The Formula for Smart

I’ve discovered the key to being really, really smart! Okay, so maybe it’s not the key to actual smartness, as in being highly educated or having a sharp wit or a high IQ. But apparently it’s the key to appearing smart, at least in public discussion of important issues. All you have to do is follow this simple formula:


1. Find a sincere comment or belief by someone out there. Anyone.

2. Ascribe some ulterior motive or naiveté to the commenter or believer, whether you know anything about the person or not.

3. Sarcastically jab at the commenter or believer in order to belittle and potentially humiliate him or her.

4. Disappear into cyberspace.

Do you realize the amazing potential of this formula?! By putting down someone sincere, you can intellectually set yourself above them. You are saying you know better, you have more experience, you see through the smokescreen they didn't see—whether it actually exists or not. Your short, snarky comment gives the impression that you’re intellectually superior. You must be in the know!

Now, before you think, “That sounds difficult; I don’t know if I could pull it off,” let me make it clear that you don’t have to offer any alternative viewpoint at all. No evidence or logic. Nothing. All you have to do is question motives and belittle the viewpoint of your target. And voilá! You’re the smart one in the conversation. Isn’t that awesome?

Here are some examples of how that works:

• Company A donates money to disaster relief. So you say sarcastically, “Wow, how generous. And I'm sure they’re getting absolutely no good PR in return, are they?”

• Leader B resigns his position “for personal reasons.” So you say, “Obviously he was about to get fired. You know they’ve got to be covering up some kind of scandal.”

• Researcher C offers up some evidence that supports a truth claim or a faith statement. So you say, “Follow the trail. He’s getting paid by somebody.” The beauty of this one is that it can work in a number of spheres—commercial, political, or religious.

• Minister D claims that God healed someone of an incurable disease. There are several options here, so you’ll have to choose one. Obviously, you could say the whole thing is fake, even though you know absolutely nothing about the situation. And you can question the minister for trying to promote himself, though that's been overdone. It’s slightly more sophisticated either to question the diagnosis (“It wasn’t really that disease,” or, “It wasn’t a severe case”) or to question the claim (“So it’s in remission. Big deal—it’ll be back,” or, “Why are there no doctors verifying that?”). This last question could be a bit risky if a doctor does verify it, which happens more often than you might think, but then just question the doctor's credentials. Or the institution who gave the credentials. If you go back far enough, you’ll be beyond the possibility of a credible rebuttal.

See how easy this is? In fact, you don’t really have to be intelligent at all. You don’t have to have any details or offer any evidence. You can know absolutely nothing about the situation and still pull this off. Just act like you’re superior and make cynical, sarcastic statements. The world will be impressed.

And there are plenty of targets to choose from. There’s a shocking number of people who have genuinely chosen to believe in something rather than nothing. Some of them naively quote the Bible about love being sincere, give their hard-earned money to some goofball religious organization, and forgive people at the drop of a hat when they hear an “I’m sorry”—like apologies are real, right? Ha! The world has no shortage of people who leave themselves wide open for cynics and skeptics to blast them.

Of course, there are a few people out there who might point out how intellectually feeble it is to play the cynic. I saw a quote from one of them recently:

“We live in a culture that has, for centuries now, cultivated the idea that the skeptical person is always smarter than the one who believes. You can be almost as stupid as a cabbage, as long as you doubt. The fashion of the age has identified mental sharpness with a pose, not with genuine intellectual method and character.” (Dallas Willard, Hearing God)

Don’t worry. This is the exception. Most people don’t know that cynicism is really a cover for lazy thinkers who want to appear educated. If anyone questions you, I’m sure you can find a way to turn it around and make that person look as stupid as cabbage. But most people are more than happy to join you up there in your skeptical perspective. After all, everyone wants to look smart.

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Linda Rogers 10.06.2014 09:50  
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