A Minor Reflection on Intelligence by Iman Messado‏

Earlier today I was watching Crash Course’s episode on the “Controversy of Intelligence”. The content of the video,however was not very instrumental to the construction of this article,;rather, the comments to the video were. In the video, Hank Green touched upon ‘eugenics’, the practice or the belief that one can improve the human race by encouraging smarter people to have children and discouraging not as smart people to have as many children (or possibly, discourage them from procreating at all). The comments were mixed, as they tend to be; some were praising Hank, others were condemning him and Crash Course and still others were expressing their personal stances on this ‘Controversy of Intelligence’.

There was one particular comment that irked me a little bit further than the others: “People are so afraid of eugenics and racism that they would rather ban any research that suggests general or heritable intelligence, or at least they would deny any evidence. Good ol’ moralistic fallacy. ” Thanks a lot there, fella. I really appreciate your usage of this online public forum to communicate your own beliefs and to challenge others’. That’s really the fibre of the internet – easy communication with others and making people question their thoughts and beliefs. Some might even be persuaded to believe that that is the foundation to the advancement of a society.

I’m not here to pick apart this Youtube user’s comment, I’m here to share the beliefs I hold in regards to intelligence. I want (read: want not ‘am going to’) to explore what it means, what it is, how it’s perceived, how it’s received, how it’s acquired, etc. This comment did more than challenge my own beliefs, this comment ignited an emotional response. I got angry at these words and then I analyzed why I felt angry. (side note: I feel that this is generally the best way to deal with anger. Don’t just get angry and then respond without knowing why you’re angry. Even if you think you know, try to figure out why your anger warrants an immediate and passionate response. If you’re angry, you most likely want things to change and nobody really feels compelled to listen to angry people.)

This isn’t an academic essay so I’m not going to go super in depth into intelligence, what it is and what it stands for. All I hope to do with this article is introduce ideas to you. To make you question your beliefs in a constructive way. I don’t want to offend people or to disrupt someone’s world views – I want them to feel compelled to look within themselves and decide whether or not they need to or even want to change. I want them to be aware of the problem so that they can take it upon themselves to fix it. I am not imposing my smart, I am encouraging other people’s.

“Smart” is definitely a controversy. What counts as smart? Who decides what or who is smart? What does smart matter? How do we measure smart? This controversy has taken form in many different ways – notably in education systems, scholastic aptitude tests and social commentary. We make people go to school so that we can have a smarter populace. In the effort to advance human society (this is to increase the quality of life for as many people as possible), we figure that the best way to do so is to get everyone sort of on the same page. We (by we, I mean general human civilization) aren’t necessarily trying to involve every single person in this effort, but we do want to make sure that as many as possible are involved. After all, if we want people to think and act in a different way, we have to inform them of that desire and explain what that different way is. In addition, we can’t simply order them to do what we want, we have to appeal to their self interest so that they can feel compelled to follow through with our system without our direct prompting. This isn’t new news, but it is news that people need to keep at the forefront (or at least near the forefront) of their minds.

So why do we make people go to school? Why are we interested in the SATs and IQ tests? Why do we care about smart and how much of it someone has? I’ve already sort of-kind of-lightly touched upon that – we want to progress our race. This being said, it’s important to analyze what we consider as progression and how much interest everyone has in this goal.

There’s a topic! Let’s talk about goals for a second. The general goal of mankind is to survive. I’d say that we haven’t yet surpassed this goal as too many people aren’t able to depend on a steady shelter or source of food and sanitation. This basic goal of survival is one that cannot easily be achieved because of many factors. A large one is that we are all different people who live in different places and have different interests. Providing somebody the resources with which to survive without expecting much in return is commonly known as charity/altruism. You give food and clothing and shelter to needy people because they’re human and you want them to live. Easy, right?

Not really. Because of personal beliefs, and political barriers and all of that complicated human stuff, survival and helping other people survive tends to be harder than expected. So what does that have to do with smart? Well, if people are too busy trying to survive, they’re really not going to be interested in the type of smart that people are condemning them for not having. To give an example for this, let’s turn to Ancient Egypt for a few sentences. Egyptians lived on the banks of the Nile and made tons of food and were able to survive relatively easily. They were a somewhat defined nation and thus they were able to delegate responsibilities and defend themselves pretty easily because they were aware of their allegiances. Because of this surplus of resources and this union of people, they were able to indulge into other occupations such as pottery making and writing and all of that fun stuff. They had time, money and food. They could afford to be smart.

So what do you do when people can’t afford to be smart? You either leave them alone or you help them survive. You don’t insult them for trying to get by. So yeah – even though it’s definitely easier to help others nowadays, it can still be tough because of all of the moral and financial and whatever other responsibilities that can conflict each other. Taking this into consideration, we have to understand that some people simply don’t have the time nor the opportunity to be our (by our, I mean more privileged people) kind of smart.

And they don’t have to be. The next goal is living. In my view, smart has 2 objectives: to increase the quality of life of Earth’s inhabitants and to uncover/interpret/learn about as much of the universe(s) as possible.

When concerning the quality of life, smart helps for sure. Smart helps to develop technology which gives people public sanitation systems and refrigerators. It just so happens that that kind of technology has already been developed and distributed. The kind of smart that involves most of the people on this green Earth is the kind that increases the quality of life. While that can always be worked on, it doesn’t warrant as much energy and attention as it once did. I think that I can reasonably say that most people are pretty OK with their lifestyles. Those that are somewhat benefited by modern technological advancements are comfortable with the level of involvement that smart has in their lives. If the general quality of life increases, they might like to participate in it, but they’re not aching for things to change. They’re the common man.

Recap? Smart is important, but not instrumental to the continued survival of the human race. Don’t condemn others for not being your kind of smart – they really, honestly don’t have to be. Advancement is cool and all, but that’s subjective, complicated and not exactly an imperative issue.

Or maybe just – be careful when writing YouTube comments.


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