Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Liabilities of Intellect: More Pervasive Than You Think

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It is very nearly an axiom that higher IQ people prevail and are most successful in multiple domains, from academia to business and politics. But this is not necessarily so, as pointed out by Dr. Steven Mason in his article 'Let's Get Dumb' in the most recent Intertel Integra (October, p. 26). Mason, in about 5 pages,  shows that very often being smart isn't the asset so many believe, but an actual liability.

For example, as he observes, to have a reasonable chance of being elected, a Presidential candidate: "must either appear to be a dummy, or as  more often the case, be a dummy. Compare Woodrow Wilson to Ronald Reagan, for example. The first was a university president while the latter (often called the 'great communicator') was someone who even his staunchest supporters would hardly call brilliant."

Indeed, and who can ever forget Reagan asking on one occasion, of one of his Joint Chiefs, if "nuclear missiles launched from submarines can be recalled."

Uh no, Ronnie! Once fired they are on their way! Just in case you had a mind to get trigger happy with the Russkies.

Another canard to do with intellect often expressed in various forums, is a variation on the question: "If you're so smart why aren't you rich?"

The assumption here is if a person truly is a brain he or she ought to also be a rich brain. Why not? S/he ought to be able to outsmart everyone on the planet and make a bundle! Not quite. For one thing, we don't all aspire to be a Mark Zuckerberg who mostly swiped the code basis for Facebook from peers at Harvard - before he left that vaunted institution. Oh ok, he made some tweaks, but basically FB already existed in some form and Zuckerberg brought it a bit further. The idea for 'the Facebook', however, was not his originally.

Next, as Mason points out, in conjunction with this 'why aren't you rich' theme (p. 27):

"There are several reasons for this being the case. One is that employers don't especially like employees who are smarter than themselves. The result is that many of my friends belonging to high IQ societies wind up underemployed, working at jobs far below their potential."

Mason also notes that "kids hate those geeks who screw up the grading curve".  These kids, who aren't afraid to show their smarts are also the most victimized and bullied. No surprise then how back in 1978 my niece Vanessa expressed fear and shame at repeatedly outshining her classmates at St. Joseph Convent school in Trinidad, and asked advice. She was leaning to "dumbing down" her profile and being less conspicuous. I advised against it and told her to do it only if she felt it was critical to her ongoing emotional balance.

Perhaps the most provocative insight rendered by Dr. Mason concerns the communication gap between people of significantly different IQ. He writes (ibid.):

"It's been demonstrated, though not widely publicized in this PC culture, that complete and effective communication between those separated by more than fifteen IQ points is unlikely. It means there is no way, repeat NO WAY, that people with IQs of 115 are ever going to explain to people with IQs of 85 why it's important to graduate high school."

By the same token, it likely means a communication gap will exist between those of IQ 110-115 and those of Mensa or Intertel  IQ level (130-135) on matters of politics, including deep politics  (and I warrant most 115'ers don't even know what it means), science, philosophy, history and economics. The gap is simply too vast to be bridged. It therefore must not surprise us that many - say in discussing American history - will simply cite Larry Schweikart's "48 Liberal Lies" as opposed to entering an actual debate or argument with a person who possesses superior knowledge, insight. They have already ceded, by doing so, that they are not up to the challenge of intellectual engagement.

But taken at a more fundamental level, Mason's thesis indicates that the upper two or so IQ percentile of Americans will never be able to communicate effectively and completely with most of the rest of the population.  This gets most exposed in the political and elections domain. Again, the need of so many voters to base their choices on atmospherics and optics ("Is he a guy I can have a beer with?") is downright disheartening. It makes me want to scream, "No you dummy! Don't worry about the damned beer but what he can do in office!"

And again, Mason points this divergence out in comparing Bill Clinton to George Bush, while noting that the latter guy's followers "rarely refer to the selected hero's SAT scores".  He adds (ibid.):

"And who would have it otherwise with roughly half the voters having IQs below average (I know I am going to get letters from the mathematically challenged on that one!)"

