The American sage Daniel Patrick Moynihan once wrote:
“Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.”
These days, however, facts and opinions have become so blurred that many people think that their own facts are just as good as anybody else’s. This is especially true of young people, who have always considered themselves at least as knowledgeable (and often more knowledgeable) than older people. Here’s another quote, this one attributed to Mark Twain:
“When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”
Many times here on Medium I have been contradicted by young whippersnappers who declare that I don’t know what I’m talking about, that I’m ignorant, or that they know better than I do. I must confess that I have seldom responded to these accusations with the graciousness that my seniority should have blessed me with. I am offended not by their denigration of me (their bluster is feckless), but by their exaltation of themselves.
I therefore offer here three arguments, each of which conclusively demonstrates that I have every right to patronize these young fools with my superior education.
First, let’s make some easy assumptions:
One’s serious education begins around age 20. Before that, you’re just learning enough fundamentals to be able to educate yourself.
My typical detractor is, let us say, thirty years old.
I am seventy years old.
From this, we can conclude that my self-education has been progressing for fifty years, where the youngster’s self-education has lasted for only ten years. By this calculation, my self-education is five times greater than the youngster’s. This has nothing to do with how smart either one of us is; it’s just a matter of time. I’ve had a lot more of it than the youngster.
I think myself a prodigious reader. My personal library contains about 3,000 books, almost all of which are non-fiction. I have a large section on history and sections on biology, linguistics, paleontology, the Arthurian legends, psychology, geopolitics, and physics & astronomy. I have more than a hundred books on Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam. I have read all of these books at least once, and some twice. None of my books are introductory level. Here’s a sampling of titles:
Iron Age Communities in Britain, Barry Cunliffe
The Perspective of the World, Fernand Braudel
Mathematical Methods in the Physical Science, Boas
Mother Nature, Sara Blaffer Hrdy
Understanding Early Civilizations, Trigger
The Transition to Language, Wray
The Age of Arthur, John Morris
I also have some truly obscure works, such as:
Conjunction, Contiguity, Contingency: On relationships between events in the Egyptian and Coptic Verbal Systems, by Leo Depuydt
Athenian Economy & Society: A banking perspective, by Edward E. Cohen
The Expressiveness of the Body and the Divergence of Greek and Chinese Medicine, by Shigehisa Kuriyama
Latinity and Literary Society at Rome, by W. Martin Bloomer
But the gold medal goes to:
Fiscal Accounts of Catalonia under the Early Count-Kings (1151–1213) by Thomas N. Bisson
My point here is that I have accumulated a LOT of knowledge.
To demonstrate just how much junk I have stuffed into my brain, I’ll compose some questions representing stuff I know that you can’t easily look up on the Internet. To make this a fair test, while composing these questions, I will not look at any books or at anything on the Internet. This stuff is all coming off the top of my head.
When and where was the Empire of Trebizond?
Who was Oecolampadius?
What’s the connection between the Second Law of Thermodynamics and Claude Shannon’s theorem on information?
What is your opinion on the validity of hypothesis of Nostratic?
What do you think of Pirenne’s Thesis?
Why was the ‘continental drift’ hypothesis proposed more than a century ago rejected? Why was its modern version, plate tectonics, accepted?
What crucial role did the Oxford Calculators play in the development of science and technology?
What was the big fight over the Trinity in the fourth and fifth centuries all about?
What evidence tells us that the forbears of the Arthurian legends reach back at least 4,000 years?
How are ‘fuck’, ‘pluck’, ‘peck’ and ‘poke’ cognate?
Which is more highly localized in the brain: vision or language?
What are your three favorite explanations for the fall of the Roman Empire?
Why is it that reactions involving proteins are so hard to figure out even when we know their chemical formulae?
What’s the central idea of “comparative advantage” in economics?
What’s the difference between legality and legitimacy?
Why is judicial review absolutely necessary to a functioning legal system?
What’s the voltage specification for power for TTL circuits?
Why is modularity useful in programming?
Describe the tool you use to drive a T-stake into the ground.
What’s the difference between a p-wave and an s-wave?
Yes, I know the answers to all these questions; and yes, I composed them all off the top of my head.
So would you PLEASE stop telling me that I’m ignorant????