The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Why are politicians so stupid?

I have often wondered why modern politicians are so stupid. At least, they say stupid things and that is evidence enough of stupidity, for me. It puzzles me, really, because when I read of great politicians of the past, quoted (for instance Winston Churchill), I am often impressed by the wisdom, wit or insight of their words. It seems that modern politicians are a lesser breed (quite literally) and have not the basic components of an intelligent mind, to call upon.

I am about to detail the thoughts of a modern politician. I want you to guess the identity of the politician concerned. I further want you to think of what level of political responsibility you would feel safe entrusting to a person showing this level of intellect.

Here goes. The LA Times wrote recently that a leading politician believes that dinosaurs walked the Earth alongside humans, 6,000 years ago. When challenged on this belief, the politician claimed to “have seen pictures with human footprints inside the dinosaur tracks”. This same politician has made enquiries of the library system on how to ban books. This same politician would like creationism (the belief that God made the Earth 6,000 years ago, complete with all life) to be taught alongside evolution, in schools. Pupils would then be able to make “an informed choice”. This same politician is remarkably uninformed about political matters and said on CNBC in July 2008: “As for that VP talk all the time, I’ll tell you, I still can’t answer that question until somebody answers for me what is it exactly that the VP does every day?” This same politician when asked about their apparent inexperience with foreign policy countered with: “I can see Russia from my house”. When challenged by Katie Couric on CBS News to give an example of a Supreme Court decision other than Roe vs Wade, this same politician said: “Well, let’s see. There’s, of course, in the great history of America rulings, there have been rulings.” In the same interview, this politician was asked to name a single newspaper or magazine that they read and replied with: “All of ‘em, any of ‘em that have been in front of me over all these years.” This leading politician was unable to name a single publication.

Wow. These are the thoughts of a leading politician. Now, answer me this: is the person who uttered these words showing a reasonably functioning intellect? Do you see evidence that they are intelligent and capable? Would you feel comfortable entrusting them with high political office? Answer this: are they profoundly stupid or wonderfully gifted?

Please come to a decision on these matters before reading on.

Those words were spoken by Vice Presidential candidate Governor Sarah Palin.

Think about that. She is VP to an old man, who has survived extensive torture. He might die at any time. If she is VP to his Presidency, she could end up as the President of the United States. Yet, on the evidence of her own words, she is an utter moron. She cannot think coherently. She cannot put together an argument. She is not able to answer the simplest of questions, informatively. She appears to be the dimmest politician I have heard of. She makes George W Bush seem like a genius. Indeed, I feel safer having someone of his intellectual calibre running the US, than someone of hers.

How could this happen? How could a woman bereft of intellectual function of even the most basic level end up as Governor of Alaska? How could she be running for Vice President of the United States? Something is wrong with the way politicians are elected in the US. The first consideration should be not how charming they are - but how smart they are. If they are not smart enough to do a good job, they shouldn't ever be in the running, no matter how many people like them. Sarah Palin is not bright enough to be Governor of Alaska, on the evidence above. In fact, she isn't bright enough to be a primary school teacher. (Imagine a primary school teacher giving those answers to a child...just imagine what you would think of that teacher.)

Now, I need to point out that I have NO political opinion regarding the US. I am not involved in who wins or who loses. I am not sure of the differences between Barack Obama, Biden, Palin or McCain...I am just a bystander who finds himself amazed at the stupidity of one of the candidates. Then, again, it should be noted that Senator McCain chose Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate. That was an exercise in his wisdom or lack of it. The fact that she is none too bright seems to indicate that maybe he isn't either. You see, if you are bright, you don't choose a stupid running mate. So, I begin to wonder about both of them.

Then, again, Barack Obama has seemed a bit superficial to me, at times, in his answers - as if either he can't think too deeply, or is not well enough informed to do so. All of it leaves me rather worried. I would like to see the USA in hands of someone really, really, bright enough to do a good job. I don't want to see it in the hands of a populist airhead of any race, sex or creed.

The modern politician is a stupid being. That much is clear. However, what is not is why the people of Earth ever allowed this to come to pass. The pity of it is, I suspect, however, that the electorate is too stupid to tell the difference. Thus, stupid people, elect stupid leaders, who make stupid decisions and stupidly destroy the countries they lead. Then again, financial institutions seem pretty good at doing the very same thing. So, politics doesn't have a monopoly on stupidity.