And this surely explains many of the puzzling election results over the years, from electing Gee Dumbya Bush in 2000 (it shouldn't even have been close, though Al Gore did take the popular vote by over a half million), to the most recent farce that transpired Tuesday.  I refer to the following:

- Voters stupidly electing members of a party that: a) has the lowest approval rating ever (20%) and b) has not effected one single positive bit of legislation.

- Voters passing minimum wage ballot measures in five states, while at the same time electing Republican governors who are least likely to let them see the light of day.

I could go on and on, but a relevant point here concerns the general level of dumbing down of the electorate which, let's face it, must have something to do with Mason's observation of half being 'dummies' (below average intelligence).  This is critical given that misinformation in public life isn’t the exception, it’s the rule. This is according to a new study published in Social Science Quarterly  which employed a “knowledge distortion index” and looked at two competing explanations for why this is so — one top-down, the other bottom-up.  The researchers used three Washington state initiatives from the 2006 general election cycle to examine the dynamics of what is going on in this particular sort of political environment.

The study, “How Voters Become Misinformed: An Investigation of the Emergence and Consequences of False Factual Beliefs,” found that “voters’ values and partisanship had the strongest associations with distorted beliefs, which then influenced voting choices. Self-reported levels of exposure to media and campaign messages played a surprisingly limited role,” despite the presence of significantly mistaken “facts,” which were used to help construct the knowledge distortion index.
But IQ and education level likely have a role too, and as Mason indicates (p. 28), 
"Only a relatively small percent of the voting population is educated beyond the required minimum."
Does this sound amazing to you? Does it really? Then back up and consider how many actually support nonsense like Ken Ham's contention that dinosaurs shared Noah's Ark. Quite apart from the fable nature of the Ark story, did any of these bozos consider how even two of each - Brontosaurus and Tyrannosaurus Rex- would sink the Ark? Hence the cover of Charles Pierce's book, 'Idiot America'.
But before you castigate these misguided folks, don't forget just as many are Larry Schweikart false history groupies and echo his zany, unhistorical claims, including that Reconstruction was still going on in the 1920s, and that the Pilgrims were Puritans (they were actually separatists), and also that it was a "lie" that the Indians bailed them out - providing enough food to eat for the first Thanksgiving (it wasn't). 
This elicits another question as to why Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly are vastly more popular than say, Rachel Maddow or Chris Hayes - to the point so many people can't even tolerate listening to or watching the latter while I can tolerate watching the former, although not for very long.  I suspect again, the answer inheres in Steve Mason's postulate concerning the 15 point IQ communication gap, i.e. Maddow and Hayes intellectually articulate positions which are going to be resonant only for those of IQ 115 or above (even leaving out any "liberal" overtones), while any dunderhead can listen to Limbaugh and get stoked, and most can also watch O'Reilly go into his histrionics and find abundant resonance. 
But the dismal take at the end is, as Mason points out, we are saddled with these lower IQ folks in perpetuity. They will keep on voting the way they have been and devil take the hindmost -or devil take America-  if they come out in 2016 in too high numbers.  They are unable, at root, to parse the way their own brains have been manipulated - by the likes of the Koch brothers and their phony Tea Party idiocy, or by Limbaugh,  O'Reilly or god forbid...Jim Inhofe - a total anti-global warming buffoon who now stands to inherit the environmental committee chair from Sen. Barbara Boxer.
From a high IQ woman, to a GOOP  27 IQ points behind her!  Meanwhile, some parting words from Dr. Mason:
"When taken in combination, the fact that high IQ humans are born less frequently and selected as world leaders less often, points toward a Space Age marked by a decrease in those same little gray cells that got us out of the Stone Age."
In other words, we all may still be here - planted on this little orb, having not spread our seed beyond - when that big, planet killer asteroid strikes. The 'dumb' dinosaurs had no way out when their killer asteroid struck 65 million years ago. But humans? Perhaps their excuse will be not enough bright people were generated to design the rockets to get us off world - as opposed to building rockets to deliver more nuclear bombs.

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