Posts Tagged ‘Intelligence’

The passing scene: Links & comments 9/7/14

September 6, 2014

Let’s talk about margins by Craig Mod for Medium (via Marginal Revolution).

Consummate craftsmanship consists in paying close attention to details of which the public is not (consciously) aware, such as the margins on book pages.

Craig Mod wrote that craftsmanship springs from a combination of humility and  diligence—humility to accept that you might not have got it right the first time, diligence to keep trying until you do get it right.

One of the best compliments I ever was paid was when I was working on my college newspaper, and overheard one of the printers in the composing room say something to the effect that, this Ebersole kid gives you a lot of trouble, but he makes a nice-looking page.

Why Walking Helps Us Think by Ferris Jabr for The New Yorker.

Scientists have concluded that people do better thinking taking a stroll in pleasant surroundings than they do sitting at a computer.

This is true of me.  I have always found that when I get stuck in my writing, or some other task, things come together when I take a walk.

There’s something about the rhythmic movement of my arms and legs that gets my brain into proper working order.  But scientists have found that it is more than that.  Walking on a treadmill doesn’t product the same effect.

Your IQ isn’t constant: It changes over time by Bryan Roche of  (via Mike the Mad Biologist)

I’ve been reading a lot lately about I.Q. and whether high I.Q. is hereditary.  But the thing to remember is that what your Intelligence Quotient measures is how your ability to take I.Q. tests compares with others in your age group.

An I.Q. of 100 means you are roughly average.  But here’s the thing.  The average has been rising over the years as people get better at passing I.Q. tests.

Art After War by Stacy Bannerman for TruthOut.  (via Bill Harvey)

Military combat is, I am told, one of the most intense experiences a human being can have.  Veterans say that nobody except another veteran can know what it was like, and I am sure this is so.

For many, the experience is traumatic.   Drumming, music, drama, painting, writing—all can provide ways to come to terms with the experience and heal the trauma.

Pinning down prostate cancer by Tim Louis Macaluso for City newspaper of Rochester, N.Y.

The fate of every man, if he lives long enough.

The pitfall of relying on intelligence and logic

July 10, 2014

Last week a blogger called Avery Penarrun wrote:

Smart people have a problem, especially although not only when you put them in large groups.   That problem is an ability to convincingly rationalize nearly anything.  [snip]

If you know all the constraints and weights – with perfect precision – then you can use logic to find the perfect answer.  But when you don’t, which is always, there’s a pretty good chance your logic will lead you very, very far astray.

Most people find this out pretty early on in life, because their logic is imperfect and fails them often.  But really, really smart computer geek types may not ever find it out.

Click on The Curse of Smart People for his complete post.   It is, of course, not an argument for replacing reason with gut feeling, but against over-confidence and in favor of frequent reality checks.

Religion and IQ: country comparisons

August 13, 2013

Update 2/4/2017.   The whole idea of measuring the average IQ of a whole country, even assuming that IQ tests are given to a representative cross-section of the population, is bogus.  I should have known better than to post this.  Read IQ: A Skeptic’s View by Fred Reed for Fred on Everything.

Update 10/4/2018.  I recommend a study entitled Cognitive Test Scores Measure Net Nutritional Status.  The authors link variations in IQ to nutrition, climate and other factors, and debunk the idea that variations in IQ are mainly genetic.


Double click to enlarge.

Some psychologists at the University of Rochester did a review of surveys of religion and intelligence, mainly involving North American individuals, and concluded that religious people are less intelligent on average than non-religious people.  As these maps show, there is some evidence that the same variation exists among the world’s nations.


World IQ map. Source: James Thompson.  Click to enlarge.


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To assess the significance of these maps, you have to have an idea of just what it is that is measured on IQ tests (besides the ability to take IQ tests).

The great sociologist Peter Berger wrote that IQ is a measure of “modern consciousness,” which consists of the intellectual skills needed to function in a modern technological society.   That would explain why immigrants (including Jewish immigrants) to the 19th century United States on average had lower IQs than the natives, but the U.S.-born children of the immigrants were equal to or better than the natives.  It would explain why, during World War Two, Southern rural white men on average did worse on Army intelligence tests than Northern urban black men.  It would explain the Flynn Effect of rising IQ in each generation.

If Berger was right, it is non-modern forms of religion, not religion as such, that are correlated with lower IQ.  If he was right, IQ is not a measure of innate ability, but rather a measure of generational progress toward modernity.


Are religious people less intelligent than atheists?

August 13, 2013

IQbyreligionA recent study by a team of psychologists at the University of Rochester concludes that atheists are more intelligent than religious people.

This is based on a review of 63 studies conducted between 1928 and 2012.  In 53 of the studies, religious people were found to be less intelligent than atheists and, in 35 of the studies, significantly less intelligent.  In 10 of the studies, religious people were found to be more intelligent, and, in only two, significantly more intelligent.

The three psychologists carrying out the review defined intelligence as the “ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend complex ideas, learn quickly, and learn from experience”.

Religiosity is defined by the psychologists as involvement in some (or all) facets of religion.

According to the review, other factors – such as gender or education – did not make any difference to the correlation between intelligence and religious belief.

The level of belief, or otherwise, did however vary dependent upon age with the correlation found to be weakest among the pre-college population.

The paper concludes that: “Most extant explanations (of a negative relation) share one central theme —the premise that religious beliefs are irrational, not anchored in science, not testable and, therefore, unappealing to intelligent people who ‘know better’.”

via The Independent.

I have the same kinds of misgivings about this kind of study as I do about studies purporting to show IQ differences among whites, blacks and Asians or between rich and poor people.  My first misgiving is the uncertainty about what intelligent tests measure, given that they change across the generations.  My second misgiving is that, whatever they measure, the results are distributed along a Bell curve, with most of the populations overlapping.  You really can’t tell anything for sure about the intelligence of an individual based on race or religion.

The UR study is behind a pay wall, but I did a little Internet research, and the range of differences seems relatively small.  That is what I take away from the results of the study summarized in the chart above.

I have a good friend who is both much more intelligent and much more religious than I am.  She has an understanding of thinkers such as Noam Chomsky, Ludwig Wittgenstein and Bertrand Russell, which is far deeper than anything of which I am capable.  At the same time she is a much more spiritual person than I am.  She engages in meditation and other spiritual practices and gets a lot out of it.   I don’t do any of these things on a systematic basis.

I’m not sure which of us the UR researchers would consider the more religious person, because she is not a member of any religious group while I am a faithful attender of First Universalist Church of Rochester.