Posts Tagged ‘intelligence’

Within the Comfort of Our Safe Zones

July 19, 2018


The image of the American trailblazer, bravely forging a path into the unknown, fades to a ghostly image in the bright lights of modern American glitz.

Today, the majority of the participants in the social media networks move tepidly against the backdrop of… of… well, many very scary things!!

It has become a commonplace to stay within the confines of what we already “know” whether it is correct or not and never bother questioning whether it is correct or not. Our opinions matter so much more than… well anything else, especially something like facts.

Opinions have become the new brand of “truth”.

It is like those friends – and I’m sure most of us know these – who claim that someone is fat or ugly or stupid and, to soften the blow, claim it is because they alone are the one friend who will speak the “truth” to you.

Who ever believed opinions were “truth”? How did this ever become a thing?

During the 2016 election cycle, this was displayed quite publicly on the large public stage.

While I was ranging far and wide to learn as much as I could about the various candidates, the issues, and so forth, I received the same messages from differing sources. I mean, I kept hearing all the “bad Trump” messages from left-leaning friends and the “crooked Hillary” links from my more conservative associates.

I would post and link what I found to be cohesive and intelligent views from all sides during the period. Green party, Libertarian, Republican, Democrat, and quite a few independent or undecided sources; whatever I found of interest to the greater issue, I would share while my friends were stuck on a one-tone throughout the debacle.

Why are these people so quick to judge and so reticent to actually do anything like independent research?

First off – TIME.

Doing your own research takes a lot of time. Being a fast reader, I can breeze through this stuff rather quickly. Others sometimes struggle through pithy political punditry or pedantic posturing, trying to find some sense in the mess.

Memes are so much easier than anything like actually “reading”.

But even though some of my friends read a lot, they generally read only those articles that merely reinforce their previous opinions, their “truth”. When reading articles they disagreed with – found very uncomfortable to read – they flatly rejected them or, most often, ridiculed them. When put to the task of clarifying the points they found objectionable, the response was usually “all of it”.

Maybe it’s just me, but I doubt I can read any lengthy article (on any subject) and fully agree with the author on all points. I sometimes even do not completely agree with the stuff I’ve written when removed a year or so from it… yes, my opinions morph over time. I actually thought that was normal!

When the assault occurred on the alt-right speaker Richard Spencer, the internet exploded with “Punch a Nazi”.

A wave of self-congratulatory flag-waving ensued among the collective intelligentsia as if some mighty blow had been made against the assembled forces of evil.

It was humorous to watch. Even if it gave me an uneasy feeling. It reminded me of a period in history when, after the death of Lincoln, anyone who said something bad about the late President was liable to be shot dead. And there were many killings “claimed” to have been for this reason although no investigation was done.

When the mob intelligence (what an oxymoron!) rules, mayhem ensues.

But I digress…

What is the cause of this retreat of our consciousness into our imagined “safe spaces”? Why this refusal to step beyond our comfort zones?

No man is an island, the old saying goes, but we are becoming more so every day. Stuck in echo chambers, hearing our own thoughts regurgitated by others, constantly reinforced, it is hard to see beyond the veil of consensus to ever glimpse some truth beyond the pale.

Is this a by-product of our education system?

The strict enforcement of “only one correct answer” thinking leads to a society that can no longer think.

And neither Bill Gates’ questionable agenda in that regard or the leadership of Secretary DeVos seems to be working toward any relief to the growing problem.

The result will be more and more enlarged comfort zones, people incapable of robust thinking, polarization of ideas, and inability to find their way around a negotiation.

In complex situations, those who do not comprehend – in depth – the data and motivations of all the parties involved, are doomed to be the frantically screaming sidelines seeking out passive Nazis to sucker-punch before running off cackling like a loon to post their “blow against evil” on their Facebook page.

Where are the trailblazers from whom we sprang?

And from where sprang these…?



October 16, 2012

It is not that I am opposed to the Mensa Society or the acceptance of one singular gift over a vast array of many similar, but the concept that intelligence makes us somehow “better” than our fellows. Why should one talent somehow make anyone better than everyone not so gifted? It says a lot about our current value system. And a lot about what we consider to be useless talents.

In our educational system, those “identified” as intellectually enhanced are removed from the mainstream population and “fast-tracked” at learning centers geared to cater to those so gifted.

The irreparable harm done to both those identified and those not so identified is everlasting. Having mentally charged children growing up among only that same kind limits the amount of input during the formative years. They cannot grasp a complete view of the world by being so cloistered with only those of a similar mindset.

Those not intellectually gifted, by being separated, are not given the model of what can be done with their own minds, what others can be capable of, what is possible. Most certainly, there would be some among the “slower” group who might become feeling “inferior” because they cannot compete in that arena but the math-oriented would suffer the same awkwardness in other areas of instruction.

And if you think the beginnings of higher intelligence rears its ugly head only during one certain age group, you have a lot of learning to do. Some children develop intelligence later than others and in the present system would simply be abandoned by the fast-trackers.