I would like to see a higher value being placed on intelligence as a quality in leaders of all kinds. Then, perhaps, we might have a world in which countries function well and wisely - and the world doesn't face the kind of global financial crisis that it now does.

So, I vote for wit and wisdom. Unfortunately, I can't find too many candidates who qualify. They must be hiding somewhere - or perhaps, wisely, thought better of getting involved in politics or finance in the first place.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and seven months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, five years exactly, and Tiarnan, twenty-eight months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, wunderkind, wonderkind, genio, гений ребенок prodigy, genie, μεγαλοφυία θαύμα παιδιών, bambino, kind.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 9:50 PM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't blame me--I voted for Al Gore.

In the US, anti-intellectualism is a big problem. Even brilliant people like Barack Obama feel like they have to be "folksy" so as not to be branded "elitist". A good book on this topic is The Age of American Unreason by Susan Jacoby.

4:53 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

It is a pity that the US has become anti-intellectual - for without intellectuals of some kind, higher civilization decays and does not develop. Does this portend the decline of the US?

Thanks for the book tip.

10:39 AM  
Blogger Colin said...

So in response to the first post:
Are you saying that Mrs Palin might be 'dumbing herself down' in order to appeal to a wider demographic? Because if she is, then I think Mr Cawley here can put some of his worries to rest.

2:21 PM  
Blogger Miao said...

A female reader wrote to Time, saying that McCain is insulting the intelligence of all women voters by thinking that he can somehow attract all of them over to his camp by picking an incompetent female VP candidate. I've been following the elections right from the start, and initially I preferred John Edwards because he seemed to have some really good ideas. But then he later dropped out of the race, and so I switched over to Hilary. And then she lost to Obama. I didn't favour Obama very much at first, but I must say that I am pretty impressed with his way of responding to McCain's smear campaigns as well as the current economic crisis. He appears cool and collected, he behaves graciously, and he can explain policies and deliver messages very lucidly in accessible language. He may have flaws in other areas, but he has exhibited the admirable ability to keep his head even in stressful situations, he has displayed charisma. I think these are qualities people would like to see in a President. Even those who don't like him very much might still vote for him in the end - after all, he's really the lesser of the two evils.

As for Palin, her stupidity and blunders really astound me. Above all, I am appalled by the stand she takes on abortion. She wants to ban abortion, even in cases of rape, incest and life-threatening situations. That is simply unimaginable. She would rather let these poor women suffer (and even die) than let them choose what should happen in and to their bodies - which I consider a basic right. She is really incredible, in every sense of the word. She has told many lies, and she defiantly denies the findings of a recent probe that reveals how she has abused her power as the Alaskan governor by allowing her husband to pressure her former brother-in-law into resigning from his position. She is not just devoid of intelligence - she is dishonest, corrupt, incompetent, cruel (how can anyone watch a pregnant woman suffer and die? And she even said that the Iraq War is a task assigned by God!), irrational and downright untrustworthy. I hope Americans will not vote for McCain - this woman should be kept out of the White House at all cost.

2:31 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Hi Colin,

Sadly, Mrs Palin seems to be the real thing. Her remarks are too consistently dim to be anything but truly dim. I don't think she is posing here. This is a woman who was unable to name a single newspaper or magazine that she had ever read, when repeatedly pressed to do so by a journalist, on camera: she seemed not to know the names of any: amazing, really.

I don't think she was pretending not to know the names of publications so as to "appeal to a wider demographic". She clearly doesn't read much, if at all.

4:23 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you Miao, for expanding on your views on Palin/McCain and Obama.

It is important even for non-Americans to take an interest in this situation since the leader of America affects all nations, directly or indirectly.

4:26 PM  
Blogger Colin said...

You know, sometimes I feel a bit sad, because the real talents never join the competitions that seek to find them.

For example, the best singers don't take part in Sngapore Idol, or the prettiest ladies don't aspire to be a Singtel Grid Girl. I think you catch my drift.

If there is a constant disdain felt by the best among us for such 'competitions' (for want of a better word), then we may have a situation that talent is not rewarded or appropriately recognised in our society.

This is very worrying, as I imagine you can apprecite Mr Cawley.

8:10 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

You have a point, Colin: it is often not the best of kind that reaches the top...but a person of some other quality, instead.

I don't think it is healthy for society. We are all worse off for this phenomenon.

It is a problem that needs some thought and attention...

Thank you for your comment.

