It bugs me that many people just don't get science. In my weaker moments, when I want the world to be radically other than it is, I want everyone to understand science. Not just to know scientific fact, but to understand scientific reasoning. But what bugs me more -- much more -- than the simple fact not everyone understands science is the horrible fact some people will consider you stupid if you don't understand science.
Thirty or so years ago when I was in college, I tutored logic for the Philosophy Department. It was while tutoring students in logic that I began to suspect there was more to "intelligence" than I had been taught.
At that time, thirty years ago, Howard Gardner had not yet invented the theory of multiple intelligences, and no one else was seriously entertaining the notion that intelligence might have more than one axis. The IQ test ruled the day: intelligence, everyone thought, could be summed up as a single thing.
Yet, when tutoring logic, I discovered people who were amazingly bright in some ways, but who just could not for the life of them grasp logic. It perplexed me no end. Until I actually sat down to work with such people, I had always assumed anyone who was bright was bright in everything. And anyone who was dull was dull in everything. But now I was confronted with people who needed exceptional help just to pass an introductory course in logic, but who excelled in other ways -- I could not deny they were in those ways bright people.
The question never went away. Over the following years, I was always alert to noticing how people could be bright in some ways and not so bright in others. Eventually, I came to think, "There are many different kinds of human intelligence", and I tried to categorize the different kinds based on my own experience of people. Then one day, after several years thinking I was alone in my heresy, it occurred to me others too might be thinking along the same lines as I was. So, I Googled several search terms until I hit the key one, "multiple intelligences". Up popped Howard Gardner's work, and I became as excited as a boy who has just discovered his first real friend.
Today, there is a movement among people to label themselves "Brights". The people who like to do that largely seem frustrated with the fact not everyone gets science as well as they do. I find the movement unsettling. "Bright" is not a term that should be reserved only for people who get science. There are at least eight distinct kinds of intelligence, according to Gardner, and so there are at least eight distinct ways to be bright. Moreover, even if one is not especially bright in any of those eight ways, perhaps one has a mix of intelligences that allows one to see certain things more surefooted than other people see those things.
Of course, the temptation to see our own kinds of intelligence as superior to any other kind is not limited to people who like to call themselves "Brights". It's done all the time -- even by people who are not "Brights". For instance: Many people who have a great deal of interpersonal intelligence tend to see others who lack such "people smarts" as inferior to them. And many people who are exceptional athletes.... I could go on, but every example is at heart the same: Many people think their own brand of intelligence makes them decisively superior to everyone else. That, my friends, is not too smart.
It is also arrogant. I do not mean to mean to imply any moral condemnation of arrogance here. I mean only to be descriptive -- not prescriptive. The essence of arrogance is a lack of realism or proper perspective about how our own talents, abilities and skills compare to the talents, abilities and skills of others. To be arrogant, you must be to some extent deluded.
Life presents us with many challenges and not one of us is equally adept at meeting each and everyone of those challenges. Humans have the great advantage, though, of being able to communicate exceptionally well with each other (when compared to other species). In practice, that means we can seek advice on how to handle challenges that play to our weaknesses, rather than our strengths. Suppose I don't understand politics as well as you do. If that's the case, then it would be wise of me to ask for your advice about politics when I have need to -- so long as you yourself are honest in giving advice. In that way, I combine your strengths with mine.
On the other hand, if I am arrogant, I believe that your knowledge of politics is inferior to my own because -- at least in part because -- I have no real grasp of my own limits. Most likely, I see myself as intelligent in every way that really matters. Why then should I seek out anyone else? Why should I look for opinions that are fundamentally different from my own? In my delusion of across the board superiority, I merely consider any fundamental difference in opinion to be the proof you are wrong and I am right. Worse, I probably don't even understand your point of view.
When we are too arrogant to consider any views but our own, we cease to take advantage of one of our species greatest strengths -- the ability to draw on the strengths of others to meet the many challenges of life that play to our own weaknesses. That strength is nowhere more highly developed than in humans. It's almost inhuman not to use it.