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The Vanishing Hardy Boys

The Vanishing Hardy Boys

Gone are the days of the Renaissance Man; the polymath ideal of humanism; man is the center of the universe and he should embrace the search for all knowledge because man alone has the limitless capacity for development!

Alberti, the architect, painter, poet, scientist, horseman, and mathematician; Da Vinci, the artist, painter, inventor, musician, scientist, and writer; they are ghosts of our past. Today! — well — that all just sounds… Tiring.

Apathy provides an easy route to the path of leisure and the ultimate terminus of any critical thought. Maybe, after we put in a hard day at work, the TV beckons with its flashing lights, sounds, and entertaining stories. We relax, shut down our mind, splay out on the couch, and we forget our worries.

A few minutes later, the episode ends in a cliff-hanger and the countdown to stream the next episode starts. 5… 4… 3… 2… 1… The music; the intro; our tension begins slipping away to the subtle relief of knowing a resolution is near. We don’t notice it, but suddenly, it is late, and we are awake longer than we should be. We finally drift off to sleep thinking about tomorrow morning’s snooze button and dreading yet another hard day at work.

On the other hand, the renaissance man possesses a unique and remarkable combination of rationality and emotion. Mathematics and science are the rational pursuits, whereas the arts and physical activity provide the emotional breadth. The result is a very balanced individual who is an expert not only of many areas, but also of himself.

One of my first exposures to this uncommon mix of traits was a series of childhood novels that played on the dynamic between the rational and the emotional. The stories were filled with danger, adventure, mystery, and intrigue. There were two brothers, the older possessing a strong sense of rationality and logic, and the younger of recklessness and passion. The younger brother’s spirit often gets him into trouble and causes his older brother to use his reasoning and strategic capabilities to get him out of it. They are both school-aged children but their schooling is rarely ever mentioned in the novels. Together, the Hardy Boys use their abilities, passion, and logic to solve an extremely varied array of felonies including murder, drug peddling, smuggling, kidnapping, and even espionage.

The brothers are pilots, ship captains, martial artists, and athletes. They know sign language, technology, sleuthing techniques, and they have the critical thinking skills to both strategize and to see through stupidity. They apply their varied skills and more importantly, their sense of bravery and duty to the mysteries in the books, and they always find success.

Today, the idea of the Renaissance Man seems quaint, and rather, we have chosen to narrow our focus even as the range of possibilities has expanded considerably. Specialization now reigns, and with it, even the simplest of professions have many barriers to entry. Training programs, degrees, fees, and licensure all take many months or years and cost thousands of dollars. It is necessary to navigate this bureaucratic maze simply to have an opportunity to look for work in one’s chosen profession. Lastly, the barriers to entry and the specialization together create an additional psychological barrier that today can be referred to as credentialism. If someone does not have the correct credentials, we are much less inclined to listen to them, no matter their experience nor expertise.

Then, one day, there is a mystery. A novel pathogen becomes a Pandemic. The specialists, especially those with power set the scene. Stay home, Stay Safe. Wear a mask. Wear two masks. Some people are not essential.

Generalists and experts from other fields were shouted down. You are not a Doctor! If it saves one life!

Specialists in the same field, who raised reasonable objections, argued for defaulting to the previous knowledge base regarding pandemics. They were ostracizedThere needs to be a quick and devastating published take-down of [The Great Barrington Declaration’s] premises.

But the Hardy Boys are trained sleuths, and they never needed credentials nor the backing of any organization. Rather, the years they dedicated to pursuing their interests allow them the expertise to handle a wide array of problems. Furthermore, their sense of duty compels them to speak out and expose the crimes. Neither fools nor cowardly, their knowledge and internal fortitude propel their actions.

Are there any examples of Renaissance Men today? Yes! One in particular was the Valedictorian of his college. He is an MD, PhD, biostatistician, and has applied his vast knowledge to the areas of neuroscience, psychiatry, nutrition, epidemiology, the problem of reproducibility in scientific research, and even economics. Writing and the arts have not escaped him either. He penned a love story about star-crossed lovers — a humanities professor infatuated by a professor of genetics — in a libretto for an Opera performed at Stanford.

He also was among those with the courage to speak out. A day after President Trump ordered nationwide lockdowns, he wrote an editorial that wondered whether the global response to the Pandemic may be a “once in a century evidence fiasco” and he tried to organize a meeting at the White House to caution the President against further shutdowns.

Specialization is often a deception. Years of training, education, and study easily ensnare the mind into an arrogance built on the precipice of expertise. However, without continued study of other areas in which one is merely an apprentice or a novice, the mind’s sleuthing abilities become dulled. Worse, because of the status an expert tends to hold, others will project that expertise onto areas the expert has no knowledge — even when the expert will directly contradict that idea.

The New Yorker published an article that is an abject mishmash of ideas from various different experts, and one can almost see how easy it was for mask-obsession to overtake even the most fortified minds. Open the economy! The virus is resurging! A recession is starting! The economic recovery is growing! Wear masks or we will have to slow re-opening!

The article mentions that Fauci only looks at it from a very narrow public health viewpoint and doesn’t pretend to be an economist. Despite that admission, the article concludes that the President should listen to Fauci more in order to protect the economy.

Yes, that was all in a single article. Compare The New Yorker article to the editorial by our Renaissance Man expert and marvel at how well reasoned the Renaissance Man is across the spectrums of public health, psychology, society, and economics. Right down to the conclusions, where one cautions not to jump off a cliff, whereas the other argues to follow an admitted non-expert over one.

Some men lack the ability to decipher information and they choose to forgo the solitude required to reason coherently. It is a process made more difficult by the often conflicting reports about everything and everyone.

The Renaissance Man, on the other hand, is up late studying. He is writing. He is thinking. He may be an expert in several fields that credentialism will never allow him to find employment in. He is a master of himself, and a Hardy Boy.

This article is republished with permission from the author’s Substack.

Image credit: Public domain

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    April 26, 2024, 5:00 pm

    Amen!!!!! The Hardy Boys books were the hook that started me reading about 75 years ago. You have stated very well one of the major problems in our culture. People who will/can not think/reason and a reliance on those posing as experts in order to press an agenda.


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