8:55 PM  
Blogger vince said...

I am not at all a supporter of Palin but I think you are wrong on sevearl counts. She is not dumb. Having heart-felt opinions on religious issues is not the same as lacking intelligence. The two issues you hit her on--dinosaurs being contemperaneous with humans and abortion--are religions issues. If we say she is unintelligent because of these, we must also say that anyone that believes in the bible or koran is unintelligent. It is not true. I don't agree with these two positions....and I don't believe in the bible or koran....but I do not label belivers who do as stupid.

And, she never said she could see Russia from Alaska. That was Tina Fey of SNL. Check the clips and logs.

Is she well-read? Not in my opinion. Can she speak off the cuff? Not in my opinioin. Can she galvanize and lead a segment of the population that believes in her? Yes.

Intelligense and leadership do not go hand in hand. Just because someeone is intelligent does not mean they can lead. The ability to lead is a completly different set of abilities and very few of the "intelligentsia" have the ability to lead. The only one in recent memory is probably Vaclav Havel. Gore was no more intelligent than Bush...both went to similar universities....took similar degrees...and both earned average grades. Portraying him as intelligent and Bush as dumb was just very effective marketing.

This is a frequent mistake made about the US electorate. The electorate wants a leader. They don't want a manager or administrator. And they have a long history of electing leaders....and of course make some mistakes along the way. Sometimes they have elected folks that appeared to be leaders (such as Bush) that took the country in the wrong direction. Other times they have elected intelligentsia that were not able to lead (Hoover and Cooledge). Other times they get it right and elect someone--such as Reagan--that most of the world (including me) thought was stupid who in fact was just the leader the country needed.

8:05 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Vince, Palin is dumber than dumb...she gives new meaning to the word. It is not just on religious related matters that she comes across as an Alaskan Airhead...but on most things she opens her mouth about.

Let us deal with the first point: "I can see Russia from my house." This is a perfect summary of what she says on her foreign policy experience. In two interviews, she basically said just that.

In the first interview with Katie Couric she said:

"As Putin rears his head and comes into the airspace of the United
States of America, where do they go? It's Alaska. It's just right over the border. It is from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there, they are right next to our state."

Another interview with Charlie Gibson, went like this:

GIBSON: What insight into Russian actions, particularly in the last couple of weeks, does the proximity of the state give you?

PALIN: They're our next door neighbors and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska.

The last comment is pretty much: "You can see Russian from my house." Fey was being spot on in summarizing her - in fact, it is funnier because basically (semantically) Palin actually said it. There is no essential difference between what Palin said and what Fey said.

As for dinosaurs and humans running about together - that is much more than a "religious issue" is a matter of basic intelligence. There is a mountain of evidence that dinosaurs died out around 65 million years ago or so. There is a mountain of evidence that humans are only a couple of hundred thousand years old or so. That they could ever have met except in the case of fossil to man is impossible. Only - and I repeat ONLY a complete idiot could believe otherwise. It is not about religion. If a religion tells you that dinosaurs and humans coexisted - you just DON'T believe that part, if you have any intelligence at all. There is no evidence for that belief...but a world of evidence that is just not so.

I am not saying that all religious people are idiots. No doubt there are many bright ones. I am saying however that many religious people manage to be religious without believing in the coexistence of humans and dinosaurs. Only particularly stupid ones believe such things...oh and Governors of Alaska/Vice Presidential candidates.

I didn't hit on the issue of abortion at all - someone else did. Perhaps you were referring to them, and not to me.

The world is entering very difficult times. The USA in particular is in great difficulty. It would be stupid of the electorate to elect a stupid President. If McCain dies in office, America would have a stupid President - perhaps the most stupid President America has ever had - in charge at its time of greatest need.

You are right that leadership is a different quality to smartness - but it is possible to have both - and I think that a President should have both. If America does not elect a smart President, at this historic time, I think America will be in a much worse position than it presently is. It could signal the end of its "superpower" status, in a handful of years.

But are free to vote for whomever you wish. You can even vote for a person who believes that in 4,000 B.C T-Rex and humans were busily co-existing. Did it never occur to these Creationists that, if dinosaurs and humans had EVER co-existed they would have eaten us all alive? A primitive human with a spear is NO match for a T-rex or any of his most distant relatives. We would have become extinct pretty damn quickly. What morons to think we could ever have lived alongside each other.

7:38 PM  

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