To segregate and isolate people by gifts is detrimental not only to their individual development but to the richness one can discover in an open interdisciplinary system.

My introduction to Mensa many years ago put me off completely. Sure, there were run-of-the-mill people from all walks of life – taxi drivers, housewives, manual laborers, as well as teachers and engineers – but the attitude of the members was that they were somehow superior than other people simply because their I.Q. scores were over the benchmark of 135. Funny, how that one little number or two could make them, oh, so much better than those idiots who only scored 134.

I should imagine not all Mensa chapters are like the one I was introduced to many years ago, but the egotistical self-importance over one particular talent is too easy to fall into for many – otherwise incompetent – to avoid.

Funny, but I knew a guy (whose I.Q. clocked in around 78) who had already made a fortune and set up his widowed mother in a nice paid-off home and was pretty much set for life himself. What had all the “geniuses” done for anyone yet? Perhaps they are still a little too busy patting themselves on the back for being so smart.

There is nothing wrong with intelligence but it falls far short of anything like persistence or determination, intelligence without creativity isn’t worth much.

Perhaps we ought to take our attention off this one minor indicator and start looking at the educational system a little differently? We might help create a much better world for the future.

If all our attention is on creating a better present, it probably does not bode so well for the future those children are going to grow up in.

Welcome to Mensa!

February 23, 2012

Reading a little about Stephen Hawking – whose 70th birthday is today – I saw his comment about IQ. He said those who talk about their high IQ are “losers”.

And I am afraid I would have to agree with him.

Years ago, in the 1960’s, a psych professor tabulated the IQ test I had taken and told me I really should be in Mensa. Having never heard of the organization, he explained that it was for people with high IQ’s like myself. And not knowing much about IQ, I thought, “Sure, why not?”

From articles I had read at the time, I knew one scale showed:

100 – normal
135 – genius
165 – super genius
190 – total genius
191 – totally insane

I have seen various different scales since then, but this is the one I knew at the time. It bothered me because the score the professor claimed for me was well above the “totally insane” range in the chart above.

Anyway, I went to the Mensa meeting with him – yes, he was a member – and I got to hear a short talk by the head of the chapter and then got to cruise the room, meeting the other “geniuses”.

Housewives, taxi drivers, construction workers, menial workers were as much in evidence as the white-collar crowd. All the races were represented as well. Apparently, IQ did not discriminate.

After the evening, I turned down the offer to join the group.

Why, you ask?

To my mind, genius is not and should not be a static condition. Genius – to my mind – implies an active production of something worthwhile.

Everyone I met at Mensa were extremely proud of their IQ (even if only the bare minimum of 135) and thought they were now somehow “better” than other people.

What accomplishments could these people boast? Nothing other than living day to day, supporting themselves and their families, and so forth. I am sure that they few extra IQ points in their favor assisted them in their daily lives but there were many more in society doing as well – if not better – with far fewer tools in their toolshed.

And it has never been the tools you have but what you can do with them.

That is what should define genius, rather than the result of a single test.

Our Onerous “Rights”

February 15, 2012

Americans are guaranteed certain rights that have evolved into civic “duties” and eventually into drudgery that we’d love to avoid.

One is the right to vote. To freely choose our representatives and have a voice in that government of, by, and for the people. Too many people reject the franchise and do not vote or only vote in the national election. One person I knew voted for Clinton in ’92 because his daughter had the same name as her daughter. Perhaps not the best reason to vote for a candidate, but at least she did vote!

The other is the right to a free education. Of course, they draw the line at the college level, which is anything but free. Unfortunately, there are many students who just can’t wait for it to end. And with the present focus of the educational system, it is understandable.

It is more important for the kids to be able to pass the tests rather than actually learn anything. For some reason, the educators actually believe kids learn this way.

Many people have tried – or heard of people who did this – cramming for an exam. You can cram a lot of data into your short term memory, information that will stay there long enough for you to be able to pass the test. The problem is that the information does not stay for long. In other words, there has been no educating!

Modern schools, so intent on ensuring that the students pass the damned “Standards of Learning” tests actually ensure that the students do not actually learn anything. The system currently in place actually produces the opposite of what it is supposed to achieve.

This may not be visible in the “better schools” located in districts of higher economic profiles but in the economically challenged areas the drop out rates are on the rise. Not only are the children failing the schools, the schools are failing the students.

Of course, that would appear to be the goal of Bush’s famous “No Child Left Behind” legislation – whose real intent seems to have been creating more troops… funny, they should have called it “No Cannon Fodder Left Behind”. But it does not result in better education for anyone.

Looking at a normal learning experience – just a random sample of life – you can be told not to touch a hot stove, you can even read about it or see it on television, but until you actually touch the hot stove, you will not really understand why you should not do this.

Of course, you may have already touched something else that was very hot and already know not to touch the stove, but again this was from experience rather than any “book learning”. It is this experiential aspect that is the only way we can learn anything.

To repeat: experience is the only way we humans learn. As we get older, we are able to read things and apply it to various aspects of reality but only because we have already experienced similar things and have learned – again, through experience – that such things can be applicable in other situations.

Until you feel the hot stove, you cannot really know what it’s about. Until you break a bone, you cannot know what it’s like. Until a loved one dies, you cannot understand the depth of that loss.

To try and “teach” children by removing all experiential parts of their education is a complete waste of time. Sure, you will have them pass the tests, you will get that Federal funding your school district is drooling to acquire… but what is the point of the education system if people are not getting an education?

But is there anyway to teach us to be a better electorate?

Nothing’s worked yet!

Our ‘Betters’

June 28, 2010

I have read a lot of science fiction stories about some looming catastrophe for mankind. The response: Save all our brilliant thinkers!

Of course, the stories are usually written by people with a scientific bent. They naturally assume the scientifically inclined people would be the ones to save so that our version of “society” could be continued unfettered. Unfortunately, it is quite often the scientists who brought on the catastrophe… So why save them? Just because they are “more intelligent” and therefore somehow “better” than the rest of us?

I have been to Mensa meetings and I shudder at the idea of those knuckleheads running the show. So-called “superior” intelligence does not make a person smarter. The tests for “intelligence” are usually weighted toward mathematical thinking. Why is mathematics seen as the yardstick of intelligence? Probably because some mathematician told us so!

Throughout the course of history, it is the artists and philosophers who have molded civilization, not the mathematical. The “progress” they tout drives us deeper and deeper into slavery to technology… but more on this another time.

Rarely have I ever heard that group speak of itself as “better” than the rest of us. They are generally too introspective to want to run the show.

But there is another group, thinking itself “better” who usually does run the show: the wealthy. They, because of their abilities to amass huge fortunes, think they are now somehow “better” than the rest of us. And therefore, they rationalize, they “know better” than the teeming masses, and should therefore guide the moronic populace into a brighter future.

They suffer from the same errors as the scientists, but use a different yardstick. The scientists assume mathematic brilliance puts them above us and the wealthy use the yardstick of cold, hard cash.

To my mind, neither yardstick means much of anything in the real world. If the civilization collapsed today, all the slide-rules and dollar-signs in the world would mean exactly squat! Would any of those groups know how to build a shelter, fend for themselves against the elements, and brave an untamed world?

I think not. In fact, I would bet on the chances of survival of the illegals pouring across our borders rather than the wealthy or intelligent. They at least understand the harsh realities of the world. And they are not afraid of a little hard demanding physical work, unlike most of the wealthy class or the intelligensia.

I am not saying the intelligent should be excluded from rule any more than excluding the wealthy. But I think rule by either group exclusively will not do us a lot of good, evidenced by what is going wrong with America today. A more diverse voice in leadership would lead to a more dynamic approach to solving problems and advancing the civilization as a whole.

And diversity IS “better” than social or mechanical monoculturing. Remember the saying about putting all your eggs in one basket?

Real Genius

January 1, 2010

I am a genius.

Seriously. High IQ (200+) and all that.

And all I can say is “So what?” With my high IQ and a buck I can get a cup of coffee almost anywhere. (Or $2.50 if I want a latte.)

So what does all this talk about a high IQ really mean? Precisely: nothing.

The Intelligence Quotient tests are geared toward the mathematical – no fooling – and they somehow think that’s where genius lies. Unfortunately, that is a big lie.

Everyone is a genius at something.


We are all here for some reason, and the reasons are as different as the individual. It takes many different components to make a machine or a society function, and there need be many different parts and people to fit the needs.

Unfortunately, this present society honors some talents more than others, and the commensurate pay scales make it obvious. Some very necessary talents go unrewarded in our society – or poorly rewarded – and does not reflect reality. Or rather it reflects our current perception of reality, which is a far cry from where we should be. At least, in my opinion.

My wife is a “Gifted and Talented Specialist” for the local school system and understands first-hand the bias toward math and science and the total disregard for those who show uncommon genius in other areas. These latter children are shunted aside and made to feel inferior because they were not born with the natural mathematic skills. And that’s wrong.

Rather than assist only those so gifted, why doesn’t the educational system help expand on the natural gifts of ALL their students? Probably because our society is geared toward the technological, rather than the meaningful.

When I was in college, a job in the campus mail-room helped pay some of my bills. A friend tried working there but it was too taxing. He confided that his IQ was 85 and he was struggling. Soon, he had to leave school because he could not keep a job.

A year later, he returned to school. Dressed immaculately, driving a new red sports car, he paid cash for his courses and did not have to get a job. Why? Because while at home he came up with an idea and was able to find someone to market it. Less than a year later, he was a millionaire while us “more intelligent” students slugged it out in the mail room.

That’s what real genius can do for you. And it has absolutely NOTHING to do with IQ.

A large percentage of the people who drop out of school are those with very high IQ, and they drop out because they are unchallenged. Other people, with lower IQ but as gifted in other areas also drop out. Why do the schools only seem to cater to the middle of the road students?

It would take a real genius to make the education system advantageous to everyone.