Variations of intelligence

Discussions of intelligence are quite common around these parts.  Such discussions almost always revolve around intelligence in a strict sense, usually pertaining to IQ or other related measures of fluid intelligence.  However, there are other domains of human thought that have been neglected.

One such area, which has received some coverage, is morality.  Generally morality is not considered under the purview of intelligence, but what else is morality but a processing of information regarding an action that yields a Boolean result – moral (true) vs immoral (false).  Jonathan Haidt’s work concerning Moral Naturalism has been covered variously throughout this site.  Considering his work alongside the common understanding that criminals are generally more likely to have much lower intelligence than the population at large and that sociopaths are almost always borderline mentally retarded, it doesn’t take a great leap of logic to come to the conclusion that there exists a spectrum of moral understanding that correlates with one’s general intelligence.  In other words, one’s ability to make moral judgments in accordance with evolutionarily advantageous and selected moral paradigms have a higher degree of what could be construed as moral intellect.

Another important and related concept, of which I almost never hear discussion, is the idea of gullibility.  Common sense would tell us that gullibility should be inversely related to other measures of intelligence, yet it appears that the exact opposite is true.  Long time skeptic and general debunker of bullshit, James Randi, has throughout his career remarked on the strange phenomenon he has observed regarding gullibility and the public.  Specifically he has argued that the easiest people in the world to fool are those who believe that they are incapable of being fooled, PhD’s being especially susceptible to con artistry and other forms of trickery.

The obvious parallel to the oft mentioned Dunning-Kruger effect has most likely not evaded you, dear reader.  This actually shouldn’t surprise anybody.  After all, those who are the most susceptible to gullibility should be expected to have the poorest understanding of it and therefore be the least capable of making judgments of it both in regard to themselves and others.

Furthering this theme is the idea arrived at by, among others, professional skeptic Michael Shermer in his book Why People Believe Weird Things that intelligent people are actually better able, due specifically to their higher intelligence, to rationalize beliefs they had previously arrived at for unfounded reasons.

Time after time, studies indicate that general intelligence (usually measured by IQ) and educational attainment have a correlation to liberal politics.  Yet, it has also been demonstrated that the people likely to be the least gullible and most moral are religious conservatives (and I mention this as a full fledged atheist).  Charles Murray has recently discussed how the fall of the United States is directly connected to the liberalization and secularization of the culture.

As the United States moves closer to the suicidal and self-destructive model of the European welfare state, we can begin to view this path for what it obviously is… a form of stupidity.  To paraphrase James Watson, stupidity is a genetic disease and as such should be cured.  A society unable to recognize the full scope of stupidity and its impact on the world will be killed by it as it grows within like a cancer.

As has been pointed out by Mr. Stevens in his article on biological determinism, intelligence in any form, while slightly malleable, is ultimately an innate characteristic of an individual.  Thus, as many have already long since concluded, a sane program of the promotion of society’s genetic health is our only option.  However in light of what I have been discussing, I would argue that intelligence as it is usually understood is too limited a characteristic.  For example, one possible cut off point that has been thrown around for rather solid reasons is an IQ of 120.

Many would argue that such a cut off point is too much to expect from a eugenics program.  I would argue that it is not nearly enough.  Not only must individuals in a healthy society possess such an IQ level, but also analogously high levels of moral intelligence and resistance to gullibility.  This leaves us with a question I have pondered a great deal.  How exactly can one measure the moral character and gullibility of an individual in a manner identical or at least as useful as we have for measuring a person’s IQ?  Answering this question is of far greater importance than I think many are willing to admit or possibly even understand.

19 Comments

  1. The Crow says:

    “How exactly can one measure the moral character and gullibility of an individual in a manner identical or at least as useful as we have for measuring a person’s IQ?”

    Measuring such things would not be necessary if:
    a: It were made mandatory to subscribe to some notion of the Divine, (not necessarily Christianity) thus encouraging the cultivation of reverence. Atheism would be actively discouraged, as being generally destructive to society.
    And:
    b: News media were strictly overseen in regards to unbiased reporting, and devoid of any form of advertising.

