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The Genius Famine: Why we need geniuses, why they are dying out, why we must rescue them Paperback – July 29, 2016
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About the Author
Edward Dutton is Adjunct Professor of the Anthropology of Religion at Oulu University in Finland and an independent scholar.
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True geniuses are presented as humans who are quite different from normal people, even if the normal person is extremely intelligent.
A genius is driven by his own internal needs and drives to solve a problem or create an entirely new invention. Geniuses, known and unknown, created the civilization and technology in which we live, although their discoveries are extended and implemented by non-geniuses. Without geniuses, all progress would stop, and civilization would likely deteriorate drastically.
But, there is a price to be paid for genius. The true genius is difficult to endure socially, and generally does not conform to social or organizational standards. Thus, to support genius, there has to be an explicit or implicit support by the society for the genius, who is not only often unpleasant to be around, but acts as a short-term liability for the people or organization he is affiliated with. A society without the ability and willingness to support a genius in some way will not see progress.
There are multiple pressures militating against the presence of geniuses today. One is the way society is organized: run by bureaucracies laden by formal rules and by mediocre bureaucratic officials who do not have the ability to act outside the rules for the greater good. Another pressure against geniuses is the general genetic deterioration for intelligence and personality traits necessary for genius. Why is there a genetic deterioration in our society? Because there is a significant mutation rate in all genes, and if there is not an environmental pressure to select against harmful mutations, they accumulate very quickly, lowering the quality of the population over time.
In other words, if someone is born without the ability to perform even a simple productive task, such as plumbing, he is still able to live and reproduce through welfare or disability payments. Before about 1800, an individual unable to contribute would likely not live very long, and certainly would not have children, or at least children who would live very long. The genetic defects accumulate very quickly if the individuals with the damaged genes are able to procreate.
So, the thesis of the Genius Famine is that the general decline in intelligence and productive personality traits, makes the appearance of genius less likely over time.
The section of the book on religion is actually the weakest and least factually-supported part of the book. The idea is, religion encourages traits likely to support the genius in his quest to solve a problem, and that the society which has rejected religion encourages unhealthy distractions likely to interfere with either the ability of the genius to produce his solution, or the desire of the genius to engage in productive, rather than destructive, work. This thesis concerning religion is certainly plausible, but is not supported by evidence as the other parts of the book are.
If the trends described in the book are true, we can expect to see a rapid, dramatic, and possibly irreversible deterioration in Western civilization with respect to science, technology, social organization, and possibly the ability to even maintain its people with enough food. This is why I say the book is disturbing. However, without knowledge, there is no ability to remedy a problem. I say, read the book, understand the abyss we are facing, and get to work on finding some part of the solution.
The Genius Famine begins with the explanation of an Endogenous Personality, and its importance in the making of a genius. The book moves quickly along from there, delving into aspects of personality and intelligence, the nature of genius, and the meaning of creativity in regards to genius.
Overall, the Genius Famine is engaging, clear, and straightforward. Hopefully the authors—and Michael A. Woodley, who influenced this work according to the acknowledgements page—will continue the research and share their discoveries in future books. This book is a great beginning.
The Genius Famine has wonderful insights and shocking implications. There’s much to consider here . . . other topics include destiny versus conscientiousness, the rise and fall of genius, and fake creativity.
Also, compelling points are made regarding Truth, Beauty, and Virtue versus modern artists.
Why is the Genius Famine relevant? The entire idea of creating a lasting civilization is put into question. So, this book seems quite important. It’s part of the human search for cosmic truth. If humanity is Greek Fire floating seemingly magically on a sea then maybe the genius is the secret ingredient that allows it to burn and sparkle.