Why are some people smart and others not? Why do some smart people do dumb things? What is intelligence? These are some of the questions that have been haunting me most of my thinking life.
Intelligence is the ability to figure things out. We figured out how to make tools. Probably the first tool was made by Australopithecus afarensis. It was likely made of sticks and did not survive the 3.5 million years. It was Homo habilis (handy man) that made tools that lasted. The first permanent tools were called the Oldovan Tool Kit, barely recognizable as a tool. It was just a rock that had several chips flaked off by a technique called knapping. Tools became more sophisticated, and Obsidian was used to make knives that were sharper than the surgical knife that we have today.
How did we get from making stone tools to traveling to Mars? We kept figuring things out through geometry, physics, mathematics, philosophy, biology, and so on. But Homo sapiens, despite their name (wise people), are not all that receptive to new ideas. In fact, they are fairly resistant. Just look at the worldwide rejection of life-saving vaccines.
We used to burn people alive who did not go along with the popular perception for ideas just 300 years ago, even if they were absolutely wrong, like the sun revolving around the earth. It seems obvious that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. We still use those terms to describe it. Three thousand years ago, the Greeks decided that Apollo rode his fiery chariot across the sky every day. It was not until Nicholas Copernicus who recognized that idea was a mistake! There are still people, the “Flat Earthers,” that don’t buy that explanation. It was Galileo Galilei who observed the transit of Jupiter’s moons across the face of Jupiter that gave him the idea that small things circle large things, and it was Earth that circled the Sun, not the other way around.
When you look at modern IQ tests, all of them investigate how well you recognize patterns. Pattern recognition is clearly a large part of intelligence. Recognizing the pattern of Jupiter’s moons was the key to proving heliocentrism. You learn that 2 follows 1 every time.
In a closed system, heat always becomes cold (the second law of thermodynamics). If it goes up, it must come down (Newton’s third law of motion), and so on. And things become more complicated! Energy and matter are interchangeable in General Relativity (E=mc2). Space and time are inseparably related, as Einstein described in Special Relativity.
If you don’t recognize patterns, you risk not surviving. The rattling in the grass spells death if you ignore it. It does not matter what the pattern is, the transit of Jupiter’s moons across Jupiter or that Red means Stop and Green means Go. It all depends on “G” general intelligence. If you fail to recognize one pattern, you won’t recognize a second, and perhaps a more important one either. Survival of the fittest has pushed us in the direction of intelligence. But there are people that are not easily pushed. In our current culture, we excuse those people. They need more time, they need special education, they just have different opinions, which we must tolerate and accept. We celebrate diversity! To a certain point, that is of benefit, but there is that red line beyond which it starts to interfere with the survival of the fittest. It becomes obvious where that line is when existence becomes the issue. Can we tolerate people who burn down our businesses? Who rob our stores? Who don’t do their share, be that work or pay taxes? Who ignore the rules of society, be that driving erratically, spewing a lethal virus, or carrying loaded weapons in public. There comes the point where society must step in and say, “enough is enough.” Freedom is great. It is why my family came to the USA, but when freedom threatens existence, survival takes precedence.
You cannot continue to ignore that the sun does not revolve around the earth. You cannot ignore that when you cough, sneeze, or just breath, you could be spreading a deadly germ onto me and others. You can not ignore that you, too, must stop doing things that could potentially kill me. And if you don’t have a certified lab, you are not capable or qualified to do your own research. Looking on Google does not count. Intelligence requires us to recognize and accept patterns. When 1600 people die in the US every day due to a viral illness, there is a pattern we need to realize that requires corrective action. And that, my friends, may be the ultimate IQ test. It is time to recognize that we have an obligation to act like Homo sapiens–wise people.