Pop Culture Geniuses

Seriously, how sickening are these people?

“But wait Mike, what the hell are pop culture geniuses”, you say? Well, I freely admit that I just made up this term, because I couldn’t find an already-existing term for people who think that their choice of entertainment somehow makes them smarter. Still don’t understand what I mean? Maybe this will help you understand:

Words to remember:

  • Watching “The Matrix” does not make you a philosopher.
  • Listening to “U2” does not make you a humanitarian.
  • Owning all the “Star Trek” movies does not make you a physicist.
  • Watching the “Left Behind” movies does not make you a futurist.
  • Reading Stephen Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time” does not make you a cosmologist.
  • Reading Tom Clancy books does not make you a military strategist.
  • Reading “New Scientist” magazine does not make you a scientist.
  • Owning a copy of “The Day After Tomorrow” does not make you an environmental expert.
  • Reading “Popular Mechanics” does not make you an engineer.
  • Watching “The Passion” fifty times does not make you an historian.
  • Listening to gangsta rap does not make you an expert on inner-city sociology, and it sure as hell doesn’t make you any tougher.

Oh, how easy it is to become a pop culture genius. All you have to do is listen to the right music, watch the right movies, or read the right novels and magazines, and whammo, you instantly duplicate the effect of years of higher education and/or experience. How convenient. It’s almost as bad as creationists who think that the best way to study evolution science is to ignore what virtually all actual biologists are saying.

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9 Responses to Pop Culture Geniuses

  1. PeterSP says:

    All of this makes perfect sense to me, except for item 4. I agree that reading one book does not make you an expert, but unlike the others, reading a book actually specifically on a science ought probably to inform you to some extent– which is different from all of the other elements.


  2. Mike says:

    I think you mean item #5. But the fact that it’s about science means that it describes science; it does not mean it grants genuine understanding of it. I can describe to you how a car works without giving you the slightest idea how to be an auto mechanic or an automotive engineer.

  3. PeterSP says:

    But isn’t a cosmologist someone who understands theory on how the universe may/may not be structured? There sure isn’t the equivalent of mechanic for that (as far as we know :P ).


  4. Mike says:

    Of course, but what he puts into that book is a miniscule fraction of what he knows, and worse yet, he deliberately dumbed it down for public consumption, which is why there are no calculations in that book. Scientific knowledge does not transfer through osmosis. I think you’re missing the whole point I was making, and in fact, you inadvertently proved my point for me: the general public does not realize how little it knows.

  5. PeterSP says:

    As I said before, by and large, I agree. I simply thought that “A Brief History of Time” wasn’t as egregious of an example as the rest. But indeed, it is not enough.

    Also, I haven’t read it. I simply thought (through what I have heard– not particularly reliable) that it was ‘good’.

    Finally, I certainly agree that most people know practically nothing on any given scientific subject- especially the sciences. In my chemistry class right now, we are in the process of performing a spectroscopy lab. But how deep does the theory go for this lab? “Different elements emit different spectra.” I asked the teacher if we would be going into details: as to the origin of each specific spectrum. The answer was no.

    And if Public Education isn’t enough, then attempting to replace the little it does give with works of fiction certainly won’t work. This does not, I believe, mean that it is impossible to learn on one’s own, but that one cannot learn passively.

    I believe that we aren’t actually disagreeing about any broad ideas: I simply expressed doubt about the degree of appropriateness of one of your examples.

    I hope we have come to a closer understanding,

  6. Charlie says:

    I like to interject about Tom Clancy, true most of it is fiction, but he really does put the attention in the details. Of course his foreign policy ideas aren’t winners, especially since he started parroting General “Marcus” Anthony Zinni. I mean that man’s ideas about the US army as a modern Roman Legions are just unworkable. But I digress, He does put real effort in trying to make it realistic as possible. Really, if what he wrote happened, it would happen closly to the way he said it.

  7. Mike says:

    Even if Tom Clancy did his homework and wrote fairly realistic fiction, one cannot become a military expert by reading his books.

  8. Anne says:

    Stephen Hawking is recently in the news for suggesting (if I properly understand him) that the universe could have come into being without the assistance of God. Given his own lamentable condition, I can’t help wondering if he feels he could similarly manage without the assistance of God himself…

  9. Michael Wong says:

    Tell you what: if God demonstrates his power by miraculously healing Stephen Hawking right now, I’ll start praying to him. Deal?

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