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Stupid is as stupid does


''We cannot be that stupid as a species.''

Thus spoke Professor Andy Pitman, director of the centre of excellence for climate system science at the University of NSW.

The professor was commenting on the consequences of rising temperatures on the planet. He also said: ''There are papers that should come with a warning: 'Do not read this if you are depressed' or 'Please have a stiff drink handy as you read this'. [This] paper is one such example.''

The paper in question was new data from the Global Carbon Project, reported in The Age this week. This data found that by the end of this year, greenhouse gas emissions were expected to have risen 2.6 per cent; there had been a 3 per cent rise in 2011.

Dr Pep Canadell, the project's executive director, said: ''Unless we change current emissions trends, this year set to reach 36 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide from the combustion of fossil fuels, we are on the way to an unrecognisable planet of 4 to 6 degrees warmer by the end of this century.''

So, we're doomed. All this talk is not hot air.

The hot air, however, is concentrated at present in the Middle East, specifically Doha, where  the nations of the world are meeting to yet again talk about doing something about the climate. Take your time, nations, we wouldn't want you to do anything stupid.

As to the disbelief in our stupidity as a species, the evidence would suggest otherwise. As Albert Einstein said: ''Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former.''

Einstein allowed himself a slice of cynical humour that could have been taken from Marxism: Groucho Marx, that is.

Well, if you don't laugh, you cry, as the saying goes.

The Oxford Dictionary defines stupid thus: 1. unintelligent, slow-witted, foolish (a stupid fellow). 2. typical of stupid persons (put it in a stupid place). 3. uninteresting or boring. 4. in a state of stupor or lethargy. 5. obtuse; lacking in sensibility. 6. colloq. a general term of disparagement.

Away from climate change, the world's reaction this week to news of one pregnancy would seem to fit a few of those definitions.

The woman with child is the wife of the grandson of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second. Her name is Kate Middleton, though in royal speak it is the Duchess of Cambridge, married to Prince William. They will become king and queen of the realm one day. Perhaps, they will reign o'er us in Australia one day. Oh, blessed event.

The pregnancy came to light when the Duchess had to be treated in hospital – the King Edward VII – for hyperemesis gravidarum, or morning sickness.  She is, to all 57,000 reports on the matter, doing OK now.

But let's hope that there is nothing in a name.

According to a history of the royal family by the BBC, King Edward enjoyed no real power and ''became a leader of London society, spending his time eating, drinking, gambling, shooting, watching racing and sailing. In 1863, he married Princess Alexandra of Denmark ... Edward also had a series of long-term mistresses, including the actress Lillie Langtry.''

So, he contributed quite a bit to the betterment of the people over whom he ruled.

At his funeral in 1910, the royal families of Europe attended, from the German Emperor to the Tsar of Bulgaria and all points between and beyond. It was the height of obscene privilege, and it was also just a few steps from the watershed of World War I that would wash away the old European map. But not all.

Here we are, a century on from Edward's death, bedazzled by the looming birth of a child into an institution that cossets its members in a dome of wealth. It's true this institution disburses funds for good causes, but wouldn't the ultimate good cause be to consign itself to history and disburse all its wealth to the nation?

But then, that would be stupid. The royals, after all, are homo exemplar. Their lives are inspiring. They bring joy to this poor benighted planet. We cheer, wave flags, laugh and cry at their deeds. Oh, the Duchess is pregnant. Hooray! Oh, the Duchess has morning sickness. Oh no!

The thing is we love them because they're part of the furniture of a house in which we've always lived. But shouldn't we be kicking them out? Or moving out ourselves? We're old enough to know that staying in a toxic environment stunts our growth.

It's stupid, really.

34 comments so far

  • But, in your smog and smokescreen of the innocence and stupidity and uselessness of the royal family lies the inherited wisdom of some 800 or 900 years of the collective wisdom of common law. This common law underpins our system of governance, and it is derived from our constitution. It follows therefore, that if we discard the Royal Family, (at our very peril) we will, of course, be given a Bill of Rights, as all Republics have a bill of rights, don't they? And a Bill of Rights, by its very nature, is a limiting document, such that, if it is not written down in the Bill of Rights, you are breaking the common law if you do it. Witness the biggest lunatic asylum on Earth, the US of A. Bring on the vote, I for one, understand the consequences, and will vote accordingly. So don't piss down my neck and try to tell me it's raining.

    Paul Harrison
    Morayfield, Queensland
    Date and time
    December 06, 2012, 7:08PM
    • No. Nothing stupid here .

      A woman with working.... ummmm.. 'bits' manages to do what a 1,000 generations of women have done. That is a win.

      That this quite unremarkable fact bolsters privilege and class? Bit of a fail.

