Rational Religion

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WIITMITT :Whatever It Is That's Measured In Those Tests.  


Intelligence is a concept; an abstraction defined according to the value system of the definer.  


For years I have maintained that IQ tests should be called SQ tests.  What they chiefly measure is processing speed; how fast the testee makes the connections.   Of course it helps if the subject has a superior memory, but that's storage capacity and possibly an entirely different thing, bio-chemically, just as it is cybernetically.  (Witness the phenomenon of the "Idiot Savant" who may have an encyclopedic memory, or an aptitude for manipulating certain arcana, but lacks the integrative powers to do much with it but amaze us, occasionally.)


The trouble with having a high IQ is the tendency to try to get by on the speed, alone.  There is certainly no proven correlation between IQ and character, and most people, smart and dumb, tend to take the path of least resistance. 


As a youthful sports editor I came into contact with literally hundreds of young sports heroes.  These people all had "natural athletic ability" in their chromosomes, and they whizzed past their less gifted teammates into the headlines of the local newspapers and radio reports.  (TV was not yet a factor.)


Most of them; way over 95 percent; pooped out by their middle 20's. 


If you are a "natural" jock, that's all you need in high school.  When the competition gets stiff enough that you have to WORK at being good, you are suddenly doubly handicapped.   You are spoiled by your ability to "just do it," so you don't really have a concept of how to apply yourself; and you easily become impatient with your inability to conquer the next level without blood, sweat and real tears.  


It's easier to "settle" than to do the required work.   That is,  "If it's this damned hard to do, I'm probably not as good as I thought I was."


Even the ones who managed the discipline to compete on the college level most often gave up the "dream" sometime before graduation and settled for commerce or teaching.    Putting aside the fact that that was probably a healthy thing, and desirable from the viewpoint of the society, the truth is a lot of them would have been good enough to play professionally.  If...


If their "natural abilities" had not made superficial athletes of them; lifelong amateurs, content to do it for "fun."


A fast brain with a facile memory does the same thing to most "bright" human beings.    It's so easy to "get by" (I didn't read a single history text in college, on my way to a B-average  History  BA.   I got it all from the lecture notes, and not even my own notes.... I slept through classes) that it becomes real drudgery to have to learn anything at all difficult.   Remembering stuff that one is interested in, just automatically (at 14,  I could have told you the nationality, name and probably the manufacturer of any warplane flying in World War II, from one quick look at a silhouette), doesn't equip the mind for storing the vocabulary and grammar of a foreign language; even if one is vitally interested in learning to communicate in that language.  (As a Senior Citizen I am still depressingly monolingual.)


Entering the thorny woods of Scholastic Aptitude Tests, these are correctly named, but they don't measure anything as slippery as intelligence.    They fairly successfully predict how a given young person will do as a student in grades 13 through 16 by the standard American educational system.   


That's about it.   No notion or predictions about success in life or even the ability to earn a living...beyond the given that anybody who perseveres to a baccalaureate degree will in the process develop certain skills which should enable her to compete successfully in other fields.  Plus the fact that anything which broadens your intellect gives you more possible handholds on a rapidly turning world. 


My point is that "intelligence" is what a consensus of "intelligent" people define it to be.   They are evaluating themselves, and trying to understand what it is about them that makes them different from (They're thinking "superior to," but they're probably too diffident to say it out loud.) everybody else.  It's a pretty circular exercise.


And the first big leap of faith is in assuming that "intelligence" exists.


Let's try a thought experiment. 


Let's say that human beings were assumed to possess varying quantities of an element called "soul."   Soul is defined, for the sake of argument, as (1) a capacity for empathy, (2) an affinity for things spiritual and aesthetic, and (3) a willingness to inconvenience oneself for the benefit of others.  Never mind that these are three very different personality traits.  We are going to integrate them and call them "soul."


Now, let us further postulate that "soul" is so valued by the society that we devise a system of objective tests to determine each individual's "Soul Quotient."   These tests, though everybody agrees they should not be a final determiner of anything, still contribute heavily to a given young person's ability to qualify for higher education, job training and - in later life - personal advancement.


We give these tests in a "controlled" setting:  i.e., a laboratory of some sort.   Some of them, regarded by the profession administering them as "more valid," involve presenting the testee with a series of choices in real time and in as "real" a situation as possible.  But, it's still a laboratory.    The bulk of the examinations, moreover, limited by the magnitude of the task, are simple multiple-choice, machine-graded evaluations of the subject's time-constrained response to a series of hypothetical situations. 


I'm sure you're ahead of me.   The fact that "soul" doesn't exist doesn't affect our ability to measure it. 


There may turn out to be a statistical correlation between being defined as "having a lot of soul" and turning out to be an effectively nice person.   But a given individual's behavior towards his fellow-creatures, at a given moment in a given setting, will have less to do with his mythical "soul" than the circumstances, aspirations and even the hormones involved.  And all those things are way beyond the parameters of any "standardized" test. 


I advance the proposition that "intelligence" is at least as ephemeral.