He’s too smart for his own good.

~ Anonymous

04-22-09 © MaximShebeko, courtesy of iStockphoto

My grandfather applied this idiom to anyone who boasted about his own intelligence. Granddaddy wasn’t an educated man. He dropped out in the second grade to work alongside his father, but he possessed as much wisdom as some of the most educated people I know.

  • Brainiacs sometimes outsmart themselves.

Herbert Spencer was just such an Einstein. His contemporaries considered him to be one of the most intelligent men of his day. A discipler of know-it-alls. An intellectual’s genius.

  • This nineteenth-century philosopher’s influence persists today.

Even though most don’t know who this man was, we don’t have to look far to see his impact. Among many things, he created the precursor to the paper clip, a little device that still collates all that knowledge in our possession.

Everyone from politicians to attorneys, bankers to educators, doctors to homemakers employ the Gem clip, and Spencer claimed to have birthed this ingenious invention of mankind.

  • Spencer also coined the phrase: survival of the fittest.

We know this expression from our education. Spencer was a contemporary of Darwin and a supporter of his theories. His catchphrase was his summation of Darwinian evolution. Academia parlayed his lingo into the modern classroom.

  • Even Hollywood entertains us with his paradigm.

Take the Jurassic Park series. The fast-paced thrillers are man’s efforts to survive in a hostile world, where only the wisest survive. Books. Movies. Theme parks. Millions upon millions entertained by Spencer’s assessment. His jargon far outlived him.

  • This genius also developed a theory of how we can Know truth.

His premise was simple: for something to be known required certain criteria. He opinioned that we just needed objective evidence of Time, Force, Action, Space, and Matter to know anything.

  • Spencer believed evolution was the key to this knowledge.

By obtaining knowledge of each element in his theory (time, force, action, space, and matter), nothing could elude a human’s capacity to recognize it. Or him. Or her.

  • Of course, science has discredited much of Spencer’s beliefs.

That is, in regards to his faith in evolution. The scientific community’s theories as to how life began continue to evolve – because scientists uncover data that prove previously held beliefs are riddled with fallacies and miscalculations. What evolutionists triumphed as truth a century ago wasn’t fit to survive modern research. Even in Spencer’s lifetime, people recognized errors in what Darwin, he, and others had promoted.

But his theory of how we can know truth still has some merit.

  • Spencer’s supplication argues against atheists and agnostics.

Atheists allege there is no God. Agnostics hem and haw that if God exists He can’t be known. Spencer probably agreed with one of these positions, but he’d have been wrong to do so if he applied his own theory of knowing truth.

  • Let’s put Spencer’s theory to the test:


In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

~ Genesis 1:1, NKJV


In the beginning … TIME


Created … ACTION

The heavens … SPACE

And the earth … MATTER


  • It’s true that we can know God and His Truth.

It seems Spencer’s theory holds true for how we can know our genesis … and how we can know God. And if we’re smart we’ll agree with God’s assessment of it all, for God called it all good.

I just hope we’re smart enough to recognize His good and don’t try to be too smart for our own good.


When it comes to spiritual things, are we too smart for our own good?