Intelligence

By David A. Cooper

The most popular type of intelligence test is known as an IQ test (intelligence quotient), but this kind of test puts far too heavy an emphasis on racing against the clock, and it only tests shallow thinking skills. Of course, it is true that intelligent people usually do quite well in IQ tests, but it is also true that the people with the very highest scores rarely manage to do anything of Earth-shattering importance with their lives. There is a special club (called Mensa) which people with high IQ scores can join, but Einstein would not have been allowed in, and nor would most of the world's other great minds.
indentThere are people who can work out the answers to big multiplication sums faster than you could type them into a calculator, but that doesn't mean they know how to boil an egg. If you tell them your date of birth, there are people who can immediately say which day of the week you were born on, but they can't necessarily tell the difference between a soup bowl and a potty. Unusual calculation abilities such as these are not genuine signs of high intelligence: real intelligence involves the ability to solve complex problems and to think deep, and IQ tests don't cover either of these things. There is also a major problem with measuring people's real intelligence: it can easily be hidden behind their fixed sets of beliefs, beliefs which have often been programmed into them by other people such as parents, teachers and robe-wearing men who chant hypnotic verses about a variety of gods and devils. Your true intelligence is hard to measure until you have learned to free your mind and think beyond the limitations placed on you by the society in which you live.
indentMany people in Britain get excited about meeting or even just seeing the Queen, and yet who is this woman? What is special about her? Is she any different from any number of old wifies who might live round the corner? The truth is that she is a complete nobody whose title is utter nonsense, and yet she maintains her position as Queen simply because she attracts enourmous amounts of money into the country from mindless tourists who believe she must be worth gawping at just because she is the Queen. Some people once did an experiment in a busy street where they gazed up at the roof of a building for a few minutes: when other people stopped and stared up at the roof of the building to try to see what they were looking at, the original gazers moved away, and an hour later there were still people stopping to look up at the roof of that building, wondering what the people ahead of them were staring at. The Queen is rather like that: lots of people stop to gawp, but there is absolutely nothing out of the ordinary there to look at.
indentFortunately, the Queen is a fairly harmless kind of nonsense, but there are other kinds of belief which can be deeply damaging. Some children still believe in Santa when they are as old as ten, and their parents can get very upset if a teacher dares to break the news to their child that he doesn't exist. But is it sensible for children to be allowed to reach even half that age with such a ludicrous belief lodged in their heads? If you are capable of believing in Santa, your ability to think has clearly been severely disabled. How can you possibly become intelligent if you actually believe that a fat man squeezes his way down your chimney once a year? How can you become intelligent so long as you believe in flying reindeer? How can you possibly become intelligent if you believe that Santa brings you expensive presents while so many children in poor countries are allowed to starve to death, totally ignored by the jolly old fellow in red who gives them absolutely nothing? If you do believe in Santa, you are being kept as an idiotic little pet for your parents to play silly games with. Any parents who want their children to be intelligent should ensure that their children never believe in Santa in the first place: it should always be clear that all this Santa stuff is just meant to be a little game in which you have to pretend to believe in him. There are many children who are encouraged not only to believe in Santa, but also to believe that he only gives presents to children who are good. What do you suppose happens in the mind of a nasty bully who believes in Santa when he not only gets presents every Christmas, but he gets more and better presents than any of the children he likes to pick on?
indentReal intelligence is hard to measure because it is not fixed: you can become more intelligent by opening your mind and by clearing out all the rubbish that other people have loaded into it. You need to start from scratch and think everything out for yourself. Don't believe anything anyone tells you until you have thought it through properly using your own brain. Don't count anything as a fact until it has been confirmed by a number of different sources, and even then you should always be keen to test any of your beliefs to destruction whenever you come across a piece of information which doesn't fit neatly with them. Whenever a piece of new information clashes with lots of things you know already, you shouldn't immediately reject the new information: you need to consider the possibility that it is correct and that a whole bunch of things you have believed up to that point may actually be wrong. When I was three or four, my sister announced one day that she had found out that people are in fact animals. My immediate reaction was to think that this was rubbish, not wanting to think that I could be an animal, but then I began to consider all the similarities between people and animals, and it rapidly dawned on me that she was right. I didn't like the idea at all, but I had to accept that it was true. There are many adults in the world who are incapable of making that leap of the imagination, not because they can't, but because they quite simply refuse to consider the possibility that they aren't what they believe themselves to be.
indentA great deal of intelligence is actually down to your attitude: if you work hard and have the confidence to think that you can achieve something, you probably can. During the Rubik's Cube craze in the 1980s, only two people in my school managed to work out their own method for solving it: a thousand others just gave up, many of them learning a tortuously slow method from a book instead. Fifty percent of them could probably have worked out how to solve it for themselves, but they lacked the necessary self belief. I was in a better position to take on this challenge, for I already had an uncle and an older cousin who had solved the puzzle: I saw absolutely no reason to think that I wouldn't manage to solve it too. My solution, when I found it, was fairly straightforward, and many people would kick themselves if they knew just how far within their own capabilities it lay. If you want to tackle Rubik's Cube yourself, I will give you the same bit of advice I was given: get all the corners first. Once you've got those, you will be able to work out the rest easily enough, so the big difficulty comes up front. I spent two months aimlessly getting nowhere with the cube before I finally had the idea which unlocked it, and my entire method for solving it then came together in just one day. I won't tell you what that idea was because you should find it entirely by yourself, and I can't even give you the tiniest hint because that might make it too easy. I still can't believe how stupid I was that I failed to work it out weeks earlier than I did, and yet it is not unusual for difficult problems to have relatively easy solutions which are simply hard to spot: a "genius" is often just the person who is lucky enough to find the easy solution that was staring everyone in the face all along. I believe that geniuses are really just people of adequate intelligence who dare to believe that they can solve problems which normal people lack the patience and determination to solve. When "geniuses" discuss matters outside of their own field of study they often seem to be surprisingly stupid, appearing to lack some pretty basic thinking tools. Of course, part of the road to becoming a genius is to realise how stupid you are, because then you can identify your mistakes more easily and change your mind about ideas which were sending you down the wrong path.
indentBut what are the actual thinking tools which people sometimes have and sometimes lack? When you analyse it, you find that people's mistakes are usually nothing to do with any lack of fundamental thinking tools at all: they simply aren't applying them properly because theyre lazy in their thinking, often allowing their false beliefs to get in the way of their reasoning. They often have strong emotional attachments to their false beliefs and simply aren't prepared to think about questioning them. I suspect that there is a point beyond which everyone is essentially fully intelligent and that most people are to the right side of the line, but you often have to go against the rest of the herd if you are to apply that intelligence properly. It doesn't matter if you are a slow thinker: you can still get to places which lazy thinkers will never reach, no matter how fast they are. As for complexity and depth, you can think deeper and deeper and crunch more data if you just work at it. The only other thing that separates geniuses from the rest is their ability to think their way into a problem from unusual directions, and it is often this which enables them to find a solution which other people have missed: geniuses are obsessive explorers.
indentSo, I reckon that most people should be able to pass a real intelligence test with a score of one hundred percent, and if they fail to reach that score then it is either because they're too lazy or else it's the result of their heads being full of Santas (false beliefs). Click on this button if you want a very approximate idea of how I might rate your thinking ability: .