    Really, eugenics seems a desperate attempt to rectify the result of poor societal values, rather than something that would provide stable societal values in the first place.

    1. Joshua L. Roberts says:

      Such a plan might very well work, or even be essential to a functioning society (there is certainly a wealth of historical evidence to suggest so). However, I’ve always been skeptical of the notion that we can truly force people to do the right thing and expect it to work out well.

      1. AnHero says:

        “However, I’ve always been skeptical of the notion that we can truly force people to do the right thing and expect it to work out well.”

        So am i – that’s why you kick out the people who are notably inclined against meeting certain moral standards.

  2. Dan says:

    Considering his work alongside the common understanding that criminals are generally more likely to have much lower intelligence than the population at large and that sociopaths are almost always borderline mentally retarded, it doesn’t take a great leap of logic to come to the conclusion that there exists a spectrum of moral understanding that correlates with one’s general intelligence

    This simply is not true. I would ask you to defend it without making “leaps”, but I know you won’t… because you can’t. Silence is always the best tact when asked to defend the indefensible.

    Thus, as many have already long since concluded, a sane program of the promotion of society’s genetic health is our only option.

    This is not true either, furthermore, it’s scary.

    Here’s another question you won’t answer: why? Why does it matter? What will be the purpose of this superman society you envision? What will they set about to do with their near perfection having conquered those not intelligent enough to bow down to to the gullible aristocratic intelligentsia?

    How exactly can one measure the moral character and gullibility of an individual in a manner identical or at least as useful as we have for measuring a person’s IQ?

    You’re trying to put a square peg into a round hole. You might as well wonder how you can make a more moral car.

    1. Levy_Spearmen says:

      “criminals are generally more likely to have much lower intelligence than the population at large and that sociopaths are almost always borderline mentally retarded”

      The least we could do to support some eugenic program would be to kill the above quoted. I think we can all agree on that.

    2. Joshua L. Roberts says:

      “This simply is not true. I would ask you to defend it without making “leaps”, but I know you won’t… because you can’t. Silence is always the best tact when asked to defend the indefensible.”

      What part exactly do you find to be erroneous? There are three points: 1) criminals are generally less intelligent 2) sociopaths are generally borderline retarded 3) the leap to the idea that there exists a form of moral intelligence.

      I hope you aren’t objecting to the second point, because if you are then there’s simply no need for further discussion. Assuming you aren’t, comparing rates of crime among populations to the intelligence of those populations indicates that lower intelligence populations have higher rates of crime. To give just one specific statistic, Asian Americans commit crimes at one quarter the rate of White Americans, while African Americans and Latinos commit crimes in the range of 5 – 10 times that of White Americans.

      As for the leap, you’re going to have to be more specific for me to answer that.

      “This is not true either, furthermore, it’s scary.

      Here’s another question you won’t answer: why? Why does it matter? What will be the purpose of this superman society you envision? What will they set about to do with their near perfection having conquered those not intelligent enough to bow down to to the gullible aristocratic intelligentsia?”

      Whether or not it’s ‘scary’ is irrelevant, quite frankly. I don’t think it should be necessary for me to innumerate all of the reasons why I would think a more intelligent society would be better than a less intelligent society. If you really aren’t sure, stop and think about it from my perspective for a minute.

      “You’re trying to put a square peg into a round hole. You might as well wonder how you can make a more moral car.”

      This may be the case, but you haven’t convinced me.

      1. Dan says:

        I don’t think it should be necessary for me to innumerate all of the reasons why I would think a more intelligent society would be better than a less intelligent society.

        Well if your posts don’t amount to anything more than the poor soul who gets some kind of inner satisfaction from imagining what he would do if he won the lottery, I suppose you would be correct. But if you think these things because you won’t to impose them on a society, then, one would think, you would have to give a compelling reason, a vision if you will, as to what this brave new world will accomplish, and why anyone should set about to bringing it to past; and why those who don’t meet your arbitrary criteria should be offed, or be willing to be offed by your imagined regime.

        1. Joshua L. Roberts says:

          I meant that I thought they should have been obvious, and it would therefore be redundant and tedious for me to spell them all out.

