Why Geeks Are Shunned by Society

I’ve often wondered why nerds and geeks are shunned by society. After all, we as a human race depend on those nerds for better quality of life and sheer survival. Where would we humans be without things like running water, medicine, literacy, and our beloved computers?

Maybe social groups just don’t like smart people. An above-average intelligence is perceived as some kind of threat, or it’s just weird, or the person uses too many big words which makes life confusing. But there are plenty of well loved, and socially adept smart people out there, like Bill Clinton, or Benjamin Franklin (way back when).

My armchair theory is that highly intelligent people, i.e. nerds, are more likely to carry genes for autoimmune disorders, which create a weakened, sickly human body, and this is perceived as a threat to group survival on some very primal level. In her captivity narrative, Fanny Kelly describes how the Sioux Indians would promptly kill any baby born with a weakness or deformity. This could be why the Sioux tended to be extremely strong and in excellent health– genetic defects were culled through rudimentary and brutal means. She described women giving birth painlessly, and almost always without complication. The men were incredibly strong with tremendous physical endurance, and they rarely were sick (until exposed to European diseases).

Somewhere in our lizard brains, we as humans perceive physical weakness– which autoimmune diseases offer in great quantities– as a liability. It doesn’t matter how much we love computers; deep down, we hold in highest esteem the person who can endure the most physical hardship, because that is how we as humans got to this point after 200,000 years. It wasn’t until relatively recently in our history that technology grew sophisticated enough to protect us from harm.

I don’t know if IQ is indeed linked to autoimmune disease; I don’t even know if it’s been studied. On a side note, autistic individuals almost always have low muscle tone (hypotonia) which causes weakness and clumsiness. It’s the recent opinion of some scientists that autism, which in its high functioning variant is often linked to high IQ, may itself be an autoimmune disease.

A person would not have to actually have an autoimmune disease in order to be shunned by society; they would just be sensed as a carrier (much like women can detect DNA through smell) and instinctively ostracized as a result. Large cats like lions will shun lions born into their tribes with defects like bent tails. Perhaps small defects like this are linked to greater defects down the line and the cats instinctively sense it. For humans, a healthy individual acting “nerdy” or “awkward” could be cue enough that the person is a genetic threat so they are shunned by potential mates and by social groups.

Hopefully our society will one day grow sufficiently sophisticated to overcome our primal instincts, because smart people are one of our most valuable resources as we grow ever more technology-dependent.

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