5 Revered Historical Figures Who Were Certified Numbnuts
Smart people have had it too good for too long. These big eggheads get to stroll around TED Talk stages and through history books, and simply because long division confuses and angers me, I’m expected to bow down? I don’t think so, Megamind. You and your wrinkly-ass brain can debate existence all you want, I will unabashedly be enjoying procedural television shows and bad movies. Your bookshelves full of dog-eared textbooks don’t impress me, Professor Good-Think.
So it’s particularly delightful when you find out that one of history’s so-called great minds had at least one or two ideas that were down-to-the-marrow stupid. It’s a moment of deep joy to find out that even if you don’t have any respected theorems to your name, at least you don’t think that the stars are angels in the sky or whatever. Sure, you might be inclined to give some more ancient thinkers a bit of a break, given that the world was still getting figured out on a larger scale at the time. I am not. I am instead going to treat them as absolute idiot fools in order to make myself feel better.
Here are five revered historical figures that were, in fact, total numbnuts…
Socrates Thought Reading Was Stupid
Okay, first of all, how about you leave my chosen profession the fuck alone, you old bat. Even on a non-personal level, though, it seems wild that Socrates was not a fan of reading or writing, given that they are heavily responsible for the fact that we know anything about him at all. But his distaste is well-documented, with Socrates saying that it would “implant forgetfulness in their souls,” and that it was a recipe “not for memory, but for reminder.”
He apparently thought that face-to-face discussion was the only way to really learn anything, meaning he would probably also be highly critical of the public school system. Weirdly, it’s like an ancient variant of when people say now that everyone having information and/or calculators on their phones is making them stupid: “Why would anyone learn anything when they could simply unravel a scroll containing said knowledge?” One-on-one instruction is probably the best method of learning, but I don’t think anyone would still suggest that writing is a useless educational tool.
Garry Kasparov Believes History Is Made Up
Look, Garry Kasparov would turn me to absolute bone and dust on any chessboard, any time, with any handicap, and probably on any checkerboard as well. When you’re one of the greatest chess players of all time, if not the greatest, that’s going to come with a crown of intellectualism — both from chess’ actual strategic and tactical demands, and the popular image of chess as a game for capital G geniuses. If you want to talk about castling, or effective openings, there’s probably not a single better person to call.
One area in which you might not want to have Kasparov on speed-dial, though, is history. In what feels like maybe a classic case of being too smart for your own good and some highly impressive overthinking, Kasparov has written and spoken at length about his belief that history, particularly ancient history, is straight-up wrong. Specifically, he seems to think that a large portion of recorded history is forged or invented by historians, referring to “discrepancies” that start to approach Ancient Aliens territory like, “How did they build the pyramids?” He’s often linked to a school of thought/conspiracy on this topic known as “New Chronology,” though he pushes back on being a full subscriber.
Nikola Tesla, Big-Time Eugenics Guy
Nikola Tesla, the nerd’s nerd. Talk to any modern day techie and the mention of Tesla’s name is probably enough to start some blood flowing south. Undeniably, the guy was a genius, and his scientific advancements and theories were world-changing and far ahead of their time. To hear some Tesla-lovers tell it, he was basically Science Jesus, unjustly intellectually crucified by Thomas Edison et al in the greatest crime of engineering ever wrought.
But not all of Tesla’s ideas were as palatable as others. People often mention Edison electrocuting an elephant to discredit Tesla’s direct current as evidence that Edison was a sociopath, unlike their perfect sterling boy Nikola. In fact, they both shared a touch of sociopathy, seen in Tesla’s firm belief in the power of eugenics. Not a popular stance ever, but especially collar-yank-worthy right around World War II.
Let’s take a look at a Tesla quote from 1935, cited in the above article: “The year 2100 will see eugenics universally established. In past ages, the law governing the survival of the fittest roughly weeded out the less desirable strains. Then man’s new sense of pity began to interfere with the ruthless workings of nature. As a result, we continue to keep alive and to breed the unfit.”
“Man’s new sense of pity?” Sounding a little supervillain-y, there, Nick.
Pythagoras Thought Beans Had Human Souls
Pythagoras was a mathematical genius. The king of the triangles himself has a heavy hand in almost all of our modern understanding of geometry. I mean, it feels like he’s directly responsible for half of the high school math curriculum. One thing Pythagoras was not, however, was a biologist. This particular lack of knowledge created an unfortunate combination with his reincarnation-based practice of vegetarianism.
Now, if you’re a modern vegetarian or vegan, it’s pretty likely beans are a big part of your day-to-day stomach contents. Their high levels of protein more than outweigh their downsides as a magical fruit that makes you toot. Pythagoras, however, also completely excluded beans from his diet, believing that they might contain human souls. He did an experiment to confirm his theory, which unfortunately, was batshit in itself: He buried some beans, dug them up a few days later and said, “See, these kind of look like fetuses.” That was the end of beans in Pythagoras’ belly forever. Nowadays, it is generally accepted that beans do not contain reincarnated human souls, and if they do, by god does Taco Bell have a reckoning coming.
Aristotle’s Dental Beliefs
Aristotle is another name often bandied about in the realm of the smartiest pants to ever roam this Earth. Unfortunately, he also occasionally seemed to talk, in his own violation of biological function, out of his own ass. Among the most well-known and easily disproved of his grand statements was his belief that women have less teeth than men. Despite women being, generally, quite common, including his own wife, apparently he was never struck with enough scientific curiosity to actually count their teeth.
Did he have more important things to test? Probably. But come on, man. Wouldn’t take too much of a swing on the sundial to confirm or deny.