Most of my friends. Well, the younger, meaner ones. Well, there’s actually a dozen of them, max. Let’s call them my… noisier friends like to post screen grabs of stupid things that people say on Tumblr. It used to be Yahoo! Questions, it was Facebook for a while, but I’m old enough to recognise the geoCities frames on some of them. The whole approach is one of the most salient part of folklore, and generally feels like someone is piling on a stupid person somewhere. It feels a little bit too much like middle-school to me: attack whomever spoke up and said something you would not have, or didn’t want to have said.
I do realise that the proper reflex when someone is asking, say — let’s have the oldest myth of them all — if someone in a couple expecting ask if their baby-girl-to-be might become be pregnant too, the most likely reaction is to wonder how that person reproduced, and facepalm the lack of Darwinian selection away. However, I challenge anyone who laugh at this to describe at what age a female fœtus develops proto-reproductive organs, how developed they are and when biology was able to describe those properly. That question was (and presumably still is for some rare pathological cases) at the frontline of science. The frequency that particular story pops up says something about symbolic relations and smart Freudian would have a field day studying the history of that question and its mockery.
Those question and the reaction to them seem to challenge greatly the idea that there is no bad questions, just bad answers. How could someone ask “Why French don’t have their own word for ‘entrepreneur’ and had to use the American one?” and not be judged for the bluntness of their assumption? Well, they make a great point on the cross-influence of language and culture; and they don’t speak French. Billions of people don’t either, and some are very smart.
However, the best science comes from stupid: people so ignorant they felt like asking if the Earth is flat, what happen at the edges? XVIIIth century doctors who where well trained and knew that full human bodies where in the head of spermatozoids, yet wondered how big a magnifying glass was needed to actually see them. Marie Curie who couldn’t admit that all thermal energy had to come from chemistry, so that block of uranium had to be oxidising slowly, somehow.
Everytime someone mocks others, especially people that he doesn’t know, remember: intelligent people do not think others are stupid.