Stephen Fry on Incuriosity

The only reason people do not know much is because they do not care much. They are incurious. Incuriosity is the oddest and most foolish failing there is.

—Stephen Fry, The Fry Chronicles

Romance at Mars Hill
Editing Memories
Being Agent Scully
What is Love? Baby Don’t Hurt Me …
  • Dr. Robert

    not caring or being ‘incurious’ most often occurs in people who have been beaten down by the demands of a reality (e.g. modern life) that they cannot satisfy. Only the truly fortunate have the luxury of curiosity….Dr. Bob

    • Jason Rowe

      Curiosity is NOT a modern luxury, it is a timeless necessity. To be “incurious” is to be intellectually lazy. All curiosity requires is an open mind. You can either hide in a cave, huddled by the fire, or grab a damn torch, & see the REST of the world… | @aqua_buddah

    • Devils Advocate

      I respect this reply, and understand the point, but you have to admit it’s awfully resigned, and is merely an insight into why some people can be “incurious”, not a valid excuse.

    • vasaroti

      I disagree, based on having had the opportunity to be around rich people of all ages for extended periods of time, in a variety of settings. Many of these people have every luxury you could dream of, but actually look down on those who seek expertise in any realm of study. Why should they be curious? It’s the role of those who need their money to invent ways to keep them healthy and entertained.

      My guess is Mr. Fry has observed more incurious upper-class twits than people who have been mentally crushed by modern society in the past few decades, given his star status.

      • Kodie

        I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s a luxury, but people with obligations tend to relegate it to a lower priority, and people who have what they need have a different understanding how it works. Don’t mess with success. This is why wealthy Christians think this is god’s blessing. They don’t want their blessings to go away by questioning how they got there. People who are too busy managing practical urgencies wouldn’t necessarily be uncurious if they had more time, but people at certain socio-economic levels are also known to feel threatened by intelligence. Getting good grades in school is “uncool” and people who went to college (aka, “liberals”) are using big words and big concepts, and rather than meet the level of conversation, get sour grapes about it. They may turn to the informative arguments fed to them by “news” just to feel like they are able to be in the debate, and it reinforces their stupidity by congratulating them on being simple, phrases like “real America”.

  • Len

    Why doesn’t the quote match the quote?

    • Elemenope

      Don’t be so curious.

    • Noelle

      It’s like when movie and TV subtitles don’t match the actual dialog. It bothers my brain.

  • Mac

    Dr. BOB, while your statement makes sense on some levels. There is no excuse for willful ignorance.

    • Noelle

      I ‘specially like how you go all caps on BOB. That docotor’s an acronym!

  • Rich Wilson

    I don’t think it’s incuriosity so much as fear of being wrong. Some people are literally terrified of the idea that they may ever have been wrong; so much so that their brains will develop delusions to keep themselves ‘right’. Such is the basic ingredient of the Dunning Kruger effect. Well of course the birth certificate is forged, we KNOW he’s a Muslim born in Kenya!

    • Elemenope

      I definitely think this plays a larger role than people generally think. American culture, in particular, has degraded public error into being tantamount to social suicide.

      Incuriosity and the terror of being wrong form a potent synergy for producing ignorance.

    • Poppitsmum

      I think you are both correct to some level, but I also think some people don’t know there is another view, especially when they are told from a young age that these are the truths and that’s all they need to know.

      Someone asked a friend of mine a stupid question to which I said “Why is the sky blue?” She looked at me confused and I explained why the sky was blue (the real reason) and she said “Oh I thought it was because God made it blue, I never thought of it like that before” That scared me because I realised in her life she had never questioned it. Never wondered why the sky was blue just accepted the answer that it was “God’s design” and moved on with her life. Sad.

  • FO

    I was thinking on these lines today.
    Proponents of homoeopathy are just not enough curious to go deeper and try to understand the marvellous physics underneath it.

