Aaron Neville: You’re So Smart
Michio Kaku on the Evolution of Intelligence That was Michio Kaku on intelligence, getting some things right, some wrong. Let’s focus on what he got right.
The clearest difference noticed by mankind about mankind, instantly recognized by all, is that animals aren’t people (though people are animals). The next most obvious contrast is that men aren’t women (though in the West many are trying to be). After that comes race, which at the minimum are the differential features which all know. Fourth is intelligence: everybody knows some people are smarter than others.
All four distinct banal scientific biological undeniable facts are under Orwellian attack these days, because why? Because none of these truths share an accord with Equality theory. We already talked about equality, which you can listen to here. Our subject today is intelligence.
Intelligence is the ability to reason and to comprehend and comprehending is what separates humans from (other) animals. Intellection describes the acts of apprehension and comprehension and reasoning, and none of these are precisely the same. There are different ways to comprehend, so that intelligence is not simple. Take inductive reasoning of the highest sort as a for instance. Quoting philosopher Louis Groarke: Induction-intellection “Operates through infallible exercise of [nous], through the activity of intellection, understanding, comprehension, insight.” It produces “Abstraction of necessary concepts, definitions, essences, necessary attributes, first principles, natural facts, moral principles.”
In this way, induction is a superior form of intelligence than mere deduction, which is something almost mechanical, and can be done on a mindless computer. Induction-intellection is instantaneous learning, it proceeds by “flashes” of insight. How this happens is not a question here answered; that it happens is indubitable. Intellection-inductions are not found in the slogging labor of mechanically working out consequences of accepted premises, like deductive reasoning is, as for instance is found in working through a well-delineated mathematical problem. One can be facile at figuring but can find finding fresh forays in philosophy futile—follow me?
I do not, in any way, mean the listener to confuse the idea of complex, multifaceted intelligence with the so-called theories of “multiple intelligences”, which have a pop-psychology flavor about them. I mean to say intelligence is a thing and not many things. It is a thing in just the same way the painting of the Last Supper is a thing. This masterpiece is not a simple univariate thing and cannot be broken down into “multiple paintings.” We must take it as a whole.
The subject is important because the most common way to quantify (and who said we had to do that?) intelligence, the IQ test, produces one number. Because intelligence isn’t singular, even if the test hit precisely what it was aiming it, which nobody believes, one number can’t capture all there is about intelligence. It would be like saying the Last Supper has an Painting Quotient of 162.
Well, what do we know about IQs? What do we know about anything? Let’s ask Sam.
Sam Cooke: Wonderful World (Don’t Know Much)
Unambiguously, IQ tests measure how well one can take the sort of test IQ tests are. Beyond that? Ask this: Is a person with measured IQ score of 141 smarter than another person with score of 140? Yes, but only if the IQ test measures intelligence perfectly and the persons taking the tests were doing their utmost. A lazy genius might not be persuaded to concentrate on such a dull assignment. Plus, I don’t think anybody claims IQ tests perfectly measure intelligence. Insisting on rankings via differences of only a few points, unless the purpose of ranking is some contest, is not reliable.
IQ tests measure intelligence to some degree, though. For instance, we can say conclusively that, all else equal, a man scoring 180 is more intelligent than a man scoring 60. There is always the possibility the second man shirked, or a mistake was made in scoring, or whatever. But absent any eccentricity, the higher-scoring man will do better at crosswords, calculations, and cognitions than the low-scoring man.
There are two points of interest. The relative difference between scores and capabilities versus intelligence. Some of the relative difference we already dealt with, insisting a few-points difference has little meaning. Capabilities I’ll talk about in a moment. First, another remark on the quantification of intelligence.
It can’t be done. Not wholly. To think we can devise an intelligence yardstick that captures all essentials of intelligence is hubristic. We can create a tape which captures large features of intelligence, though. IQ tests give useful information. This is proven by all the things intelligence is associated with and the positive correlation (I use this word in its plain-English sense) with IQ score.
Chess grand masters are seen to have large IQ scores. Particle physicists, professional mathematicians, and analytical philosophers are seen to have large IQ scores. Ethnic Studies majors and activists-for-hire have low IQ scores. It’s these empirical results that prove the IQ test has value in measuring intelligence. Why? Because these professions or avocations either require or don’t need intelligence. Other empirical measures, like income, are ambiguous: after all, a Beatles fan can win the lottery.
Confusion has arisen over the way IQ tests are quantified. Normal distributions are used, an unfortunate choice. Nothing in the world (or universe!) is “normally distributed”, and so neither are IQ scores. The danger of refication is real and common. Notice that most say “He has an IQ of X” and not “Has has an IQ score of X”. The score is reified into intelligence itself. This can be of little harm when speaking in generalities, but it leads to mistakes when thinking about cause.
Some things—certainly an enormous number of things: biology plus environment—caused a person to have the intelligence he does. His intelligence, in turn, plus other things (like breakfasts, fatigue, desire, etc.) caused his IQ score. The causal path to IQ score is long and tortuous. Normal distributions have nothing to do with any of this.
What normal distributions can do is to crudely—and only crudely—quantify our uncertainty in the score of a man or group. If all—pay attention to that word; I mean it—you know is the uncertainty in the IQ score of a certain man or group is to be quantified with a normal distribution with a given or assumed central and spread parameter, then you can make statements like this: “That man is of Group G; therefore, using the normal specified for Group G, he has an X% chance of having an IQ score larger than Y.” The accuracy of X will be greater or lesser depending on how well the normal was measured and on X and Y themselves (and on whether one is handling the uncertainty in the parameters properly, which few do). Even given all these caveats, there is some accuracy in quantifying the uncertainty IQ, which again we know via empirical verification.