      2. Dan says:

        What part exactly do you find to be erroneous? There are three points: 1) criminals are generally less intelligent 2) sociopaths are generally borderline retarded 3) the leap to the idea that there exists a form of moral intelligence

        I think you are mistaking correlation with causation.

        1. Criminals are generally less intelligent
        Might it be also said that people are less intelligent? What is the percentage of intelligent vs unintelligent people in jail and does that reflect the umber of intelligent vs. unintelligent people not in jail? There are simply too many factors involved to simply conclude that stupid equals immoral.

        2. Sociopaths are generally borderline retarded.
        Webster’s Dictionary defines sociopathic: “of, relating to, or characterized by asocial or antisocial behavior or exhibiting antisocial personality disorder” I’m not sure how you make the connection between this behavior, intelligence, and morality.

        Your first two steps fall short, beyond some sort of leap, that there is a connection between morality and intelligence.

        1. Joshua L. Roberts says:

          “1. Criminals are generally less intelligent
          Might it be also said that people are less intelligent?”
          Considering intelligence is almost always measured relative to the population at large, this question makes no sense.

          “There are simply too many factors involved to simply conclude that stupid equals immoral.”
          That isn’t what I said. I said less intelligent people have a higher probability of being immoral and that more intelligent people have a lower probability. I also stated that morality could be viewed as a form (or subset) of (general) intelligence.

          “2. Sociopaths are generally borderline retarded.
          Webster’s Dictionary defines sociopathic: “of, relating to, or characterized by asocial or antisocial behavior or exhibiting antisocial personality disorder” I’m not sure how you make the connection between this behavior, intelligence, and morality.”
          Thank you. As I stated before, if you object to this point it renders this discussion useless. Doing so reveals your profound level of ignorance.

          If you’re going to define a personality disorder like sociopathy, the source to use is the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition). The DSM-IV diagnoses sociopathy (which they refer to as Antisocial Personality Disorder) as follows:

          A) There is a pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others occurring for as long as either childhood, or in the case of many who are influenced by environmental factors, around age 15, as indicated by three or more of the following:

          1. failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest;
          2. deceitfulness, as indicated by repeatedly lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure;
          3. impulsivity or failure to plan ahead;
          4. irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults;
          5. reckless disregard for safety of self or others;
          6. consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations;
          7. lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another;

          B) The individual is at least 18 years of age.
          C) There is evidence of conduct disorder with onset before age 15 years.
          D) The occurrence of antisocial behavior is not exclusively during the course of schizophrenia or a manic episode.

          Regardless, the definition of sociopathy has nothing to do with that fact that most people who are diagnosed with this disorder are borderline mentally retarded. Just ask any psychiatrist. I was actually under the impression that this is common knowledge.

          1. Dan says:

            “I was actually under the impression that this is common knowledge.”

            It may well be but perhaps I’m lacking. But it looks to me that the definition you presented is much like the more brief definition presented by Websters. And it also corresponds to the concept I held of the disorder with the exception of 4 and 5, even though I’ve never seen the DSM-IV’s expanded definition. If we were to look at Barrack Obama through this lens he might, from my admittedly ignorant perspective, be plagued with this disorder as well, at least to a degree. That said, I won’t object to your point that most people who are diagnosed with this disorder are borderline mentally retarded.

            I still reject the notion that “less intelligent people have a higher probability of being immoral and that more intelligent people have a lower probability.

            Going back to an earlier statement by you:

            comparing rates of crime among populations to the intelligence of those populations indicates that lower intelligence populations have higher rates of crime. To give just one specific statistic, Asian Americans commit crimes at one quarter the rate of White Americans, while African Americans and Latinos commit crimes in the range of 5 – 10 times that of White Americans.

            While this might be used to make the case that differing populations have differing levels of intelligence, it is a leap to use this data to conclude that they have differing levels of morality. I base this on 2 reasons:

            1. Since these statistics are able to provide the nationality of the criminals I assume they were caught and convicted of their crimes. This may only prove that intelligent people are more adept at outwitting police, navigating the judicial system to their advantage, and better able to afford a superior defense.

