Questioning intelligence (QI)

Does intelligence amount to an amount of something in our heads?

What manner of intelligence knows itself as an IQ score?

Are there features of intelligence that we haven’t thought about because we lack the intelligence?

What makes us think that intelligence is the driver of thought?

Does the intellect recognise itself by satisfying its own expectations?

Are the ‘intelligentsia’ best placed to know what intelligence is?

Is intelligence the antidote to stupidity?  Is it sensible to conclude that intelligence makes us sensible?

Does intelligence evolve by making gains – to become more than it was?

Does the idea of intelligence colour our minds with the notion that some colours are better than others?

Is high culture the guardian of high intelligence, or the optimum medium for its cultivation?

Is IQ the diamond standard of the mind – prized and shaped for its showiness, but artificially over-stated, over-valued and rarefied?

Is everything about IQ so good that anything leading to its reduction has to be bad?

Can species-differences in intelligence be understood in terms of quantifiable differences?

Will the cause of intelligence explain its effects?

What kind of intelligence needs to affirm itself with proof of its prowess?

Is a measure of intelligence the measure of our understanding?

Is reason the bastion of the intellect, enabling us to tell good from bad and discover the right thing to do by weighing the evidence?  Then does a higher intellect give us a higher morality?

Are we at liberty to make ourselves more or less intelligent?

Mike Laidler


“The IQ scores of young people have begun to fall … it’s a decline equivalent to at least 7 points per generation.

“Is it because people are on their laptops … need to write stuff down to be a bit cleverer?”

“Is it possible that the nature of intelligence is changing in the digital age and cannot be captured with traditional IQ tests?”

Links (Sky news)


The question of intelligence (QI)

We readily identify ourselves as the most intelligent species on the planet and scientists say that they know why – because they know how it happened.  Apparently, we know what intelligence is because we have reliable measurements.  Also, the evidence shows us that it comes in amounts – some people have more of it than others, and more is better.  Furthermore, it has an asset value calculated in terms of its economic benefits; and, as with the supply of money, we believe that the more we have of it, the more we can deploy it to make the world into a better place. To this end, our elite educational institutions specialise in selecting the best to turn out the best – to make the most of what they’ve got – to turn uncluttered and uncultivated minds into intellectual powerhouses.  However, beyond the limits of individual/ comparative and competitive intelligence there is the unquantifiable resourcefulness of social/ collective and collaborative intelligence.  For a start, it is believed that ‘two heads are better than one’ – for instance, some analysts don’t accept that a parochially educated William Shakespeare could have singularly created the works attributed to him.  Then again, our concept of ‘the intellect’ might be a construct of our selective biases, and our myths could remain unexposed because they generate their own facts and self-fulfilling prophecies – especially when we examine the concept through the lens of educational expectation, attainment and opportunity – especially when we presume to know what we are looking for before we begin.

Amidst all the controversies, the scientific evidence has weighed-in with its findings that ‘nurture’ can only partially compensate for ‘nature’ – so inheritance is the ultimate determinant of personal capacity.  Even so, an effective educational system is seen to open up a world of opportunity for the socially and intellectually ‘disadvantaged’.  At the same time, it is widely believed that natural ability can prevail against the odds – that the prodigious talents of a William Shakespeare or a Mozart are irrepressible.  Once again, the scientific evidence points to a physical explanation based on genetic causes – because the presence of genetic variants can be seen to correlate with differences in measured intelligence – the same measures we use to tell us what intelligence is.  Also, it is common knowledge that aptitudes can run in families.  Nevertheless, there is a niggling gap in the physical evidence – for although the genes may be regarded as explanatory units of evolution and inheritance, they are neither intelligent nor alive.  Life and intelligence don’t simply pass on from cause to effect.  And despite the fact that there is a genetic basis to perception, it doesn’t mean that the genes can perceive the world. Therefore, even though we continue to believe that life, perception and intelligence ‘have to come from somewhere’, it doesn’t mean that we have found the answer in the cause or explained it as an effect, or that this gap in explanation is merely a minor detail which a suitable cause will eventually explain for us.

Mike Laidler


Objective subjects

It shouldn’t surprise us to discover that we are good at being psychologists, seeing that we are our own subject matter.

But experts tell us that we need to be less subjective and more objective – to make objectivity the objective of subjectivity, so we can really surprise ourselves as we look upon ourselves as objects of the looking, thereby to get to know ourselves better.

However, there can be no objectivity without a subjective base to work from and return to with knowledge won – objectivity being a state of mind – whilst the fact of knowledge has no bearing in reality without a subjective reality to hold it in place, though we like to think it is otherwise, as if knowledge comes from the objects known.

Mike Laidler


Every word is a translation of a meaning, which we change by degrees when translating words into words, believing the words to be the source of meanings to be discovered. And so we find ourselves actively exploring what we have to say in the process of saying it.

Yet all the words ever stated and yet to be stated cannot encompass the meanings by which we bring them to life. And so we are able to debate interminably the meaning of what was said, sometimes admitting: ‘I think what I am saying is ….’.

Mike Laidler

Aristotle or bust?

Two astronauts visit a distant rock strewn planet and stumble upon a rock that is an exact three-dimensional effigy of the philosopher Aristotle. There is nothing else remotely like it and no evidence of prior habitation or visitation.

Is the astronaut who supposes it must have been created naturally, by chance, more realistic than the one who supposes the opposite? And if it could be created naturally, who would believe the mountaineer on earth, who happened to stumble across an equivalent example?

So how far does chance go towards the explanation of things natural, or vice versa? More particularly, how far does nature go in the explanation of things artificial, or vice versa?

Mike Laidler

Nature trails

Ideas of nature once pitched it as something apart, something different from us, but now we regard ourselves and our theories as having evolved as a part of that nature, so we can’t be that different in reality because there is only one nature – in which case our theory of evolution is really a theory of nature about itself, about a nature that now observes itself.

So what does this say about the differences we can see between a nature that thinks and one that doesn’t? Does it mean that one side of the difference, namely the nature that can’t see the difference, is more real than the side that can, or vice versa; or is this double-sided coin of nature created by a difference so startling that we can’t understand the one in terms of the other – as observers of something that is and is not something else?

Mike Laidler


The mind is unbounded. Thought travels further than the voyaging spacecraft. Our ideas see beyond the most powerful telescopes. The imagination takes us to places the body cannot follow. Perception illuminates the half-born light. Experience transforms the oblivious firmament. Knowledge transforms the unknown. Wisdom transcends the not-knowing.

No library is big enough to contain human wisdom, and it has always been so. But then we imagined limits to the imagination in the wake of technological advances once unforeseen; and we imagined that the mind of technology could overtake us, as if thought belongs to the thingness of the universe.

So the mind did to itself what nothing else could do – it bound itself in thoughts of its own limitations. Thus we stole our attention away from the wisdom of our ancestors who looked to powers extending beyond themselves – powers seen to transform the thingness of existence within a larger universe that expands into thought, then beyond within realisations we catch as figments of the imagination – a universe that is incomplete in all that is of the time being – a universe with a future that is more than all that it is in the present, that always was more than all that is, because of the enduring potential to be.

Mike Laidler


Scientific studies show that mankind and great apes share ‘personality dimensions’. We are all very intelligent animals. The Orangutan is said to qualify especially for the title ‘non-human person’ – because of their social abilities, they have been observed to spend less time on social issues and more time thinking.

Mike Laidler