The Midwits Will Rise Again

the real replication crisis is that scientists who write these kinds of things are subsequently unable to reproduce because of the intense nerdom which drove them to write a meta-analysis in the first place

The Midwits Will Rise Again

Before we begin today's lesson, I'd like us to do a little imagination exercise together. Find yourself a good chair (don't worry I'll wait), plop yourself down in it and close your eyes. Wait hold on, you'll need them open in order to read my instructions. Ok, open them back up again – you'll just have to imagine with your eyes open.

All together now, let's picture a room full of some of the most intelligent people you know. They could be people you know from real life, people you know from the internet, or even people that you've merely heard of. Now imagine that they're all talking to one another. Wait, no. Imagine that they're discussing something as a group.

Now, let's listen in to the discourse. As we listen, a question should pop into your mind without you putting any effort in to thinking about it.

"What in God's name are they on about now?"


One of the great tragedies of the past century is the discovery of what is commonly known as the "Flynn Effect." An even greater tragedy was the hailing of this discovery as some kind of good news.

The Man Who the Flynn Effect is Named After

So what is the Flynn effect? Here is an explanation, from one of those god-forsaken studies that just looks at a bunch of other studies (indeed, the real replication crisis is that scientists who write these kinds of things are subsequently unable to reproduce because of the intense nerdom which drove them to write a meta-analysis in the first place):

The “Flynn effect” refers to the observed rise over time in standardized intelligence test scores, documented by Flynn (1984a) in a study on intelligence quotient (IQ) score gains in the standardization samples of successive versions of Stanford-Binet and Wechsler intelligence tests. Flynn’s study revealed a 13.8-point increase in IQ scores between 1932 and 1978, amounting to a 0.3-point increase per year, or approximately 3 points per decade. More recently, the Flynn effect was supported by calculations of IQ score gains between 1972 and 2006 for different normative versions of the Stanford-Binet (SB), Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS), and Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC) (Flynn, 2009a). The average increase in IQ scores per year was 0.31, which was consistent with Flynn’s (1984a) earlier findings.

Of course, this news was discovered and we heralded it – for some unexplainable reason – as a sign of modernity's great success. "Huzzah," exclaimed all the smart people and everyone else nodded along because they assumed that the smarts had found something out which they could not comprehend.

For those of you who are spiritually inclined, you will not be surprised by the knowledge that, in the age of intellect worship, intellect has begun to go up. There is no better tactic to draw people away from the things which will fulfill them than to give them what they want. But I digress, this is not a commentary on the machinations of the Devil.

Some of the people who will read this will without a doubt be people who have been blessed with the curse of high intelligence. As much as I would like to keep them away from my works, there is little which can be done for the situation and so we must address their inevitable question, "Why is the Flynn Effect bad?" This question is, of course, an example of their tendency to abandon common sense and instead rely upon the fickle goddess Intellect, but as a matter of charity (and as my good deed for the month) let's provide them with an answer.

First, a quote from C.S. Lewis. "The better stuff a creature is made of – the clever and stronger and freer it is – then the better it will be if it goes right, but also the worse it will be if it goes wrong. A cow cannot be very good or very bad; a dog can be both better and worse; a child better and worse still; an ordinary man, still more so; a man of genius, still more so; a superhuman spirit best – or worst – of all." As a practical matter this means that the more intelligence that a given society possesses, the more morally volatile that society will be. By raising the levels of intelligence in modernity and the subsequent increasing capability of each individual to do things via tools like the Internet, we risk creating a society which spins out of control. For it is much easier for a good society to slip into doing evil than it is for an evil society to begin doing good.  

There are two kinds of high IQ people: the addicts and the autists. How do we define these two groups? Robert Conquest deals with the first admirably in his book Reflections On A Ravaged Century, "Dostoevsky writes of a human type 'whom any strong idea strikes all of a sudden and annihilates his will, sometimes forever.' The true Idea addict is usually something roughly describable as an 'intellectual.'" But what about the autists? The definition is mine, since less attention has been given to them over the years. The autists are those who are possessed not by an Idea but instead by a Theorem.

Two People Getting Their High

The smarts are easily possessed because they have only one way of relating to the world, via their intellect. Anything which appeals to the intellect, therefore, must be true and right and all else is unworthy of attention. Much like a blind mountain climber who mistakes his local hill for Mt Everest, the addicts and autists mistake intellect as the guiding force for human existence. The smarts believe that because they cannot reason out things like morality or why private property exists, these things do not objectively exist and so the smarts must intellectually reorganize society in order to align everyone with their own mindset.

Let's return to Conquest for a moment. "In part this is because, as we have suggested, many cannot admit the condition of humankind in all its vast complexity is not to be understood by formula, and that in any but the short run its developments cannot be predicted by theory, or otherwise...We cannot do without ideas: but we should not make ideas into Ideas. We should note the catastrophes due to fascination with fantasy, addiction to absolutes." In short? The smarts believe they are smarter than the human condition.

This is the great advantage which the midwits and those of average intelligence have: they trust that society has gotten something right and they understand their own limitations. They pass the knowledge of the generations down to their children without thinking that their ancestors were unenlightened barbarians who's wisdom ought to be thrown away. Because they have not been bamboozled by the bewitching fumes of their own intelligence, they have had the opportunity to develop things like common sense and some semblance of humility. A society run by the smarts is one which will inevitable self-destruct because the smarts worship their own intellect above the combined intellect of everyone who came before them. Human society is not understandable to even the most advanced of the smarts; arguably the smarter you are, the less you are able to understand human society.

Comments such as the one above are only possible when you are a slave to your own intellect, unable to consider what it means when a man has an emotional relationship to his property. The addicts and the autists are no better than the strong man who thinks everything can be solved through strength, or the general who thinks everything can be solved through war, or your father who thinks everything can be solved through a 15 year-long trip for some cigarettes.

Anyways, we should reintroduce lead pipes.