            2. The leap involves morality itself however for it must be defined, and this is where I see you faced with the impossible task as an atheist and so therefore resorting to leaps. It is not a crime to cheat on your wife, lie to a friend, or even to vote for a political candidate because he has promised to raid the national treasury on your behalf. Since all of these are legal do they qualify as moral? There are many other counterexamples along the order of history with murderous political regimes that require a fair amount of intellectual muscle working on their behalf. Unless I’m missing something, which is possible I suppose, I don’t see how you can make the case therefore that “less intelligent people have a higher probability of being immoral and… more intelligent people have a lower probability”.

    3. AnHero says:

      “This is scary, therefore, it is not true”

      fixed.

      “Here’s another question you won’t answer: why? Why does it matter? What will be the purpose of this superman society you envision? What will they set about to do with their near perfection having conquered those not intelligent enough to bow down to to the gullible aristocratic intelligentsia?”

      1. If you think about this long enough, you’ll find it’s not really a choice. It is inevitable. It’s not about creating a super-human society, it’s about having a society. Societies unwilling to take the actions necessary to survive will die and in the future, the only ones still around will be the ones who were willing to do what is necessary.

      2. And when you ask what is so great about these hypothetical super-humans – what will they do that is so important? What are the shoppers at WalMart doing that is so important? What are the people in the slums robbing and raping each other doing that is so important? How many rivals had to be crushed to bring about humanity?

      The same number that will have to be crushed to bring about post-humanity. Or we could just let it all end here. But that’s not a choice that you are I are any individual will make. It is inevitable.

      And you call yourself a genius…

      1. Dan says:

        “This is scary, therefore, it is not true”

        You put that in quotation marks as if it was what I said. It was not. This thinking is scary, yes, but that does not make it not true. It is not true because it is not true. That would be true even if it were not scary; which it is.

        1. If you think about this long enough, you’ll find it’s not really a choice.

        I would say the same to you. If you think about it long enough you will see the thinking espoused in this article as flawed. One of the problems has already been pointed out by a friend to this blog, I assume, John P, who has already pointed out one of the problems. He asks who is going to take out the trash and cut your grass, in so many words. Not everyone, you know, can sit around sipping port and fantasizing. Someone has to actually go out and pick the grapes.

        Your response to John P, it is worth noting as well, was not thoughtful. If it is an old argument then one would think that a thinking person would by now have a reasonable answer rather than simply pointing out that it is an old argument. If you think about it long enough, I think you will see what I mean.

        It’s not about creating a super-human society, it’s about having a society.

        We have a society right now, albeit a bad one, so this statement makes no sense.

        Societies unwilling to take the actions necessary to survive will die and in the future, the only ones still around will be the ones who were willing to do what is necessary.

        Why is this important? You are making an is/ought leap here. I’m asking you and J. Roberts to answer this question. In time the sun will burn out, then what does it all mean? Why would making a sacrifice yourself today, or better yet, making others sacrifice today in order that we don’t all die in the future matter?

        2. And when you ask what is so great about these hypothetical super-humans – what will they do that is so important?

        This is not true, I never asked that question.

        The same number that will have to be crushed to bring about post-humanity. Or we could just let it all end here. But that’s not a choice that you are I are any individual will make. It is inevitable.

        Again what does it matter if one or all the flesh that evolved with no purpose or direction, if all the skulls full of matter and electron flows, simply cease to exist?

        And you call yourself a genius…

        I’ve had my blog “The Bumbling Genius” for a little over four years. I’ve engaged countless people, many, if not most, of whom I’ve considered my superiors as it pertains to intelligence, in discussions like this. You, sir, are the first to reference the name of my blog. I’m actually a little surprised that it took this long. If you are implying that I’m no genius, then we can at least say that we are in agreement on something.

    4. AnHero says:

      “You’re trying to put a square peg into a round hole. You might as well wonder how you can make a more moral car.”

