Wednesday, September 12, 2007

"You’re welcome. It’s been a most unusual interview."

A few days ago, I posted a link to a weirdass interview with Steven Pinker. The same weirdass interviewer, it turns out, has also interviewed the philosopher Daniel Dennett. Dennett is much less tolerant of this guy's stupid questions than Pinker is, and the results can be pretty funny:

DS: As an artist, and someone who has achieved greatness in my field of writing, I have noticed that ‘greatness’ is something that simply seems to be a random thing. When people have tried to make available the sperm or eggs of Nobel winners or Mensans, the kids turn out to be rather average. This gibes with the fact that almost all great people, such as Picasso, Newton, Einstein, and most famously- Thomas Jefferson, have never had any forebears nor descendents come close to their achievements. And the few famed people who’ve had success run in their families- the Adamses, the Darwins, the Barrymores, have never really had greats in their clans, or- as in the Darwin case, Erasmus was not in a league with his grandson Charles. I call this fact the Infinity Spike, meaning that the idea that a Master Race could be engineered- at least intellectually, is folly. Perhaps physical characteristics, but the chances of two Mensans or Nobel Laureates producing another Michelangelo or Kurosawa are only negligibly greater than such a person coming from a plumber and a teacher. Perhaps a three or four out of fifty million chance versus a one and a half to two chance. In short, greatness spikes toward infinity out of nowhere- there is no predictable Bell Curve nor progression toward excellence. What are your thoughts on this posit? Also, what of false modesty? Just as I have stated I am a great writer/poet, and been ripped for it, you have taken massive attacks and distortions (such as that above) because you have stated similar things about yourself, and claimed philosophic descent from other well known thinkers. What’s wrong with people who claim to want honesty, but get ruffled over it if that honesty includes someone admitting their excellence at some task? Is this American Puritanism, or simple schizophrenia?

DD: I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m not shy about putting forward my ideas and the arguments for them, but I leave the value judgments about “great people” to others. Jerks can come up with really good ideas, and there are people I admire no end but have learned next to nothing from. This is not a fruitful topic of inquiry, I think.

How does this clown get these major figures to talk to him? I'm glad they do, anyway--great entertainment value.


Alex said...

It's not just that he's a clown and a moron. He's incredibly rude. It's weird that anyone talks to him. Maybe he pays them.

Brian Campbell said...

As a great writer myself, I can see how he would be greatly respected by a worthy few. I myself just wrote a book about...

Excuse me, I was just trying on his persona for size. How ridiculous!