Until the last time I visited my hometown I never really felt superior to anyone. Obviously, that has now changed and I now am very conflicted about what that means.
I had a very good childhood overall. I never had a difficult time in school, had plenty of friends, was in the popular clique, all that good junk. Most importantly, even though I felt out of place much of the time due to my personal preference of subjects like biology, atheism, and culture I never felt superior to the people in my life. This made my trips back home pleasant; I would always find time to get away from my family and hang out (okay, get drunk) with my old high school friends. That ended with my last trip.
Now, I have to admit that there are some topics that I tend not to be able to talk about with most people outside of the typical religion and politics. I know engineers who love talking about engineering, linguists who won’t shut up about languages, and lawyers who can’t stop expounding on the law. I am an evolutionary biologist who won’t talk about evolutionary biology. Fine, that’s not entirely true, but I tend not to do it around the vast majority of people I know; I will only talk about it to those who I think have a reasonable chance of being intelligent (ie college boys and girls) or close friends. This is mainly due to the fact that my hometown is extremely religious, and religion doesn’t mix too well with evolution. It CAN, but that’s a whole other post…
Annnnyway, the last time I was home I went to the new house of one of my best high school friends. She and her fiance were hosting a small party and a bunch of my old friends were going to be there. Things were cool most of the night, everyone was drinking and having a good time. That all changed when someone at the party casually made reference to evolution and some chick I’ve never seen before said, “you think we came from monkeys? Then why are there still monkeys?” I was six beers and a few glasses of wine deep by this point of the night, but I still laughed it off and say “haha, you serious?” Oh yes, she was, and she wasn’t backing down.
I told her that what she said showed a gross misunderstanding of the very basics of evolutionary biology and that she should get her information on the subject from a biologist instead of a preacher. That did not go over well. She said something about evolution being “just a theory,” and that put me over the edge. I told her that she would have to take years of biology just to begin to have a reasonable conversation with me on the subject and ended that train of thought with (and yes, this is the exact quote I used), “I’m sorry, but you’re retarded.” It was not a nice thing to say, but I meant it and stand by it.
Too many people talk about topics on which they have no knowledge and expect others to take them seriously. What I have discovered is that the least knowledgeable people are often the ones with the most to say on many subjects. It’s the “arrogance of ignorance” or as it’s more officially known; the Kruger-Dunning effect. The title of the Kruger and Dunning article explains it all: “Unskilled and Unaware of it: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments.” It’s perfect, it explains so much, including why I hate the people in my hometown. They consider themselves intelligent and cultured (don’t get me started on that last one…) when in fact they are not even close.
You may now be asking yourself, “but aren’t we all like that to some extent?” Yes, it’s true, but while not a universal truth, the more education someone has the more likely they are to understand that they are not knowledgeable about everything. That’s exactly why I explicitly state that there are many topics I know little about and am more than willing to admit I was wrong about something in which I’m not an expert. This has unfortunately led me to write off most of the people I went to high school with and instead exclusively rely on the friendship of my college classmates.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I’m writing off a whole chunk of my life and it’s scaring me. Am I conceited? Elitist? Intelligentist? Okay, that last one was a joke, but I’m still worried I’m going down a path I would really rather stay away from.
So, the one or two people that occasionally stop by, what’s wrong with me?