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August 29, 2022 / Fantelius

Holy Intelligence

“In the beginning was the word. Then we got sentenced.”
Dartwill Aquila

Words are the raw materials with which we build relationships, whether between two people, a nation or anything in-between. Today’s world is cluttered with common words limping with feeble understanding due to lame definitions. This saps the strength of our community. The two words in the title are prime examples. Let’s start with the second one. 

“I like words. They have class.”
Dartwill Aquila

Intelligence is our family name, the defining characteristic of our species. If you were sitting in a pub near the end of the universe and a creature from the planet Faroutsville asked, “Who are you?”, The James-Bondish response would be, “Sapiens. Homo sapiens.”
You could add, “That means intelligent earthlings.” 

When we understand the magnificence of our intelligence, we can understand our stupidity. Intelligent and stupid? Yes, both. History overflows with examples of our stupidity, and the present is no exception. 

“The average person thinks that they are smarter than the average person.”
Dartwill Aquila

Although the word intelligence is very popular and enjoys universal prestige, it is carelessly defined, poorly understood and used with arrogant prejudice. A typical dictionary definition states: “the ability to understand and think about things, and to gain and use knowledge.”, This tells us what it does, not what it is. Such definitions clog understanding, and restrict our mental capacity. Because of the sloppy and inadequate definitions, intelligence is used as a synonym for knowledge. It isn’t. As we shall see.

The DNA of Homo sapiens and apes are 98% similar, or 94% similar, or something in-between depending on the source. Regardless of what percentage of gene similarity, it is seldom mentioned that our primate cousins have more genes than we have. Most forms of life outnumber us in gene count: butterflies, crabs, hedgehogs, grapes and strawberries for example, not to mention the water mite, Daphnia pulex. Although Daphnia is no larger than the period at the end of this sentence, it has 30.000 more genes than a Homo sapiens. What’s going on here? Motion! And intelligence.

“‘You are what you eat’, he claimed with the certainty of a wise carrot.”
Dartwill Aquila

Motion distinguishes life. That which is moving is alive. Life moves in two ways, instinctively or intelligently. Instinct moves automatically. Stimulus A causes reaction B. A burst of air (A) causes a blink (B). Automatically. Our senses register the surroundings instinctively. Most of the movements of life, and nearly all the basic movements, occur instinctively. Our biological machinery runs on instinct. We don’t apply intelligence to decide how our cells or organs function.

The opposite of instinctive motion is intelligent motion, that is to say, the motion of choice. Up or down? Away or toward? Do or don’t. Choose! Activate your mental power! The greater the amount of choices, the greater the need for intelligent thinking along with a memory (knowledge) to aid the decisions. Intelligent thinking? Yes, intelligence is a form of thinking. Thinking applied to alternatives; a process of decision, of choosing; the neurological mechanism guiding the rapid movements of animal behavior.

Instinct requires no thought, and is therefore quicker and more dependable than intelligent motion. A gene for instinctive motion contains a minimum of base pairs, and does not have to access memory. It is tiny and energy efficient. Because the water mite fits so many instinctive genes into its microscopic body, it can react to almost any condition it encounters and doesn’t have to think. It has no need for intelligence or memory.

“Without choices we become chosen; for obedience.”
Dartwill Aquila

Genes configured to make a choice are larger and slower, and must engage with memory, its primary resource. This provides more possibilities of motion than instinct, and therefore needs fewer genes. Think of instinct genes as one cent coins, and intelligent genes as dimes and quarters. 

More energy is needed for intelligent motion than instinctive reactions. The  difference can hardly be measured on a water-mite-tiny level. By the time we get to Homo sapiens, the brain which accounts for about 4% of the body mass, consumes 17% of the body’s energy. Our brain is an energy-expensive organ. Intelligence and memory processing account for a major part of the cost. 

Like all forms of life, Homo sapiens must devise ways to conserve energy. Eliminating the need to think forms an essential part of our survival strategy. Customs, traditions, ceremonies and habits are standard methods to formalize behavior and reduce the need to think.

