When smart people have crazy ideas

One of the frightening things about the Islamic world is that it has many very intelligent people with beliefs that are delusional, at best. We can easily see the same thing here at home, so this is not a slam at the Muslim world as such. It is a worry, however, because that part of the world needs all the realistic thinkers it can get. To some extent the West can afford its crazies. That is not true in Iran, where people with a truly mad ideology will soon have their own nukes. Today, delusional thinking in the Islamic world is as frightening as Stalin's madness was fifty years ago, and Hitler's paranoia before that. Sane countries with nukes are bad enough; crazy countries with nukes are another story entirely.

Yesterday MEMRI translated a Turkish press interview with a mainstream news commentator, Professor Mahir Kaynak. Professor Kaynak is undoubtedly a highly intelligent man. He taught economics for years at Istanbul University and served for 10 years as an officer in the Turkish intelligence agency. What's really scary is his paranoid ideas about the world. Remember that Turkey is the most successful secular nation in the Muslim world, in many ways a model of moderation.

Here are some examples of Professor Kaynak's beliefs.

1. "There is no such organization as Al—Qaeda."

2. " Al—Qaeda is the code name of an operation [undertaken] by an intelligence service."

3. " Al—Qaeda is carrying out all the provocations on behalf of the side of Bush and Putin, to destroy the model of moderate Islam."

4. "The CIA carries out the Al—Qaeda operation, and the Putin administration knows about it.... Anyway, in operations conducted by states the truth does not emerge. [For example,] there is almost no doubt that Kennedy was assassinated by the state, but the evidence is never revealed. In this case, the men America uses are given the name 'Al—Qaeda.' For a certain act they select a few men and they carry out the action. They are not part of any organization, but just men that the CIA uses. This is terror that is committed by governments. They send these [men] on suicide missions. They hit their own Twin Towers. Such decisions are made by American policy makers. Bush may not even be aware. The CIA is an executive organ within the scope of a much greater power."

There's more. Read it yourself, and weep. This is one of the powerful voices in the Turkish media. His ideas shape thousands of minds.

We have plenty of them in the West, delusional thinkers with high IQ's.  The British Science Advisor just proclaimed that human—caused global warming is responsible for Hurricane Katrina, an idea he knows very well to be
unprovable in a climate system of astonishing complexity.  If he said the
same thing to his scientific friends he would be sneered out of the room.
In Germany, Der Spiegel is enjoying Schadenfreude at the expense of the hurricane victims in Louisiana, satisfied that the US is getting its comeuppance for failing to sign Kyoto. The BBC is happily spreading the same idea. But even assuming the global warming hypothesis were true, and that Kyoto could work (which it cannot), it would only slow temperatures by one or two degrees at the end of the 21st century. No rational thinker can possibly believe that signing Kyoto last year could have stopped Hurricane Katrina today. It is a delusional idea.

In sum, some of the smartest thinkers in Germany and Britain are either badly out of touch with reality, or perhaps they believe it is useful to peddle a delusional idea to their fellow Europeans.  Either way it's bad news.

We live in an age when very smart people often have mad ideas. We have seen them before. The foremost intellectuals of Europe directly inspired the most destructive ideologies of the 20th century, Nazism and Marxism. The most famous French philosopher of the 20th century, Jean—Paul Sartre, publicly supported Stalin in the 1950s, and when Stalin lost favor, he switched his powerful support to Mao ZeDong ——— who was even then murdering 30 million of his countrymen. Sartre was either delusional, or worse, he was cynical to the point of evil.  The European Union's Constitution, recently defeated by the French, is simply filled with grandiose delusions. A recent BBC Radio poll showed that British listeners believe Karl Marx to be the greatest philosopher of modern times. That is not sane.

Delusional people with high IQ's are not psychiatrically insane, most of them. They do not fit standard diagnostic categories.  They are crazy the way Jim Jones' followers were: they have adopted cult—like beliefs.

Normal people can easily fall for mad thoughts when they are subjected to a propaganda monopoly. Laboratory studies with highly intelligent students at Stanford and Yale have demonstrated this point a number of times. Perfectly sane people can pick up delusional beliefs when they fall for charismatic leaders like Hitler and Stalin. Educators can inculcate mad ideas in the young. Very often people do so to themselves, simply by censoring thoughts that are uncomfortable. We are a very frail species when it comes to facing reality.

That is why free speech, open debate, a willingness to say unpopular things, a continual emphasis on facts, facts, facts  — those are not luxuries. It is why the Commissars of Politically Correctness are so dangerous in our schools and universities. It is why the media monopoly of the Left is so utterly destructive, even to the Left itself.

The most critical skill of citizenship is thinking for ourselves. That is true for you and me, and it is even more important in the Islamic world, where evasions of reality kill people every day.