      Caffetierra Moka
      Sector 7-G
      Date and time
      December 06, 2012, 9:57PM
      • I'm always fascinated by the stupidity of the human race; we believe so many things for which there is no evidence. Homeopathy, astrology, all manner of gods, that we are the most important species on the planet/universe - the list is, as Einstein suggested, endless. Look at people who believe that no planes flew into the twin towers, those who think there's a link between vaccinations and autism - we love a conspiracy theory - this is studpidity on a super human level. Still, every species specialises; perhaps we've cornered the market in being intelligent creatures who specialise in being great big duffas?

        Kate G
        Date and time
        December 07, 2012, 7:54AM
        • "I'm always fascinated by the stupidity of the human race; we believe so many things for which there is no evidence. Homeopathy, astrology, all manner of gods, that we are the most important species on the planet/universe - the list is, as Einstein suggested, endless." (Kate G - December 07, 2012, 7:54AM)
          Kate, I'm always somewhat amused at people who say the human race is stupid. One of my sons is always saying that and I keep reminding him that he is a member of the human race and if they are en masse stupid, he being one of them, would be too stupid to make that assessment.
          All members of the human race have the capacity to be stupid because they also have the capacity to be smart or intelligent. Usually when we call people stupid it's because we disagree with their beliefs and/or lifestyle and want to demonstrate how smart we are by comparison.
          I'm also amused by people who think the solution is belief with "evidence". "Evidence" can be an expression of what we want to or have been conditioned to believe. Many great thinkers have made the point that the will leads the understanding meaning that when we want something to be true we look for and focus on looking for 'evidence that will substantiate that want and interpret it accordingly. I'm not decrying 'evidence' per se just pointing out that just because we may not have the evidence that we may want does not make belief of others impossible or stupid.

          I believe in homoeopathy. I believe there is a basis for astrology - but not in it's modern application. Most importantly, I believe in God even though there is no easily communicable sensual or scientific evidence. Some things just intuitively make sense.

          Date and time
          December 08, 2012, 4:05PM
        • While there is no link between vaccinations and autism, it is hardly stupid for people to think that there might be.

          If you have a happy healthy baby who is acheiving all the expected milestones and then they have a vaccination and all their speech goes away and their development slows and they start to show all of those signs that are eventually diagnosed as autism, then it would be stupid not at least to suspect that there was a link.

          When you start to hear of thousands of identical cases then surely it would be perfectly reasonable to suspect the link.

          Add that to the apparent fact that autism appears to be on the rise.

          On the other hand the methodologies and mathematics required to demonstrate that there is no link are understood by relatively few people. The studies that demonstrate this have probably only been read and understood by, maybe, a few hundred people at most.

          It is just a coincidence that autism usually begins to manifest at an age which is close after the time that children receive a certain vaccination.

          But why would you call someone stupid for thinking there was a link?

          Date and time
          December 10, 2012, 9:08AM
        • Way to prove the author's point Ralph.

          "I believe in a bunch of stupid things that I have no evidence of because INTUITION, therefore the human race is not stupid the end" (paraphrased).

          Captain Great
          Date and time
          December 10, 2012, 10:11AM
        • Ralph did you miss or deliberately ignore the bit where I said "in being intelligent creatures"? We are both intelligent and incredibly stupid and naturally that includes me - I'm frequently stupid and I'm pretty sure I'm part of the human race, so of course my comments apply to me.

          Ralph that you believe in homeopathy and astology is nice for you, but don't expect anyone (other than those who also believe in such nonsense) to have any respect for your beliefs. You cannot equate your intuition with proving something to be true - well, you can on a personal level, but again, don't expect anyone to accept your intution as evidence of anything - least of all your god.

          You can also chose to live your life based on such things where evidence is not requried, but for me, I'll take evidence over your totally unfounded beliefs everytime.

          Kate G
          Date and time
          December 10, 2012, 12:10PM
        • Good on you Ralph - the 1st few words explain what people should take you beliefs with

          At least homeopathy "cures" are safe - it's hard to overdose on something with zero active ingredients

          How come the homeopathic water retains memory of the ingredient you are trying to treat, yet no memory of the last time it was in the deep ocean outfall after a trip through a human gut? (or it was in cow manure or anything else the water would have been over the billions of years)?

          Date and time
          December 10, 2012, 1:07PM
        • RalphH.
          FYI. Astrology as we know it is based upon a book written by ancient author, Ptolemy. The idea of astronomy is based in the idea that earth is at the center of the universe surrounded by the firmament. Modern astronomy proves this is untrue. Therefore astrology's claim to any truth is clearly false. The universe is infinitely more complex than Ptolemy could have known.

          Francis Allen
          Date and time
          December 10, 2012, 1:46PM
        • Robin, the original paper that claimed there was a link between vaccinations and autism has repeatedly been rejected as wildly inaccurate - I think even by the author himself. But people are stupid because they continue to refer to that paper as some kind of evidence. So they are prepared to take the word of expert who has been proved wrong, but not the words of other experts who so easily refute their beliefs - continuing to believe something that has been proven to be wrong? Yep, that's what I call stupid.

          Kate G
          Date and time
          December 10, 2012, 6:20PM

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