Why being the smartest person in the room doesn’t matter

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We’ve heard it before. Perception is everything. It’s true in politics, news reporting, relationships, religion…there is nothing observable that is not tainted by how we perceive it. This was never more apparent to me than in the time surrounding last year’s debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham.

Individual biases from both sides, media commentary, social media, and all of the other noisy channels of communication contributed to how we understood this event and those who support one or the other side. Most people are content to form their opinions based on second, third, or even fourth-hand information. Ken Ham, for example, is perceived by most to be a backwoods dolt who probably paid for a Bible degree out of some magazine ad. What was rarely, if ever, reported about Ham is that he earned his Bachelor of Applied Science degree in Environmental Biology from the Queensland Institute of Technology, a university ranked in the top 3 per cent of all universities around the world. Whatever else someone might think of Ken Ham, he’s not an uneducated fellow. Or, consider the case of Dr. Robert T. Bakker.

Robert T. Bakker, Ph.D., is the Curator of Paleontology at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Dr. Bakker did his undergraduate work at Yale, where he studied under noted scientist John Ostrom. Bakker completed his doctoral studies at Harvard. He was an advisor for the film Jurassic Park and authored a book, “The Dinosaur Heresies”, that has changed our modern understanding of the long-extinct creatures. Oh, and Dr. Bakker also happens to be an ordained Christian minister.

I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything. Proponents for both sides of that debate have become really boring to me. What I’m after here is a matter much more important for you to consider. All of this reminds me of a quote from Donald Miller:

“My most recent faith struggle is not one of intellect. I don’t really do that anymore. Sooner or later you just figure out there are some guys who don’t believe in God and they can prove He doesn’t exist, and there are some other guys who do believe in God and they can prove He does exist, and the argument stopped being about God a long time ago and now it’s about who is smarter, and honestly I don’t care.”

Being the smartest person in the room doesn’t really mean anything to me these days. What I care about more than anything else is not what you know or believe or can do or whether you watch CNN, FOX or MSNBC. I want to know who you are. What’s your story? What makes you laugh, cry, angry, frustrated, scared, nostalgic? What do you feel you’ve left undone in your life? What are you moving toward?

I’d much rather hear what you think is right with the world that what you think is wrong with it. What should be done about the growing incivility in public conversations? How can we make the world a better place not through bureaucracies and programs, but through individual relationships and communities of people who…you know…actually treat each other with honor and respect?

What if building the kind of society we want isn’t created by trusting who we perceive to be the smartest people in the room?

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