The probability statement I gave an as example is what is known as a stereotype, which proves stereotypes have validity and are rational. Sorry. Of course, once you meet the man, or even test him, the stereotype (and the normal distribution) goes out the window.
BB King can tell us what happens to an intelligent man.
BB King: Woman Makes You Stupid
It is dangerous and foolhardy to judge a man based on his group after you have took his measure (in every sense of that phrase). But it is also why it is sane and rational to judge a man by his group before you have met him. And it is also why it makes eminent sense to make predictions of groups of un-met men. For instance, suppose our probability model (which is all IQ scores applied to groups are) says, “Given two Groups, G and H, and given the normals specifying uncertainty in their IQ scores, and also given the correlations between IQ score and passing this particular test, there is an X% chance more men from Group G will pass than Group H.”
Swap “passing a test” for “having a high income”, “becoming a surgeon”, “inventing a new protein”, “proves a theorem”, and so on and you’ll get the idea. Of course, since most people aren’t careful with modeling, results are usually exaggerated. But not so much that IQ scores are useless.
Back to our two men with IQ scores of 180 and 60. The high man is, all things equal, more intelligent than the low man. But it could very well be the low man is happier, stronger, handsomer, more likable, and more intuitive in social situations. He may also have better eyesight or be less prone to disease and be more fertile. The second man may exceed the first in any number of other capabilities not related to intelligence or, rather, to the causes of intelligence and of these other abilities.
Intelligence isn’t everything, or the autistic, who have a fearsome sort of intelligence, would be our leaders, and the highly intelligent would be having more offspring than they do. That maybe high intelligence is itself a causal detriment to fertility is discussed and is plausible. For example, this young beauty queen will have no trouble finding a mate.
Whirled Peas clip
Suppose, dear listener, that you are more intelligent than I. Does that you make you better, i.e. superior to me? Well, yes, partly. In the component of intelligence, since by assumption you have more of it, you are therefore superior to me. Is being more intelligent better, though? That is an entirely different question.
You are better than I at tasks which require intelligence, or are likely to be better, and therefore you are to be preferred when Intelligence Teams choose sides. Incidentally, have you noticed the only times when saying someone is smarter than another doesn’t hurt somebody’s feelings is when the person being compared against is obviously, unapproachably ahead? Anyway, you’re smarter but are you the better person? Better in the sense that you should be accorded more dignity in being human? Certainly not.
The fear many have is if it is really true that Group G, a recognizable real class of humans, has lower average intelligence than Group H, in the sense that (given our measurements) any H man has 50%-plus probability of being more intelligent than any G man, than if the peoples of both groups realize this, disharmony will result. This is why some lie about the differences in intelligence, in order to forestall conflict. (These comparisons are before the individuals themselves are measured.)
The lying works in a minor way. It convinces people of mediocre intelligence to believe in the “blank state” theory of intelligence, which holds everybody could come to the same point in intellectual ability if each person were given sufficient resources. Never has their been a belief more misaligned with observation (it even beats global warming for error).
Nobody knows how much of biology and how much of environment are the ultimate cause of a man’s intelligence. There is definitive evidence that both are important. There is no evidence, except hope and wishes, that we can ignore either one. For instance, scores for groups in come countries tend to improve in those areas which have improving infrastructure. But they don’t improve forever. Just as a man born with a certain muscle mass can only get so strong with ideal training, a man born with a certain biology can only get so smart with ideal education.
Real differences exit between peoples—and between sexes. Some find this fact appalling as it violates Equality theory. This causes mental conflict in those highly intelligent people who cherish Equality theory, or claim to. Which proves smart people can be very, very dumb. Just as the powerful man is capable of greater mayhem, the more intelligent man has the potential for more egregious fallacy. Which is more evidence, obviously, that although intelligence is much, by itself intelligence is not enough. Let’s ask the Tams if they agree.
If You’re So Smart, Why Do You Have A Broken Heart?
A consequence of being highly intelligent is to not know what it is like to be of low intelligence, and vice versa. A person of very high intelligence will be able to characterize a low-intelligence person, and vice versa to less success, but neither will be able to understand what it’s like to be the other person. This has deep implications. Uncle Fred says
People of IQ 130 [notice the reification] and up tend to assume unconsciously—important word: “unconsciously”—that you can do anything just by doing it. If they wanted to learn Sanskrit, they would get a textbook and go for it. It would take time and effort but the outcome would never be in doubt. Yes, of course they understand that some people are smarter than others, but they often seem not to grasp how much smarter, or what the consequences are. A large part of the population can’t learn much of anything. Not won’t. Can’t. Displaced auto workers cannot be retrained as IT professionals.
Unpalatable and judgmental. But true. How did this happen? Cognitive stratification is the term. The highly intelligent marry one other and thus produce progeny that are intelligent, and vice versa. Intelligence is surely partially heritable, and so are conducive environments, to speak loosely. Interests and professions of the highly intelligent can and do differ from those of low intelligence, which further exacerbates the stratification.
Yet while there will be deep and important cultural and economic consequences, there is no reason to foresee an eventual Eloi-Morlock divide, where the brightest sink into the mire around our nation’s Great Capitol and only emerge at night to feed on those in flyover country. Or wait. Maybe this can happen. I don’t know.
That’s it for this week. Next week: Lucky You. You may have enjoyed this podcast, but don’t assume the insights you might have gained will be profitable.
Louis Jordan: If You’re So Smart
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