Not That Smart — Really

Dangerous, but Inept

Ever notice the less someone knows about something the more they will talk, chatter and boast about knowing all the is to know about that particular something.  Confident (AKA, “honest”) people will never need to make an issue about what they know.  Ignorance tends to make on bolder, but not actually smarter.  Concisely stated in their own words,

“This overestimation occurs, in part, because people who are unskilled in these domains suffer a dual burden: Not only do these people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realize it.”

From their 2009 paper, Unskilled and Unaware of It: “How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments,” published on-line,

This is the work of David Dunning and Justin Kruger (his student turned colleague), from Cornell University, known as the Dunning-Kruger Effect, a psychological study based on the human tendency to boast about what we know nothing about.  As Phil Travers notes, “If you can’t do content, volume is the next best thing.”

“Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance”
Confucius (551–479 BC)

“The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool”
William Shakespeare (1564–1616) (As You Like It, V. i.)

The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt. Even those of the intelligent who believe that they have a nostrum are too individualistic to combine with other intelligent men from whom they differ on minor points.”
— Bertrand Russell, The Triumph of Stupidity (May 10, 1933)

“I am wiser than this man, for neither of us appears to know anything great and good; but he fancies he knows something, although he knows nothing; whereas I, as I do not know anything, so I do not fancy I do. In this trifling particular, then, I appear to be wiser than he, because I do not fancy I know what I do not know.”
—attributed to Socrates, from Plato, Apology

Dunning-Kruger investigates the limits of our self-knowledge and basic naivete in personal awareness. Their findings show that people unskilled in an assumed competence do not realize just how inept they really are, because they do not realize what understanding would involve.  Thus, human naivete will allow a person to continue meddling in church affairs despite not really knowing what they are doing.  They are oblivious to the results of their deeds.

When Jesus established knowing false teachers/meddlers “by their fruit” (Matthew 7:16), the Dunning-Kruger Effect would reveal a profound and arrogant visions of grandeur.

The very personal skill of self evaluation is not present in people who meddle in church matters, who assume they are experts in their own fantasies.

“Ignorance rules the meddlesome mind.”
— Lucas Morgan

They are too incompetent to know how incompetent they are.

In the sports world, such semi-fantasy professionals are known as “Monday Morning Quarterbacks.”  After the big game day of Sunday morning, these rambling know-it-alls will tell you every misdeed of the QB from yesterday’s game.  Despite having no experience, perhaps never even been on a football field, yet they know what went wrong and if only they were the QB they would know this, that and everything else that could have happened.

Churches have the same types as well, — Monday Morning Preachers (MMP) — although sometimes you do not have to wait until Monday morning, they are ready to begin their criticizing by after church dinner or even by coffee fellowship hour.  Despite no seminary training, or any experience in ordained ministry, yet they know all there could be possibly be needed to know that the Pastor somehow does not know what they are doing, and if people would just listen to the MMP then we could clear up this community and usher in Christ’s golden millennium and etc., etc..

That’s what the Dunning-Kruger Effect is about.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
— Proverbs 1:7

Real knowledge begins with acknowledging what we do not know; our human capacities and limitations.  Then we can properly assess where we are in life and start with an honest foundation for the mind, built on reality not the clouds of delusion.

The effective Christian life requires the first step of getting over yourself,

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves (give up the ego ya-da-da) and take up their cross and follow me.”
— Mark 8:34


Dr. Steve Minor, Administrator