March 1993 Letter
Dear Ms. Baldwin,
In the February '93 issue, you published a short piece by Travis Hardin "On Intelligence". Mr. Hardin alluded to comments on IQ that he regarded as "a retreat to the 1921 level of discussion."
I don't know what comments he was referring to, but I believe he has not given proper emphasis to creativity in intelligence. All members of Mensa, all M-Anation readers will be familiar with IQ tests. Certainly IQ tests measure reasoning ability ...and they also measure learned material.
How many times, how many ways must it be pointed out -- our knowledge in most situations is either incomplete or faulty (or both). For intelligent action to be taken, we must draw conclusions from this data and creatively make assumptions that bridge the known facts and correct the apparent conflicts.
Creativity and some aspects of intuition can be best understood as the way we complete incomplete data. Let me give a few examples.
If you overhear a fragment of a conversation, isn't it a measure of intelligence how much meaning you can draw from that fragment?
What intelligent action do you take on the stock market? Can even devotees say for sure what will go up and what will go down? No, but many times we must invest in the face of uncertainty.
Should you allow your child to go on a requested outing? Is the driver safe? Will there be an accident nonetheless? Are the people nice and good influences?
In fact, many times you must choose an action that has both good and bad possibilities within it. There is often not a perfect intelligent choice available -- unless you remove the complexity of real life from the discussions of intelligence.
Robert Hamill, CDP
Last month I ranted about intelligence being simply the ability to reason as opposed to a constellation of traits. I included some scholastic corroboration. I observed that the ability to reason, as discovered by testing, is the one thing Mensans hold in common. The significance of reason is that it and empiricism are the methods of sciencethe means by which we approach reality.
The thing we hold in common is not visible on our faces, so we must affirm every so often the simple but astounding fact that each Mensan's reasoning ability is, or was once certified to be, as much greater than the average person's as the average person's is greater than the idiot's (a now disapproved term for the lower two percent). Your reasoning ability approaches the best of which humanity is capable. People with less reasoning ability produce only more faulty reasoning. You and I are the rational and intellectual high priests of our country. Like queen bees, we should be attended by swarms, kings and presidents among them, seeking the light of our intellects which shines so brightly.
So say theory and idealism. Why is reality so different? Why aren't we all like Mr. Data or Mr. Spock, with reason so sharp we can cut through any confusion, natural or human? Why are rational people often irrational?
The answer is that real human beings have the quality that Gene Roddenberry and subsequent writers intentionally removed from Spock and Data: Emotion.
Reason has two antipodes: emotion and mysticism. First, emotion.
To try to explain why certified rational people are often irrational, I'd like to offer two musings. The first idea I propose is that some Mensans may not be bound to a simple emotion-reason model. Whereas I am simplea quivering mass of emotion sometimes counterbalanced by a neat bundle of reasonI can imagine what could be an artistic genius' more complex world view. To that person a high IQ may simply mean he can solve recreational puzzles well. His real life is rooted in dozens of creative activities music, art, literature, invention, writing, exploring every possibility. He may see mystical and alternate world views as expanding his view. He may be so manic to expand his view that drugs may not be ruled out as a source of truth. Back in the 70's one Carlos Casteneda munched peyote and wrote a book about his new reality. Such a person transcends reason. He or she can be stimulating, exciting, and creative without being rational. I draw stimulation from such people, but I distrust any declamation of important truths from them.
The second and major way to relate reason and emotion is to see them as contrary, with emotion having the far heavier weight. My experience holds this to be true: When I'm angry or threatened, feelings overwhelm and I can't think logically. When I'm sorrowful or depressed, thinking is a burden. When I'm in love, thinking is not important.
We are overwhelmed by emotion as immediate feelings and as recordings from the past, particularly from childhood. Recordings from the past may be triggered by contemporary events, but the feelings thus generated result from thoughts of dangers past. Such recordings often appear unconsciously, so that we find ourselves angry after minor provocation. I recently discovered just such a recording in myself from age four, forty-plus years hidden.
Learning that the past is constantly intruding into the present to make us feel as helpless children, as objects of adolescent abuse, or perhaps as soldiers tortured by war helps explain how the intensity of our feelings, like powerful ocean waves over sand castles, can and does overwhelm our ability to reason. In simple terms, many people are walking armed bombs and have no idea that they are.
I don't think I step beyond tradition when I assert that psychology's defense mechanisms, practiced more or less by us all, are denials of reason. Reason threatens our carefully nurtured lies that are the foundation of our self-esteem. Some people struggle less against reason than others. I hear that some people can accept reality and are said to be well-adjusted. But even in intellectual discourse, emotion submerges thinking. Arguments full of logical fallacies cannot all be from careless application of reason. The fallacies are more meaningful: They are manifestations of the defense mechanism one uses to achieve psychological comfort at the expense of reason. Intellect does not seem to imply freedom from the bonds of emotion. (Continued next month)