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

Postscript

“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   https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0b5qn7p

https://streamable.com/3pcsq (Sky news)

https://www.the times.co.uk

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

 

Phases of knowing

We are stardust – it’s a fact, but what does it mean? Is the stardust the explanation of our awareness? What causes this shift in the reality – to knowing? What do causes explain? Can a chain of causality explain the incremental changes in its causes? In practice, we glibly refer to the ‘thing known’ as the source of our knowing and seek to validate this truth objectively by attributing the knowledge to the facts. But what if there is a categorical difference between ‘things’ and their acknowledgement? That is to say, what if the knowing introduces a new and different phenomenon – assuming that the stardust doesn’t know anything? Or can we avoid crossing a line by naturalising the events, on the assumption that ‘the facts’ are actually imparting the knowledge to us – under the auspice of an all-embracing nature seen as the ultimate source of information about ourselves and the world? Yet, when all is said and done, is our delineation of nature just a crude metaphor for the inexplicable phenomenon of existence?

Don’t we claim to experience the world as a part of ‘nature’? But what does it mean? Would we need to collate the experiences of every creature on earth in order to know what experiencing the world is really like – and what about those yet to evolve? Though is not every experience beholding to its cause, which can be traced back to more original causes, as embedded in the ‘memory of the stardust’? Then does it not go to show that ‘nature’ is the self-sufficient cause of its own evolution. Indeed, does it mean that all the information in the universe comes down to ‘a first cause’, acting alone – because ‘nature’ was already pre-eminent in the properties of its primitive foundations – ‘the origin of everything’? Also, don’t the plants know when it is spring – prompting the conclusion that knowing is diverse and ubiquitous, whilst all we claim to know amounts to no more than a mere extract, a species-specific caricature of understandings and experiences that do yet do not actually belong to us?

Mike Laidler

Hologram universe

Evidently, the universe is observable to us because of a chain of consequences which science endeavours to explain with laws of nature. However, our understandings are not passive representations of the truth, and whilst knowledge might be said to reflect its place in nature, its transformative presence also influences the tide of events. Even so, our intellectual axioms may not give us the final word on the bigger picture in a continuum of change where rules gain exceptions and predictability rubs shoulders with unpredictability. Indeed, behind all the industrious investigations of the ‘open-minded’, we find that every thesis can attract its antithesis. Furthermore, every attempt to ‘get to know’ begins with some idea of what we want to know, in order to recognise a result – so we might expect the same with a knowledge of the universe, which begins with the notional idea of its beginning.

Superficially, all the prominent theories share a common theme or paradigm – that nature is a thing in action. The problem is that the more we analyse it, the less of the ‘thingness’ we find. Instead, we discover that ‘reality’ is a projection of something else, but so is the reality of the ‘something else’. Then is the bigger picture of existence more like a hologram – a projection of another dimension which apparently ends up as the beginnings of the more familiar nature of our universe? And might this question give rise to an exceptional discovery – that we don’t really know what we are talking about in the first place, nor do we actually get to know what we are referring to in the second place – especially if different universes can accommodate different ‘laws of nature’ within the wider ‘reality’ of ‘a multiverse’ yet to be defined.

Mike Laidler

https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/world/professor-stephen-hawkings-final-theory-the-universe-is-a-hologram/ar-AAwEA5O?acid=spar (2nd May 2018)

The Pinocchio factor

Did life come to earth from another planet?  But what explains the origins of alien life – what accounts for the birth of life in the universe?  Are planetary environments enough to explain its emergence?  Can its evolution explain its existence?  Does life belong to the physical fabric of the universe, or does the universe ‘come to life’ because of possibilities in addition?  And what makes us believe that possibility becomes explicable by observing its incidence?  Indeed, putting all the theories to one side, do we actually know where the answers might come from – or lead us?

There are alternative ways to look at the evidence.  Perhaps life manifests properties that differ from its non-living causes, which ‘become alive’; or the causes are inherently prepotent, though ‘in the event’ the ‘possibility of life’ depends upon the environmental triggers.  Then does it mean that life is a latent property of its preconditions in the physical world – that like a Pinocchio, it is already in situ, just waiting to be carved out?  And what makes us believe that life would be explicable if only we could observe the transition from the non-living to the living?

https://www.express.co.uk/news/science/948837/Brian-Cox-aliens-martians-BBC-Radio-1-Greg-James-mars-mission-exomars-rover-life-on-mars

Mike Laidler

 

Demonstrating the transcendent

What is the presence of mind that enables us to look out upon reality and see ourselves there? Whence becomes this consciousness of which we are aware? Are we passive receptors, or active participants? Is it wholly identifiable as a brain function, or does its ‘virtual reality’ transcend the physical? Either way, what is our basis for recognition – by what event are we able to detect its presence and recognise its effects?

