The term Intellectual Yet Idiot (IYI) was first coined by Nassim Nicholas Talebis. He defines an IYI as “paternalistic semi-intellectual experts with some Ivy league, Oxford-Cambridge, or similar label-driven education who are telling the rest of us… what to do… how to think…”
An IYI is highly educated and intelligent. Because of his academic learning, he will often reject the common sense of the common man. The chief character flaw of the IYI is hubris: “excessive pride or overconfidence, which drives a person to overstep limits in a way that leads to their downfall.” Not all intellectuals are idiots; however, anyone with hubris can become an idiot.
In Christian Nyby’s The Thing From Another World (1951) Dr. Arthur Carrington (Robert Cornthwaite) is an IYI. He doesn’t want the Thing to be destroyed. Instead, he believes the creature can be reasoned with.
Carrington is a smart man. He leads a team of scientists and won the Nobel prize. After examining the Thing’s severed arm, he determines that it evolved from a vegetable. Through careful observation, he concludes that the creature was in the greenhouse. Carrington is highly intelligent, but he places too high a value on scientific knowledge.
Carrington is obsessed with knowledge. He says, “knowledge is more important than life.” He doesn’t want the Thing to be destroyed because its knowledge would benefit mankind. He hides the fact that the Thing will return to the greenhouse, which results in two men getting killed. Carrington puts people’s lives at risk because of his obsession with knowledge.
Unlike the other characters in the film, Carrington never laughs. He takes himself too seriously. He is confident in everything he says and never regrets his actions. Carrington is a proud man, and his pride makes him overconfident.
When a proud person is overconfident, they can believe they are always right. Carrington’s hubris makes him blind to the obvious: The Thing is an evil monster that cannot be reasoned with.
Carrington’s hubris has also made him an idiot. Although he says the Thing only regards humans as important for food, he denies the creature has come to conquer Earth. He believes the Thing is a victim who only acted in self-defence. Carrington is an idiot because he doesn’t believe an alien with more advanced technology than Earth could be evil.
When an idiot is overconfident in a belief, they often act upon it. Carrington’s belief about the Thing is put to the test when he tries to become its friend. Soon after, the creature strikes him down, breaking his collarbone. Carrington nearly dies because of his lack of wisdom.
When a man has hubris, he can only overcome it through failure. In the end, Carrington’s belief about the Thing is proven wrong through his experience. He survives his injury, and perhaps he will learn humility as a result.
The Thing from Another World shows us why we shouldn’t always listen to experts. They may have more knowledge than the common man, but that doesn’t mean they have greater wisdom. No matter how intelligent or educated a person is, they can still lack common sense.