour. When they cannot defend their behaviour, they attack. They care not what they destroy in the process, even if their own reputation is a victim, as they care nothing for the view of others. Those of us who lack psychopathic tendencies, find it hard to comprehend the fact that they care nothing for the opinion of society.

We often are perplexed as to why such characters are so obsessive and so irrational. The on line world is perfect for them. They don't need to interact with what they see as real people. Whereas in the pre digital age, their behaviour would often end with a fist on the nose in the pub, safely tucked away in their bedroom, they can be as beastly as they like. When things don't work out as they plan, they become even more obsessive. They will invent new characters and new online persona's to rerun lost fights. 

I was discussing this matter with friends recently. Some are horrified by some of the on line behaviour of certain individuals. For me, I am actually quite comforted. I suspect that if we'd had Twitter and Facebook in the 1920's, the likes of Hitler would have stayed in his bedroom and ranted to himself. A friend said he thought Donald Trump was proof I was wrong, but Trump predated Twitter and I think Twitter massively reduced the damage Trump was able to do. In a pre Twitter world, all of the energy he spent ranting on Twitter would have most likely been channelled into seeing his bonkers scheme's through. 

These days it is unfashionable to believe in the Devil as the personification of pure evil. I am not going to speculate one way or the other about his existence, but I do think that if the Devil really were to exist, he'd hate Twitter. All of his biggest advocates seem to spend all there time typing pointless tweets, which the world ignores, in their bedroom. Those of us who are not stupid soon realise that such characters are best blocked and ignored. Those who are stupid, get enraged for a short while then move on to something else. They are not really that interested in checking facts, so once they find something else more interesting, they move on. 

What would really worry me is when all of the evil genius's twig this fact and start re-engaging with reality. 

No comments: