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Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Intelligence

Recently, my interest was caught after noticing the FT article: "Why are we clever? DNA has nothing to do with it". Apparently, science does not know a lot about intelligence. This is hardly surprising as "the brain is the most complex structure in the universe" (eg, BBC, NPR, NYT).

Independent (2014): "Our brain is more mysterious than the least explored regions of the deepest ocean." The following quote will put the previous one in perspective. Scientific American (2014): "Less than 0.05% of the ocean floor has been mapped to a level of detail useful for detecting items such as airplane wreckage or the spires of undersea volcanic vents".

Hence, it's rather difficult to answer any of the questions related to intelligence: What, When, Where, Who, Why and How. The problem starts at #1: What is intelligence?? The Who question used to be simple (ie, humans only) but intelligence is attributed to more and more animals. The latest addition are ravens who can plan for the future (eg, AtlanticCBC, Nat Geo).

Forbes (2016): "The whole field [of intelligence research] suffers from foundational weaknesses: we cannot really define intelligence, and cannot separate it from culture. Psychologists do indeed have definitions of intelligence but (surprise!) these definitions tend to emphasize skills at which psychologists excel: verbal fluency and manipulation of abstract symbols, for example."

Sometimes, researchers again claim to have found the gene for intelligence but there is always a catch attached to this claim. Telegraph (2015): "Imperial College London has found that two networks of genes determine whether people are intelligent or not so bright." Here is the catch: "Scientists believe that there must be a ‘master switch’ regulating the networks and if they could find it, they could ‘switch on’ intelligence for everyone."

The Nature versus Nurture scientific debate wants us to believe that intelligence is either linked to biology (eg, genes, DNA) or to cultural aspects like (religious) education, parental upbringing, and social environment (eg, friends, social class). The field of astrological psychology attributes intelligence to the 3 indicators in your horoscope: Saturn, Mercury and Jupiter (source).

The TV documentary The Mind of the Universe argues that human intelligence is more and more connecting, collaborating, and might once become a universal network of collective intelligence. In my blog on The human Truman Show, I have argued for the opposite: the human mind might be a mere “cell” in an existing Mind of the Universe. The "master switch" is handled by an unknown scientific phenomenon, which Religion refers to as a deity or Supreme Being.

Intelligence is like a combination of fertile ground, the right seed for the right soil, the right time for sowing the seed (astronomical calendar), and nurturing the land (eg, farmer skills, water). The "master switch" might be called (random) Chance, (divine) Destiny, or a mix of both.

Sowing the Seeds of Love (1989) by Tears For Fears