But what constitutes ‘the real? In being conscious, how do we tell the difference between the real and the imaginary, or know that we have an imagination? In fact, how can we tell that our explanations are not another source of delusion? For instance, what makes us so sure that nothing can be larger than its physical causes, or proof equates one fact to another and explanation finalises the truth?

Then what makes something ‘more or less real’? Doesn’t a sentient presence add a new dimension to reality – so that, even as consciousness remains embedded in the physical world, it also occupies a mental space of unprecedented possibilities? And what other fact could render this evidence demonstrable without the transcending fact of our awareness? Thereby, we engage in a reality that is enlarged by the conscious phenomena of its perception, even though explanation portrays the action the other way round.

Mike Laidler

In sight of the supranatural – Part 3: Angels, demons, fairies and ghosts

Phenomenalist:  ‘You began by saying that you were responding to the claims made by others.  However, beliefs on all sides of the debate leave room for doubt.’

Realist:  ‘It doesn’t mean that fairies are real because someone believes in them.’

P:  Sir Isaac Newton believed passionately in alchemy, angels and demons – but it didn’t prevent him from being a great scientist.

R:  Are you saying it’s realistic to believe in fairies?

P:  I’m suggesting that there may be more than one form of understanding, and people retain an intuition that there is something more than the ‘hard facts’ of science, so they look to different forms of expression.

R:  It is one thing to entertain fiction and fantasy, but it’s quite another to think that it adds up to a deeper explanation of existence.

P:  And yet that deeper explanation eludes all.

R:  It doesn’t mean that science is wrong.

P:  It doesn’t mean that scientific truths say it all.

R:  Although science is nearer the truth.

P:  Even when a physicist states that ‘all pathways lead to physics’?

R:  What’s wrong with that?

P:  It’s true only so long as we are prepared to believe that everything is explicable at an elementary level.

R:  But you can’t deny the facts.

P:  Does it mean that there is only one way for the facts to be, that the true facts of science reveal the whole truth, that the atoms are more real than our humanity, or that any other pathway is an affront to science and logic because ‘the truth’ is above contradiction?

R:  Surely a logical approach to the facts is essential, otherwise explanation would descend into a muddle of meaningless gibberish.

P:  As any language sounds to one who is not versed in it.

R:  Then please tell me what language you are using.

P:  I am referring to the language of explanation in its various colourful and contrasting forms – whether it is couched in terms of scientific and mathematical logic, or the creeds and dogmas of religion, or even the divinations of mythology and magic. They all serve, in their own way, as frames of reference for comprehending reality.  And it’s not simply a matter of fact versus belief – for there is no understanding that is not referenced to ‘the facts’ via our beliefs.  My point is that explanation is more apparent than real and its conclusiveness is illusory – though we don’t see the shortfalls once we allow it to become the dictator of the known.  Indeed, any explanation boils down to a form of expression about what we think and believe on the assumption that the criteria we have adopted are showing us the way things really are.  But in reality, and despite all the evidence, explanation deals with the unknown by perching itself precariously on top of it.

R:  How does that make fairies real?

P:  Despite what we might think, facts cannot speak for themselves and ‘the evidence’ remains subject to judgement and interpretation.  Most people accept that nature is weird and wonderful; and the fact that the possibilities have not been exhausted keeps our imagination alive.  So you might not be able to debunk a belief in fairies until you can demonstrate their implausibility under all possible circumstances – even as aliens in disguise.

R:  So it’s OK for people to believe that they have seen fairies dancing in the woods?

P:  There are rational people who would swear to having seen a ghost.  Indeed there are many rational reasons for being wrong.  So we need to look at how far our ideas stretch the boundaries of possibility, bearing in mind that modern science has some novel ideas of its own in that respect – about multiple versions of each one of us co-existing in undetectable parallel universes.

R:  Except science draws the line at things supernatural.

P:  Based upon an assumption about what nature amounts to.

R:  Based upon a realistic assumption.

P:  That being the assumption that everything has to have a scientific explanation.

R:  Are you saying that science is unrealistic?