“Claiming that this is the way we’ve always done it is as much a reason to change as not.”
Dartwill Aquila

Intelligence is an inherited, hardwired configuration of the brain allowing animals to choose between alternatives. It’s a function of motion. Homo sapiens have evolved an exceptional neurological apparatus to make choices. It characterizes our species as much as walking upright on two legs, hairless bodies, overhanging noses or small mouths. Because it is a neurological construction that we cannot see, we think of it as an abstract something; a metaphysical power undisturbed by the laws of physical nature. It isn’t. Our intelligence thoughts originate from a complicated network of interconnected cells managing an organ of the neurological system, just as a stomach is an organ of the digestive system. Homo sapiens employ this mental organ to process the values of alternatives and make choices; to reason, estimate, and use common sense. 

Knowledge is dynamic. It grows, nourished by experience, practice and study, into cellular networks of varied size and strength forming memory. It is a mental treasure of experience, facts and ideas, which intelligence can access to form its decisions. We are born with intelligence and acquire knowledge.

Contrary to conventional wisdom intelligence is relatively equal for all examples of our species. As any inherited ability, our power to make choices  varies between individuals as do the variations of vision, walking, talking or loving. Some people can see better than others. They can focus faster, see further or detect smaller objects. But all visually healthy people can see what needs to be seen in spite of slight differences. This can be said of walking as well. Regardless of the length and strength of legs, all Homo sapiens walk. A football player, ballerina or kick-boxer can train their legs to perform with exceptional skill, but they don’t walk better than ordinary citizens. Ditto for hearing, smelling, talking and making babies. The size and shape of the reproductive organs and the techniques of using them have little significance for producing babies. Despite differences of inherited minds, we can all make the necessary choices to navigate the course of life. We all have the ability to know what we need to do, and to learn what we need to know to do what needs to be done.

Our intelligence varies insignificantly in relation to the size of our head, or the acquisition of knowledge. We no more improve our reasoning capabilities by accumulating knowledge than a ballerina improves her walking by developing the ability to spin on her toes. A biologist needs biological knowledge to work with biology. A mechanic needs mechanical knowledge to work with machines. The quality of intelligence cannot be rated by an amount or type of knowledge. If it could, dictionaries would be smarter than Homo sapiens. Knowledge is a tool providing intelligence with a basis for making choices. 

“No amount of intelligence will prevent you from doing stupid things.”
Dartwill Aquila

Conventional wisdom promotes the false belief that academic education demonstrates high intelligence. It doesn’t. PhDs, Professors and other degree-merited individuals and titled experts are employed in prestigious fields of knowledge, but they are not smarter than individuals who have gathered knowledge in unsung fields. Knowing that a specific bone is called a Tibia helps standardize medical communication, but has no more effect on intelligence than knowing that a specific screw is called a Flat Head Self Tapping Screw to guide carpenters.

Folks in the hood house the same neurological intelligence organ in their skulls as snobs on the hill. Small-town plumbers think as sharply as hot-shots in skyscraper offices. Evaluating intelligence based on wealth, education or profession makes as much sense as evaluating it based on religion, race or nationality. An architect has no more improved intelligence by collecting knowledge of architecture than a birdwatcher has by collecting knowledge of birds. 

“Knowledge without humility is a luxury car with weak brakes.”
Dartwill Aquila

Titled academics eagerly equate their prestigious knowledge with intelligence. And, because they belong to the section of society that gets to promote their opinions publicly, they reinforce the myth of their mental superiority upon the less literary-productive majority of citizens. Education-merited individuals typically work at upper levels of the social order. They have the approval of and compensation from the highest authorities, who harvest advantages, legitimacy, obedience, and prestige by decorating themselves with academically educated, supposedly intelligent, experts, advisors, administrators, assistants and servants. The top level of the social order is well served by the faulty belief equating (preferred) knowledge with intelligence. This knowledge = intelligence myth has no support in reality, but is so well established that questioning it is regarded as stupidity generated blasphemy. 

Of course there are smart/sharp/clever people with high academic merits. They, like all groups, whether a team of cheerleaders or staff of university teachers, are distributed along a bell-shaped curve in question of smarts or creativity. The majority are average, some better, some worse, and a few who are particularly plus or minus at each end of the curve.  Some academics are so smart that they avoid poker games with high school dropouts.

“Some of the stupidest people I know have PhDs.”
Leo Buscaglia, PhD

Equating knowledge with intelligence breeds arrogance among the academics and inferiority complexes among those not credited with prestige knowledge. We should keep in mind that knowledge is a variable of accumulated experience and learning stored in memory, and intelligence an inherited mental ability to make choices by accessing memory.

Knowledge of intelligence can liberate our intelligence and enrich our knowledge. 