      Intelligence is, in part, the ability to appreciate unnatural behaviors (See The Scientific Fundamentalist). Many behaviors considered moral are unnatural, that’s why we need social institutions to instill them. More intelligent people are more likely to live up to those standards because they are able to appreciate the abstract values surrounding them.

      So a more intelligent person is more capable of being moral. And a better functioning car is less likely to swerve off the road and kill someone. So you can make a more moral car by having in better operating condition (related to a more intelligent person).

      1. Dan says:

        You make assumptions in your assertions that are illogical. You need to first explain why the act of one product of evolution killing another product of evolution is immoral.

        1. AnHero says:

          “You make assumptions in your assertions that are illogical.”

          Where?

          “You need to first explain why the act of one product of evolution killing another product of evolution is immoral.”

          I thought that’s what I was asking you to do. I didn’t say anything was inherently immoral. Moral codes are the result of the need for a functioning society.

          Societies with healthy moral codes survive just how specimens with healthy bodies survive.

          Societies that are willing to do what they must to stay healthy survive, specimens that are willing to do what they must to stay healthy survive.

          Societies with better functioning moral codes are better able to do this.

          More intelligent people are better able to determine what those moral codes would be.

          Societies of more intelligent…

          Are you catching on or am I writing this for nothing?

          ————————————

          “Why is this important? You are making an is/ought leap here. I’m asking you and J. Roberts to answer this question. In time the sun will burn out, then what does it all mean? Why would making a sacrifice yourself today, or better yet, making others sacrifice today in order that we don’t all die in the future matter?”

          Ah, the fatalism defense. I guess it means nothing – why are you arguing about it then? It doesn’t matter if we build a great society, it also doesn’t matter if we enslaved millions it also doesn’t matter if we free millions or starve millions or feed millions.

          If you really believed it didn’t matter, you wouldn’t bother arguing about it. So you do think it matters, you’re just using fatalism as a defense to shut other people up.

          “You put that in quotation marks as if it was what I said.”

          You are not familiar with the “fixed that for you” meme.

          “Your first two steps fall short, beyond some sort of leap, that there is a connection between morality and intelligence.”

          What do you think morality is?

  3. John P says:

    It would of course be beneficial to increase the number of people who understand and live the concept of holiness or sacredness to some degree. God may not exist in a physical or rational sense, but some religious values (when done right) have the potential to reform our world in a positive manner. We need a better way of getting spirituality (mythos) involved in our lives, while maintaining as rational and logical view of the world as possible (logos).

    The vast majority of people appear to be incapable of separating the two, which is why simple religious and political ideas have the capacity for so much change.

    But if everyone is our society were highly intelligent, it would be like the experimental island in Brave New World; it wouldn’t function. The world needs its slaves, its drones, its delta minuses. The important thing is to ensure that the Alphas (philosophers, scientists, rational thinkers, artists, and so forth) are deciding our civilization’s future, rather than the imbeciles or liars.

    I do of course absolutely believe that the amount of unintelligent people is far too high, and measures can and should be taken to reduce their numbers. Cultural degeneration plays a vital role as well however, and its termination could allow those who might have been made slaves to the stupidity of our age to reach their potential as thinkers.

    1. AnHero says:

      “But if everyone is our society were highly intelligent, it would be like the experimental island in Brave New World; it wouldn’t function. The world needs its slaves, its drones, its delta minuses.”

      I’ve heard this same argument time and again – I wonder if aeons ago, cavemen were making the same argument.

      “If we get any smarter, we won’t even be able to function!”

      But we did get smarter, and in fact, the definition of “function” has changed. So maybe we moderns can’t function by cavemen standards. And the ubermensch wouldn’t be able to function by ours. He would have a totally different and much more rich outlook on life. Which is why the idea is so interesting. Did we really need another subspecies of ape anymore? Do we really need another cousin of the primates now?

  4. John P says:

    Good point, I wasn’t intending to argue, just questioning possible consequences of a society in which everyone is hyper-intelligent by today’s standards.

    I would prefer a world in which our less competent would not ruin things for the more capable, and I feel that if they can better the lives of those more capable (those closer to our vision of the Übermensch), so much the better.

Leave a Reply

37 queries. 0.823 seconds