P:  I’m merely inviting you to shift your frame of reference from the idea of scientific truths as the only frontier of knowledge.  Imagine a frog that knows the world only in terms of its own froggy perspective – being all the more certain about the reality it perceives because it finds that there is nothing else to see.  That’s not to say that scientific knowledge cannot evolve; indeed, current ideas of reality and normality might prove to be as narrow as the frog’s compared with what scientists might be saying in a thousand years time.

R:  Are you saying that reality is what we make of it – depending on who’s doing the looking and what they are looking for?

P:  Everything we know suggests that there are boundaries of possibility in operation.  However, it is not the whole story because things can change – additional boundaries come into play, whilst retrospectively it just appears as one continuum.  Nevertheless, the outcome is extraordinary – ‘matter’ is now apparently perceiving itself.

R:  You’re inviting me to imagine boundaries within and beyond boundaries, so give me a chance – I’ll need a more down-to-earth example.

P:  There are many.  I have given examples already, so let’s try another tack.  A work of art is and is not made of its constituents.  That is to say, there is a component that cannot be seen in terms of its physical properties, yet there is nothing but its physical presence to go on.  To be precise, a Michelangelo statue straddles the boundaries between the explicable and the inexplicable, even for Michelangelo.  It is not explicable as a work of nature just because he can visualise the form in the stone before he starts – and, paradoxically, although the carving might faithfully replicate the natural contours of the human body, it is something that nature cannot replicate in the stone by natural processes.

R:  As you say, a work of art is nothing without its physical presence.  But you are also saying that things are impossible for nature even though they become possible only through nature.  So let me try another tack since, by your own argument, you need to show it would be impossible for a computer to generate the works of Shakespeare by pure chance, given infinite time?

P:  Now who’s toying with fiction and fantasy?

R:  It’s not so far fetched in the realms of the distant future that you had alluded to.

P:  Except, in the first place, there’s no example of nature creating by chance anything resembling a computer.  And contrary to popular belief, even radical evolutionists can’t prove that ‘natural computers’, namely brains, evolved by pure chance.

R:  So what’s your conclusion?

P:  Not so much a conclusion as a reflection on ‘the nature’ of ‘things’:  Reality is bigger than the limited explanations we can attach to ‘it’ in the name of being realistic or logical.  There is no safe harbour for explanation in fact or truth.  The nature of nature changes inexplicably.  Evolution and chance are not the causes we make them out to be.  Evidence is subject to what we are capable of knowing and proof is neither absolute nor ‘down to earth’ – because the elements are not concerned with matters of self-proof.  Furthermore, our presence in the universe is not definable from an atomistic perspective – this being a perspective introduced by the ghostlike presence of objective observers of an otherwise blind naturescape.  In fact, the evidence for the existence of ghosts, can be derived from the ‘atomistic viewpoint’ of science – since we exist as phenomenal beings who, by comparison, haunt the atomic reality with our ethereal purposes.

R:  Nonsense!

P:  Ghosts don’t have to be things that jump out of cupboards just because someone reports that ‘experience’.  On the other hand, science isn’t mature enough to dictate what nature must do.  The point is that the scientific criteria are not in control of the facts – and the shortfalls in explanation leave plenty of room for speculation; hence even accomplished scientists can find room to retain their supernatural beliefs.

R:  I’m not going to let you away with that answer.  Where is the evidence that ghosts have a scientific basis?

P:  Science supplies the evidence inadvertently – in terms of its explanatory criteria. It’s not unreasonable to consider that we already exist as ghostlike entities by comparison to an atomic reality said to form the scientific foundation of everything.  We move about within the atomic flux as superficial perturbations that don’t affect the way things are.  At this level we are less than ideas, because ideas don’t exist and there are no purposes in existence.  Compared to the state of atomic reality these perturbations are no more real than chance occurrences that do not change the nature of those atomic events.  This raises valid questions, such as which is ‘the more real’ and what is the actual difference between the so-called ‘animate and inanimate’?

R:  But those atomic principles cause and sustain our existence, so we are directly connected.

P:  We are directly connected but not explicable in terms of the causal links – which rather dilutes the cosmologists’ claims to be in pursuit of a theory of everything at that level.  Though it’s obvious why scientists maintain this claim, because they believe that their various theories can connect-up, to leave no gaps in explanation – belief being the operative word – all for the sake of imagining that nature, observable as a physical reality, must be more real, indeed the only reality.

R:  Well if everyone is a slave to belief, how can we get to know anything?

To be continued…

Mike Laidler