Around 1952, Harvard abandoned its position as a school for gentlemen and turned into a meritocratic institution—the process was replicated across the Western world. Harvard became, as Murray and Herrnstein observed, ground zero for “the cognitive elite”; previously, not everyone with a high IQ went to university—and graduates themselves were often not that intelligent, although almost every exceptionally bright person went to university. Universities formed an all-round elite: people who could row, hold a conversation, be polite, and knew a bit about book-learning too. This all-rounder ethos was swapped for an intelligence machine.
Intelligence is about analysis, it takes things apart. Wisdom is about quality, it appreciates the whole. Intelligence kills wisdom, for wisdom is an animal and intelligence wants to kill the animal and dissect it; therefore, institutions and societies that laud intelligence will be unwise—perhaps they will even begin to recommend that their children cut their genitals off…
Harvard swapped wisdom for intelligence—quality for quantity—and so created the cognitive elite. Whereas before geniuses mixed with bluff all-rounders, today the genius is surrounded by people who are intelligent social conformists. Whereas before the gentlemen found the “mad” professor vaguely amusing and largely left him alone, today he is bullied and excluded by bright grils who did very well at exams: the 115 IQ gril who should be a homemaker and excellent part-time primary school teacher haunts the university halls like a freak headmistress—bored and frustrated, she persecutes the genius for his oddball ways and complains that the football squad wants to rape her (because they do not).
Hence the modern university creates bright mediocrities—for Murray and Herrnstein admire the lawyer, the hypocritical Pharisees, as the apex of the cognitive elite; and they greedily and vulgarly celebrate their colleagues who prostitute scholarship to make a bit of cash on the side (like some squalid market-trader with his fake Rolexes). A similar situation from Britain: Jimmy Savile was born to an extremely poor family, yet he was very intelligent—he joined Mensa, the high-IQ society. He was welcomed into the establishment, so meritocratic. Of course, he was a sex pervert who molested his mother’s corpse—along with a few other bodies along the way (both sexes, very democratic). Since his family were the lowest of the low, Savile probably owed is intelligence to a freak mutation—a freak mutation that messed up his general psychology in the process. Savile’s real place in British society was to be impresario in a seedy Soho strip-joint. “Now then, now then; something for the weekend, sir?”
Savile was welcomed into the established because the establishment no longer valued quality. Savile was a grubby little man who should never have been near the BBC, he should have been in darkest Soho. Anyone who assessed Savile qualitatively, took him as a whole man, disliked him and said he was “creepy” (might have been the single artificial eyeball, pilfered from a corpse in a mortuary, he kept about his person). Yet assessed from a purely quantitative view he got results as a music merchant.
It was a similar story with Timothy Leary: he had a 141 IQ and was admitted to Harvard and West Point—however, at base, he was a drunk Irishman (he swapped alcohol for LSD), who although he was bright was unable to follow basic rules, such as the West Point honour code, and so promoted perverse, unsound, and unwise ideas to the general population. Leary was riff-raff; he should never have been admitted to any elite institution. These institutions exist to create the governing elite: government is an art—it requires wisdom, accessible to quality people. The Saviles, Learys, and Shapiros would all be fine economically; they are bright—Savile could run a sex club, Leary could be an amiable Oirish drug dealer, Shapiro could be a ropey market-trader. Unfortunately, as we become ever-more enamoured with quantity—with big data and AI—our world is set to become even uglier and less wise.