One of the frightening things about the Islamic world is that it has many very intelligent people with beliefs that are delusional, at best. We can easily see the same thing here at home, so this is not a slam at the Muslim world as such. It is a worry, however, because that part of the world needs all the realistic thinkers it can get. To some extent the West can afford its crazies. That is not true in Iran, where people with a truly mad ideology will soon have their own nukes. Today, delusional thinking in the Islamic world is as frightening as Stalin's madness was fifty years ago, and Hitler's paranoia before that. Sane countries with nukes are bad enough; crazy countries with nukes are another story entirely.

Yesterday MEMRI translated a Turkish press interview with a mainstream news commentator, Professor Mahir Kaynak. Professor Kaynak is undoubtedly a highly intelligent man. He taught economics for years at Istanbul University and served for 10 years as an officer in the Turkish intelligence agency. What's really scary is his paranoid ideas about the world. Remember that Turkey is the most successful secular nation in the Muslim world, in many ways a model of moderation.

Here are some examples of Professor Kaynak's beliefs.

1. "There is no such organization as Al—Qaeda."

2. " Al—Qaeda is the code name of an operation [undertaken] by an intelligence service."

3. " Al—Qaeda is carrying out all the provocations on behalf of the side of Bush and Putin, to destroy the model of moderate Islam."

4. "The CIA carries out the Al—Qaeda operation, and the Putin administration knows about it.... Anyway, in operations conducted by states the truth does not emerge. [For example,] there is almost no doubt that Kennedy was assassinated by the state, but the evidence is never revealed. In this case, the men America uses are given the name 'Al—Qaeda.' For a certain act they select a few men and they carry out the action. They are not part of any organization, but just men that the CIA uses. This is terror that is committed by governments. They send these [men] on suicide missions. They hit their own Twin Towers. Such decisions are made by American policy makers. Bush may not even be aware. The CIA is an executive organ within the scope of a much greater power."

There's more. Read it yourself, and weep. This is one of the powerful voices in the Turkish media. His ideas shape thousands of minds.

We have plenty of them in the West, delusional thinkers with high IQ's.  The British Science Advisor just proclaimed that human—caused global warming is responsible for Hurricane Katrina, an idea he knows very well to be
unprovable in a climate system of astonishing complexity.  If he said the
same thing to his scientific friends he would be sneered out of the room.
In Germany, Der Spiegel is enjoying Schadenfreude at the expense of the hurricane victims in Louisiana, satisfied that the US is getting its comeuppance for failing to sign Kyoto. The BBC is happily spreading the same idea. But even assuming the global warming hypothesis were true, and that Kyoto could work (which it cannot), it would only slow temperatures by one or two degrees at the end of the 21st century. No rational thinker can possibly believe that signing Kyoto last year could have stopped Hurricane Katrina today. It is a delusional idea.

In sum, some of the smartest thinkers in Germany and Britain are either badly out of touch with reality, or perhaps they believe it is useful to peddle a delusional idea to their fellow Europeans.  Either way it's bad news.

We live in an age when very smart people often have mad ideas. We have seen them before. The foremost intellectuals of Europe directly inspired the most destructive ideologies of the 20th century, Nazism and Marxism. The most famous French philosopher of the 20th century, Jean—Paul Sartre, publicly supported Stalin in the 1950s, and when Stalin lost favor, he switched his powerful support to Mao ZeDong ——— who was even then murdering 30 million of his countrymen. Sartre was either delusional, or worse, he was cynical to the point of evil.  The European Union's Constitution, recently defeated by the French, is simply filled with grandiose delusions. A recent BBC Radio poll showed that British listeners believe Karl Marx to be the greatest philosopher of modern times. That is not sane.

Delusional people with high IQ's are not psychiatrically insane, most of them. They do not fit standard diagnostic categories.  They are crazy the way Jim Jones' followers were: they have adopted cult—like beliefs.

Normal people can easily fall for mad thoughts when they are subjected to a propaganda monopoly. Laboratory studies with highly intelligent students at Stanford and Yale have demonstrated this point a number of times. Perfectly sane people can pick up delusional beliefs when they fall for charismatic leaders like Hitler and Stalin. Educators can inculcate mad ideas in the young. Very often people do so to themselves, simply by censoring thoughts that are uncomfortable. We are a very frail species when it comes to facing reality.

That is why free speech, open debate, a willingness to say unpopular things, a continual emphasis on facts, facts, facts  — those are not luxuries. It is why the Commissars of Politically Correctness are so dangerous in our schools and universities. It is why the media monopoly of the Left is so utterly destructive, even to the Left itself.

The most critical skill of citizenship is thinking for ourselves. That is true for you and me, and it is even more important in the Islamic world, where evasions of reality kill people every day.