I’ve made categorical statements so far, but many research projects and literary examples confirm my statements. Most of us have personal experience of stupid experts and smart nobodies. The following three examples—a research project; a personal experience; and a belief among top scientists—should expose the knowledge=intelligence myth.

Research Project
William Labov was a professor of Linguistics at Colombia University when he decided to test a claim by Noam Chomsky that we will never encounter an intellectual task more complex and challenging than learning a language. Therefore, anyone who can speak any language is capable of understanding any thought. That implies an equality of intelligence for all Homo sapiens. Could a high-school dropout think/reason as well as a college graduate? 

In the book The Logic of Nonstandard English, Labov compares the reasoning of Larry, a 15-year-old high school dropout in Harlem, to Charles, a college educated member of the upper middle class. After many weeks of creative tactics together with an experienced social worker, Labov finally cracked Larry’s reluctance to speak to authorities, and could hear what he had to say. He noted that teachers and councilors had judged Larry to be lacking language abilities, and asked himself,
“How could they know? He never talked to them.” 

Not only could Larry handle language, he used quick, sharp and decisive logic served on nonstandard English spiced with curse words. To the question about if there was a god and if he could be Black, Larry explained that there were different opinions about God’s existence, but he could not be Black and allow the hell Blacks were living in.

In contrast, college-educated Charles spoke easily, fluently and confidently. When asked the same question about God as was put to Larry, Charles used three times as many words… and never answered the question.

“If you must hide behind language, big words and long sentence are useful.”
Dartwill Aquila

Personal Experience
I took the opportunity during the summer break at the university to help out on a small commercial gardening business in the little town of Ingels, a four-hour train ride north of Stockholm. I saw Allan in the field before I reached the house. He was about 60, short, somewhat overweight, red-necked and limping because of a clubfoot (“incomplete” as he called it). Not a poster boy for the jet set. When saying goodbye three weeks later, I told Allan, “I’ve learned more from you in three weeks than I have from three years at the university.” 

His smile told me that he didn’t believe me, and I didn’t push it. It might have been a slight exaggeration, but wasn’t far from the truth. Allan had been a tailor, had raised bees and sheep, worked in a lumber yard and farmed. His small business together with his wife demanded a high level of proficiency in accounting and competence as a mechanic, electrician, carpenter and plumber. He spoke of animals with Buddha-like respect; could sculpture a masterful caricature in wood in a matter of minutes; was a patron of folk music; made wine from practically anything containing sugar; and the wreaths he made for funerals from available materials and his flowers were tearfully beautiful. AND, (big and) he spoke with impressive efficiency; no unnecessary words, no hums or ahhs. The point of his explanations were always packaged in a neat context, often decorated with humor.

Allan was one of many outstanding unknowns under the radar of formal education or notoriety. The book All God’s Dangers: The Life of Nate Shaw by Theodore Rosengarten, also tells a story about sparkling intelligence never troubled by schooling or literacy.

Idea of Top Scientists
A number of physicists claim that the universe has consciousness or that consciousness exists on a quantum level. This must be classified as cosmic-grade stupidity because the scientific community in general admits to being ignorant of the nature of consciousness. Science does not know what consciousness is, but some scientists believe the universe uses it.

“Intelligence has its limits, but not stupidity.”
Dartwill Aquila

In summary
Intelligence is the natural (DNA-wired) ability to make choices based on knowledge. It is a system of thinking, which is relatively equal for all members of our species. Knowledge is memory formed by experience stimulating the growth of brain cells into networks to anchor our understanding of the conditions confronting us. Knowledge guides our intelligence to choose alternatives in an efficient energy-conserving manner.

Note: The opposite of knowledge is ignorance, which means lack of knowledge. The most knowledgeable individuals possess a few grams of knowledge compared to their tons of ignorance. The majority of biochemists are ignorant of the mechanics of a car. Some have difficulty finding the gas tank. Stupidity, on the other hand, illustrates a faulty use of intelligence, or, as we shall see, a lack of alternatives. People used to believe that the world was flat. They were not stupid but ignorant. Those who believe that the world is flat today demonstrate global stupidity. 

“If stupidity was oil, he would have been invaded long ago.”
Dartwill Aquila


To be continued…  and altered, based on your comments.

This posting is a selection from the book, Sapiens Last Battle, by Joel Bentarz.



The West Bank is now the Judea-Samaria area.

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