Confident or Intelligent?

My world has just been rocked.

At the end of the movie, The Wizard of Oz, the scarecrow receives his diploma. He then immediately rattles off what I thought was the Pythagorean theorem. Until this morning, I thought was he was saying was correct. Today, on NPR, they disabused me of that notion.  Here is the quote:

The sum of the square roots of any two sides of an isosceles triangle is equal to the square root of the remaining side. Oh joy! Rapture! I got a brain! – Scarecrow

Ignoring the “I got a brain” part, which should be “I have a brain”, look at the formula. It’s completely wrong.

The actual theorem is:

In a right triangle, the square of the hypotenuse (the side opposite the right angle) is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides. – Pythagoras

It’s not any two sides and it’s not an isosceles triangle. It’s just wrong.


The reason it fooled me was how quickly it was said and how confidently he said it. This is a reality for us all. When someone is confident, we think they must be right. In fact, intelligent people know they have to be confident about what they say, otherwise people will not believe them.

I wish we lived in a meritocracy where only the correct and intelligent decisions were believed. I wish people weren’t idiotic about the world being a sphere or global warming heating up the planet. Unfortunately, that just isn’t the place we live.

We play the hand we are dealt, folks. Try to listen for truth behind the confidence.

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