Public intellectuals grow their "rep" by saying what the non-thinking masses want to hear. They provide easy conclusions and, for the rare semi-skeptic in their audience, offer throw-away qualifiers to show the conclusion wasn't that easily drawn.
A famous P.I. among the weftees is The (Branch) Davidian Grey-Bar. This chappy writes wordy crap that throws out references culled from Wikipedia and other cut-and-paste online searches, and holds a faculty position in some Toffee-muncher uni, so you know he's got the goods.
Thankfully (or... maybe not) the BlogTrust can be relied upon to keep interested nimrod clowns like myself updated on where P.I.s have focused their rambling-on and whinging defeatedly but proudly.
American philosopher Daniel Dennett frames the problem quite lucidly. Take lobsters, he argues—they’re just robots. Lobsters can get by with no sense of self at all. You can’t ask what it’s like to be a lobster. It’s not like anything. They have nothing that even resembles consciousness; they’re machines. But if this is so, Dennett argues, then the same must be assumed all the way up the evolutionary scale of complexity, from the living cells that make up our bodies to such elaborate creatures as monkeys and elephants, who, for all their apparently human-like qualities, cannot be proved to think about what they do. That is, until suddenly, Dennett gets to humans, which—while they are certainly gliding around on autopilot at least 95 percent of the time—nonetheless do appear to have this “me,” this conscious self grafted on top of them, that occasionally shows up to take supervisory notice, intervening to tell the system to look for a new job, quit smoking, or write an academic paper about the origins of consciousness.I've got the gun, there's the barrel, and look! Inside! A whole mess o' fish.
What are the Brights famous for doing? Can you recall?
I can. They're famous for making nincompoops like you feel like deep thinkers. They're the ones whose "movement" presaged the TED revolution of non-analytic Oral Tradition "essays" which confirm your extreme specialness.
"I watched a TED lecture on The Selfish Gene and now it's confirmed, what I always believed: humans are the only creatures who can rise above biological automaton status."
Dani Dun-It in the Grey-Bar block quote above is doing this:
You see, we humans are special, elevated creatures and reside at the top of the food chain for good reason. That reason is simple. And obvious. The reason? We are the only creatures who have a sense of identity, introspection, and thought process. All other animals --which, I remind you, are below us on the food chain-- are non-thinking reactionaries who cannot adapt, cannot reason, cannot harness technology toward a Progressive Valhalla. Thus you see animals kill each other over food, or even over that absurd notion humans grafted onto them, "territory." Just like reactionary republicans, actually.It doesn't take even a 4th rate mind to see that Brightly Done It is full of feces to the point of having turd effluent seeping from eyes, ears, nose, mouth.
All it takes is to be around these Lower Animals in an observer role, and more importantly, an observer who isn't trying to shove the Lower Animal's square peg existence into the Perfect Round Hole of The Human Perspective. If an animal behaves in a way the observer can't grasp nor understand, obviously the animal is a stupid robot programmed by Selfish Genes that mandate a binary, yes/no reaction to dunderheaded stimuli.
Of course, if you're the Grey-Bar, you have to write endless impressively worded paragraphs to make this simple point.
Why the belaboring?
Because the Grey-Bar is superior -- so superior, in fact, that he worries you're too stupid to get an idea if presented simply.
Instead he has to lick his chops at the chance to once again pontificate from a point of superiority, and then blather burble banter bicker bicker bicker brouhaha balderdash ballyhoo...
...it's only talk.