    • DMG

      That’s one thing that always got to me too. If water can really be imbued with all kinds of properties through distant contact with other materials or emanations, whoever proves it is a shoe-in for the Nobel prize in chemistry. So why aren’t they looking for such evidence? ;)

      • Noelle

        Homeopathy schools don’t tend to be affiliated with large universities, like traditional med schools. So no research grants, facilities, opportunities, or encouragement there. Private pharmaceutical companies have enough money to hire R&D for their own products and anything marketed as medication has to jump through a whole lotta hoops to prove it does what it says and it’s safe. Homeopathic products, like vitamin supplements are mostly regulated like food and not like meds. So there’s no encouragement for real research from the education, private, or corporate sectors for those products.

        • Kodie

          They’re just trying to suppress the TRUTH! Lol.

          Surely some celebrity could fund their research.

  • RickRay1

    I think Dark Age thinking needs to be diluted to the point of non-existence!

    • Len

      But that’s the problem. Diluting it like that would make it stronger.

  • Mac

    Actually Noelle, I just accidentally toggled the caps lock button on my phone, and didn’t notice it until after I hit publish.

    • Noelle

      I’m just making fun of you. Sorry for the mix-up.

  • Anonymous-Sam

    Oh hey, it’s the narrator of LittleBigPlanet.

  • The Other Weirdo

    The problem with curiosity is that you have to be strong enough, intellectually, to resist the nonsense your curiosity might uncover. As Dylan Hunt once said, “The light at the end of the tunnel might be a missile.” If you don’t recognize, ahead of time, the dangers of inquiry, you could end up in serious shit. That’s where cults come from. People look for something, perhaps even simple solutions to their complex problems, and end up being sold a bill of crap. We’re all looking for something, even atheists, but you have to be able to recognize that what you find is not necessarily good for you.

    I’m not saying that curiosity is bad and we should never search, never read, never listen. Just that having an open mind doesn’t mean letting any old garbage take root.

    • Kodie

      It’s for this reason people tell me I’m not curious enough. I just don’t believe every goll-darn thing that comes up. Not even if it’s true. I know there’s a lot of pseudo-science out there trying to sway me, so I’m a little too cautious on the basis that I might not understand a thing as it’s presented to discern its veracity or usefulness. I have a friend who is very well read and I listen to what he has to say – as much as he is constantly seeking information, I also think that he reads until he finds something to support what he wants to be true and then clings to it. I’m not sure how well he can comprehend scientific polls or studies, as long as it produces results he likes, and if you don’t have a contradicting result, you are just talking out your ass. It makes it difficult to have intellectual debates with him. On the other hand, MOST people I’ve met in life think I am too deep, I think about things “normal” people don’t bother themselves with. I’ve also spent time in other forums where people think they are smarter than average, and bring examples from their life to demonstrate how stupid everyone else is, but to me, sometimes, they are so fucking stupid too. They are too proud of how smart they feel, that they don’t really exercise it and always patting each other on the back.

      At least here, people have studied a lot and know how to interpret what they are reading, so I learn a lot more. I have a higher trust in people when they have a scientific background so that they are trained to read and interpret what they are reading, and everyone else isn’t just satisfied being the smartest person in their family; they see where the bar is set and work always to meet it.

  • Haymoon

    I think it’s covered by: there are none so blind as those who will not see!

  • Anonymous-Sam

    Atheists have a knack of turning themselves into Straw Vulcans, or in slightly more recent context, Agent Scully. Being skeptical means never drawing a conclusion that can’t be disproven if the means and evidence exists. People conflate that with “faith is believing the impossible and therefore bad” and turn it into “I believe nothing at all until it’s proven to me. Everything is false until the evidence exists to suggest otherwise.”

    Drawing a negative conclusion with no evidence can be just as bad as drawing a positive conclusion with no evidence. At the point where a person ardently disbelieves without even desiring to see the evidence, that person’s atheism really does become a religion.

    • Elemenope

      The irony there, of course, was that Scully was willing to be skeptical about everything *except* her religion.

      • Anonymous-Sam

        That always made me laugh, too. But it did start to get really annoying toward season 8 when she was still ardently denying the existence of ghosts, aliens, mutants, supernatural powers and Barbara Streisand despite all of them occurring approximately 300 feet behind her (and a little to her left). The closest she ever came to admitting she might be wrong is “It doesn’t matter what I believe unless I can provide proof it exists.” Which is a cop-out.

  • Jabster

    Is your e-mail address ?

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