Sunny Days in Heaven
Spiritual/Political/Philosophical Blog on the Nature of Truth and Falsehood and Heaven

Monday, September 05, 2005  

Who is smart?

I was raised to believe in the basic intellectual equality of human beings. I adopted it consciously as an adolescent and adult -- differences in intelligence among people were cultural or a matter of nurturing. Smart people produced smart children. Stupid people produced stupid ones for obvious reasons.

It was something which separated us from other animals in that you could breed smart dogs or stupid ones, but human differences weren’t genetic and couldn’t be bred.

But I have come to realize that my beliefs about human intelligence are based on faith and not observation. Although I doubt that my notions about human consciousness and the development of intelligence in humans will change (that people are capable of improvement in awareness or consciousness through discipline, insight, and curiosity married to a devotion to truth), I am coming to a perspective that humans probably are like other animals in that traits of intelligence may vary by group or race. And that since most people change little over the course of their lives in terms of thinking habits or wisdom, most folks are determined at an early age to fall into certain classes.

Still, I find it difficult to accept that given an intellectually stimulating environment with positive reinforcement for being “smart”, any child wouldn’t thrive and achieve intellectually.

Even if the starting point of human beings from birth are not identical, I wonder if it matters.

Still, simple observation demonstrates even in homogenous families that children have natural differences. Some are quicker minded.

The prevailing adjective among elites I have heard all my life is that so and so is “bright”. My parents generation used that word almost exclusively to identify smart people. “Brilliant” was reserved for those they couldn’t quite call a genius.

Yet I have met many “bright” people and a number of brilliant folks according to common definition, and have often been under whelmed by their intellectual ability. I have found that a great many people are accorded as being smart simply because they are rapid calculators, have good memories, and can analyze data that fall within certain parameters with accuracy; that is, they come to good conclusions given a certain array of facts and some insight into human reality. Also, appearing confident and being glib often passes for intelligence.

For example, there are a lot of smart professors of music who can’t compose a lick of music anyone wants to listen to; erudite English critics who can’t write a decent sonnet to save their lives; economists who can’t run a business; political scientists who can’t get elected nor manage a campaign; and natural scientists who never have an original idea or theory.

What does it mean to be smart or bright if you lack wisdom? Yet, you have thousands of people considered smart who can’t read the book of Proverbs or Ecclesiastes and understand them in the sense of being able to incorporate the truths about life to be found in the Bible into a coherent perspective about life and humanity.

Think of all the so-called brilliant people who have been communists or socialists. The magazine The Nation employs people whom others and they themselves consider highly smart, quick minded, and verbally skilled, and yet to listen to them opine is to listen to facile idiots.

There are lots of people who have high IQs who are incredibly stupid when it comes to making sense about life; or they have an incredible power of self-delusion when it comes to knowing either themselves or others.

The Chinese have the highest average IQ in the world, I believe, but look at their history and shudder. Nor have they invented anything new in thousands of years.

Jews have high IQs and have won 25-30% of the Nobel Prizes in science, yet in America, the vast majority of inventions have come from people other than Jews overall. Also, Jews in Europe, America, and Israel when secular have been originators and great supporters of communism, socialism, and atheism which, as I stated above, is not an indicator of intelligence if wisdom is accorded any part of being “bright“.

My uncle was the chief economist for the State of Maryland until his retirement. In a discussion one time about Milton Friedman whom he called “brilliant”, I asked if Friedman was wise since his idea of free markets did not accord with how greedy people actually acted in the real world.

My uncle dismissed my question as nonsense; wisdom was a meaningless word. Many people dismiss the word morality today with the same certainty and “brightness” that my uncle discounted insight with.

What does it mean to have a high IQ and not be a good man or woman? What is it to be good but not considering really smart? Can someone be good and not be intelligent?

I tend to think that a good man must also be an intelligent man, but that a smart guy is not necessarily good.

I bring this up because some people have been mentioning that the chaos in New Orleans in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina occurred in some respect because of stupid, black people. They point out that the average IQ for blacks in the USA is 85. Twenty points below that of whites. Also add to the fact that the average IQ in New Orleans among blacks is probably lower than their national average since many blacks who aren’t as poor or as uneducated live elsewhere in greater numbers. Thus, the average IQ of New Orleans blacks may lie between 70-80.

Put in such terms, it would be hard not to come to the conclusion as many people have in watching what unfolded in New Orleans as a city of retarded humans. It was painful to see a peculiar kind of dullness of mind that appeared in the faces and eyes of so many of our fellows. They struck many, I’m sure, as helpless, emotional, resentful, and rather dumb children.

It is the dumbness which troubles me. Many Americans can’t help but conclude it is indicative of a race of people, and not merely a symptom of poverty or dependence. As some black leaders complain loudly about being victims of white America, America looks at New Orleans and its people as being the victims of their own stupidity and recoils from wanting to sympathetically embrace them.

New Orleans has probably done more to harm race relations in this country from the standpoint of non-blacks being sympathetic to blacks as anything has done in a long time. People are going to feel justified in maintaining a prejudice against the black underclass. The proofs of various stereotypes were brought to the eyes of the whole world in horrifying detail.

The question of racial IQ or intelligence has certainly been brought to mind even if no overt debate takes place. Covert conclusions have been drawn by reasonable people. Those conclusions may very well have far reaching effects politically and socially.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 6:45 PM |