Smart people sometimes believe the dumbest things. I know people who can read through massive tomes in an afternoon, translate pages from one dead language to another and yet despite all evidence to the contrary, believe fervently in the efficacy of homeopathic medicine. I’ve known others who are convinced that George Bush initiated the bombing of the World Trade Center but are otherwise as well spoken as any person your likely to meet. I know a man who can hold the designs for vast computer networks in his head yet still believes everything he reads in the news without question, so long as reaffirms his prior beliefs.
And that’s really the issue I think. People are biased towards self affirming information and thoughts and even people who are aware of this bias, are still biased. In fact, those who are most aware of the bias, often are most prey to it, because by being aware of it, they think that they are immune. We have a tendency to fool ourselves about the world around us and the smarter we are, the better we are at it. It’s weird.
Most of us know folks who are smarter than us and can correct us when we pick up ideas that are too crazy or foolish, or who can impartially pick apart the flaws in our logic on a daily basis. We are forced to humility because opinions from those that we trust correct us and keep us sane. The smartest among us, however, don’t have that advantage. Smart people, or those who are the smartest in their immediate peers, have no one to tell them that they are wrong. They have only their own reasoning on which to rely and so the most foolish beliefs can prosper unhindered. The smarter a man is, the better he is at convincing himself of nonsense.
Every person needs at least one other person to keep him sane and humble.