Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I'm Looking for a Mind I Can Fully Respect

Last night, I had dinner with some high-powered people including a multi-Emmy-award-winning writer and one of the world's leading experts on gender issues.

I came away, as I usually do from such gatherings, feeling that I don't fully respect their minds. Of course, that could be my own limitations precluding my appreciating them, but in my judgment, they are NOT great minds. They are wildly controlled by their apriori biases, shortsighted thinking, uninformed gut instincts, selective review of data, and fears of candor. And/or they are sophists who entertain more than enlighten, let alone be brilliant, wise, and circumspect enough to have a realistic chance of solving society's major problems.

It saddens me that lightweight thinking artists, from cartoonists to screenwriters to comedians (read Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Bono, Sean Penn, and Angelina Jolie) have become greater influencers of thought and public policy than are our Philosopher Kings, e.g., Christopher Hitchens, pictured above, or David D. Friedman. or our great scientific and entrepreneurial minds, e.g. Craig Venter. Especially outside the sciences, the media anoints people as experts more because of their ideology (you almost have to be a liberal) and entertainment value than their brilliance.

Last night reminded me of my desire for probing exchanges with such people, as I've had on my NPR-San Francisco radio show, where I have done hour-long interviews of the likes of Venter, Noam Chomsky, Walter Isaacson, and Alan Dershowitz. The closest I've come in my personal life is my doctoral advisor Michael Scriven, a Renaissance man with particular expertise in program evaluation--a very important and underappreciated discipline.

Of course, such people may consider my own mind unworthy, but is there anyone you suggest I reach out to for an email exchange or interview on my radio show? Last I checked, the likes of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Ron Paul, Goethe, Jeremy Bentham, or Ben Franklin aren't available.

10 comments:

Jeffrie said...

"They are wildly controlled by their apriori biases, shortsighted thinking, uninformed gut instincts, selective review of data, and fears of candor."

I'm no great mind, but I aspire to be the opposite of the above. How do I do that? How do brilliant people prevent this or reverse it? Is it possible?

Seraphim said...

Ron Paul runs intellectual circles around the likes of Obama and Clinton...

Marty Nemko said...

Yes, I'd really enjoy spending some time with Ron Paul--especially discussing how to better market libertarianism. I'll add him to the post.

Marty Nemko said...

Jeffrie, my prescription for improving one's thinking skills:

1. Debate smart people. Beg for honest feedback: "Whenever my argument isn't airtight, tell me."

2. Get expert in something. In-depth knowledge enables you to be more intelligent overall, and especially in your area of expertise.

F.S. said...

Marty - have you thought about getting some one-on-one time with the supposedly brilliant people who've disappointed you, and sharing your observations? (I don't mean on your show, nor even in a group dinner situation, where showmanship becomes important.)

For context, it might also be interesting to ask them what impressions they had of you.

Porky D. said...

Good luck in your quest. Logic is a lost art to the masses and an ignored one to the intellectual classes. Left or right, male or female, intellectuals are sophists and nothing more. They have their agenda and will use every trick in the book to achieve their goals, and as long as most people respond to these tricks rather than to reasoned argument things won't change.

Maureen said...

Retired Bishop William Swing. Was bishop at Grace Cathedral for 25 years. Has moved back to WV. Maybe you already know him? If not, you'd like him -- trust me. A little like Dick, but I like him better than Dick. I just read "The Swing Era" article online; I didn't realize Kissinger persuaded him to take the SF post. I have a couple of personal stories about Swing... -- The Resume Whore

Marty Nemko said...

Yes, I'd enjoy an evening with Swing--but if we talked religion, there might be a problem: as an atheist--who thinks it absurd that anyone could place faith in a God who'd allow billions of people, including babies, to die agonizing deaths--I think of all theists as delusional.

e said...

I'm going to second your comment about Goethe. Although I would not bring him back even if I could. I think he would take one look at our world and jump off the nearest bridge. Or shoot himself Werther-style. Who could blame him?

Remember that even Aristotle believed that men had more teeth than women. One of our "greatest" minds didn't have the sense to ask Mrs. Aristotle to open her mouth and keep it open while he counted.

Interesting that you put a photo of Christopher Hitchens in the post. I'm inclined to agree with you about him, if you're insinuating what I think you are. Care to elaborate?

Marty Nemko said...

I insinuate nothing about Hitchens more than that I find his mind rigorous, and although usually lefty, occasionally righty. And a fellow atheist.