I think if I was forced to come up with a defining characteristic of a true intellectual, I’d say it is someone willing to consider possibilities that are not already on the table. When I say “true intellectual” I mean to distinguish the real thinkers from the pseudo-intellectual posers. The truly smart and curious are not constrained by or very interested in the current fads. When presented with a puzzle, they first try to imagine all of the possible solutions and then begin eliminating the impossible.
One of the useful lessons of mathematics is that there are some problems for which there are many answers. If you are presented with x – 3 = 0 or x – 4 = 0 then you know x = 3, 4. In other words, X has more than one possible solution. A surprisingly high number of allegedly smart people struggle with that basic concept. When you get into more complex areas like human sciences, the range of solutions to a problem may include a combination of factors, interacting to cause the observed phenomenon.
So, the intellectual is someone that starts with the set of all solutions and narrows the list to those that are possible. The religiously minded, on the other hand, reverses the order of things. They first eliminate all the possibilities that fall outside the faith. A Christian, for example, will never consider the possibility that his faith is nonsense and Jesus was a fictional character. The Muslim will never consider that Mohamed was simply a medieval L. Ron Hubbard. Instead, they rely on a static set of possible causes to solve all problems.
Throughout history, we have examples of the priestly class convincing the people that the calamity that has befallen them is due to their deviation from the faith. When the plague ravaged Europe, the religious were convinced it was due to God’s wrath. What else could it be? The English blamed the Vikings on falling out of favor with God. Cromwell blamed his defeat in the Caribbean on the people straying from the path. Critically, revolutionaries blame the inevitable bad results of their revolution on enemies of the revolution.
Just to be clear, religion is vital to every society. Most people should not be thinking about all the possible causes of what is around them. Islam may be useless to Western civilization, but it serves a needed purpose in the East. Christianity was vital to the development of Western Civilization. In fact, it was what preserved the stock of human knowledge that was the foundation of the modern West. Today, the West would be better off if our leaders were Christians, instead of Cultural Marxists.
Even so, the difference between the intellectual and the ideological enforcer is all about the possibilities. A good example of that is in this post on NRO the other day from someone calling himself Mario Loyola. He is one of the thousands of public intellectuals living off the taxpayer at foundations around the Imperial Capital. His CV is here and you see the word “fellow” turn up a lot in his work history. As an aside, most of our “conservative” intellectuals have credentials from the most liberal of institutions.
Anyway, his post is about black crime rates and the causes of those crime rates. This bit got my attention.
When America is ready for a real conversation about race, it will start here. It will ask honestly what the causes are. There is not the slightest doubt in my mind that race has absolutely nothing to do with crime rates, and that government policies such as welfare are the real culprit, creating the urban blight and broken families that lead directly to crime.
Let’s first start with the phrase, “have a conversation.” When you want to kill time you have a conversation about the weather. When you want to let someone else know things about yourself, you have a conversation. When you want to find answers to problems, you don’t have a conversation. That’s how you get fired. You’re fooling around having conversations instead of doing what the boss instructed. Of course, in modern America, when a Progressive says he wants a conversation he means he plans to lecture you and you better shut up.
Putting that aside, the first thing Mario does in his “exploration of causes” is eliminate those that fall outside the One True Faith. In fact, he makes clear that he is not interested in that conversation at all as he has decided that the cause of black crime is government. If you already have the answer, there’s no need for further discovery. Once you find the answer, the next job is to tell the world about your wonderful insight. That’s why scientists post the results of their experiments. It’s how the stock of human knowledge increases.
Of course, Mario is not offering any evidence of his assertion. For this type of Progressive, race falls outside the set of acceptable causes so it is eliminated without further discussion. Because he is from the shadow end of the faith, he also feels the need to eliminate racism so he can focus on his sect’s bogeyman, the welfare state. His post is not intended to start a conversation or begin the search for the causes of black crime. It is testimony in support of his particular brand of Progressivism.
It’s not a great surprise that our public debates are mostly two sides of the priestly class shaking their fists at one another. Biology has become forbidden knowledge. So much so that few if any in the priestly class know anything about it. That’s because biology is at odds with egalitarianism, the foundation stone of the Progressive faith. Once you accept that nature does not distribute her gifts equally among all men, Progressivism is untenable. It’s akin to saying Christ was fictional or Mohamed was a con-man. That can never be allowed, no matter how many people die.