While dining one evening in NYC with a brilliant man I once knew, we couldn’t help overhearing some moderns espousing progressive ideas at a nearby table. Seeming like typical Manhattanites, they were well spoken, likely had some higher degrees among them, and would have appeared to many to possess good command of the issues. My friend, though, unimpressed, simply said: “It’s amazing how you can know all of the facts but none of the Truth.”
Recently I had a conversation with another smart fellow who made the case that the way to minimize evil in the world was through education. This is a common idea. As we struggle to explain man’s condition, we sometimes fall back on the belief, “Knowledge is power.” Yet even if true, note that power can be misused. Moreover, even if true, it certainly isn’t absolute power.
How often do we see people who know they’re smoking, drinking, or eating themselves to death but yet can’t stop? Of course, we can be slaves to any kind of passion, from sex to spending money to the attainment of power, and the chains bind the smart and wise along with the simple and foolish. Why, great Chinese sage Confucius himself said, “It it not that I do not know what to do; it is that I do not do what I know.”
A modern-day Confucius, C.S. Lewis, explained this phenomenon well when he wrote, “No justification of virtue will enable a man to be virtuous. Without the aid of trained emotions the intellect is powerless against the animal organism.” And this simply addresses the matter of willing spirit but weak flesh — that of wicked spirit is something else again.
But whether wickedness or weakness, the reality is that anecdotal evidence doesn’t show much correlation between education, at least as it’s commonly conceived, and morality. Osama bin Laden was a university educated multi-millionaire. Nazi “Angel of Death” Josef Mengele was a doctor. Zimbabwean tyrant Robert Mugabe was an avid student who earned five undergraduate degrees and two graduate degrees. Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and Moammar Gadhafi’s murderous son Saif al-Islam were both educated in Britain, with the latter holding a Ph.D. in economics. And when the Nazis rose to power in 1933, the Germans were likely the most educated nationality in the world.
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