Search Box

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Tell me your IQ, not your academic credentials

An awful lot of people think that the various academic degrees they have obtained are somehow proof of intelligence.

But to have been brainwashed at some prestigious university is an indication of priorities, not brainpower.

You can usually get a pretty strong sense of someone's wattage simply from chatting with him for five minutes. How much common sense does he have? How quick is he? How witty? Is he receptive to cues? How resistant to new evidence is he? How well reasoned are his arguments? How willing is he to stray from commonly accepted wisdom? To what extent can he think for himself?

The only thing a PhD's confirms is that someone has been content to devote a big portion of his life to academia.

Just as truly tough people don't care about whether or not they're tough (they just are), truly smart people tend not to care about degrees.

It's oversheltered mama's boys -- like me -- who place the greatest premium on being tough. And that's for good reason: because we're not.

Likewise, it's those of average intelligence who place the greatest premium on academic degrees.

Bobby Fischer -- generally acknowledged to be one of the two greatest chess players of all time -- was a high school dropout. But his brain was a Cray XK7 Supercomputer compared to the abacus most PhD's have to work with.

The presence -- or absence -- of a degree does not change biology.

A person with a high IQ can be (depending on his temperament) a joy to be around. He at least has the potential to delight you with his wit, or insights, and maybe he can even help you solve your personal problems.

On the other hand, anybody who brandishes his degree like a weapon is a chore. Unless you enjoy pedantry, pretentiousness, and a wealth of received opinions.

In a sane world, people would boast about their IQ's, not their degrees.

28 comments:

Steven said...

Good point.

Why do you think a lot of companies use cognitive testing to assess the best candidates? Grade inflation means more and more people are getting good marks so they need to find out for themselves. I read that in the UK 7 out of 10 students are now getting 2:1s- that used to be like a B, maybe a B/C.

I saw a video on another blog of Harvard Grads on graduation day being asked to explain the seasons and some of them got it wrong. They didn't know it was because the earth tilts on its axis; they thought it was closer to the sun in summer.

Nevertheless, somebody with a good brain will learn a lot more on the internet than a middling intellect will ever learn attending lectures at Oxford University or Harvard.

If I could live my life over again, I wouldn't do a sociology degree and I might not even go to university.

I hardly even learnt anything in university. Most of what I've learned has been from reading. The best thing schooling did was teach me to read and that was done by age 6.

I'm not denigrating all degrees. Some are better than others and I was admittedly an unmotivated student for most of my life.

John Craig said...

Steven --
Thank you. In this country cognitive testing by companies has actually been outlawed because it results in "disparate impact," i.e., different races perform at different levels. "Disparate impact" is, of course, one of the most ridiculous concepts ever to become law, but it is.

Personally, I think it's a great tool for companies to use.

I"m in the same boat as you, college-wise. I have an absolutely worthless degree in psychology, wish I could do it all over again too. And I agree, some degrees --especially in the hard sciences -- are worth more than others.

Steven said...

ah so that's what disparate impact is.

I'm surprised you'd think your psychology degree is absolutely worthless. Isn't there some good stuff in psychology? Isn't all the stuff about sociopathy from psychology?

John Craig said...

Steven --
Yes, but I graduated from college without a clue as to what sociopathy was. So the degree was useless at that level. And also in terms of getting a job, an undergraduate degree in psychology doesn't get you anywhere.

Anonymous said...

Well, if I were to do it over again, I'd be a librarian, living a quiet, peaceful, uneventful life (no drama). And I'm not kidding. I know that I have average intelligence, not being totally clueless. If I had the technology that exists today, "back in the day", I would try and get my degree online (from the comfort of my home).

-birdie

John Craig said...

Birdie --
Online degrees are both cheaper and quicker to obtain than regular college degrees. Makes sense to me.

Drama does have a way of finding all of us though.

Anonymous said...

I think that I would have been a far better student if I hadn't been hearing-impaired. Not being able to hear everything that went on within a classroom was frustrating.

-birdie

John Craig said...

Birdie --
I bet. I hadn't realized you had that problem. Have you had it corrected (was that possible)?

Anonymous said...

My twin sister and I were born with the same congenital disorder (atresia of both ears, no ear canals and no ear drums). We had surgeries as children on both ears (ear canals and ear drums were created), but, the surgeries didn't correct the problem totally. Even wearing a hearing aid didn't guarantee that you'd catch everything within the classroom (heck, any environment). We're able to hear (good bone conduction), having a mild to moderate hearing loss (depending on which ear is being tested).

-birdie

John Craig said...

Birdie --
Well, my sympathies. Do any of your children have this problem?

Anonymous said...

My children have not inherited the condition. Each one has perfect hearing. Unfortunately, my sister's children have inherited the condition (they seem to have a severe form of the condition), having had their share of surgeries. God bless them.

-birdie

John Craig said...

Birdie --
Glad to hear your children are fine, and good luck to your nieces/nephews.

Anonymous said...

I've met a lot of guys my age who thought they were dumb, struggled at school only to find out they had dyslexia later in life.

I would not of gone to University either doing my time again. I would be a tradesman.

There's a joke that goes along the lies of "How do you know if someone has a PHD?

answer: they tell you

Andrew

John Craig said...

Andrew --
Ha, so true. And the ones who insist on being called "doctor" are the biggest twits of all.

Remnant said...

It would be great if more companies threw down the gauntlet and made a policy of hiring smart kids without college. For instance, interviewing anyone who got an acceptance letter to an Ivy.

Of course, they would risk disparate impact suits. But I wonder if not opening it up entirely, but rather tying it to the existing university system ("Hey, we're just offering jobs to people who could get into Harvard. If Harvard isn't discriminating, how could we be?")

Coincidentally, or fortuitously, I am in the middle of reading Napoleon Hill's "Think and Get Rich". Until very recently, I would have looked askance at, and condescended to, this type of "sell-help" book. But actually, I find it contains a great deal of wisdom. Hill takes great pains to distinguish "educated" people from "people with degrees".

He defines an educated person as someone who can get whatever they want out of life without infringing upon the rights of others. A very curious but interesting way of looking at things.

Hill also highlights that the true test of education is the ability to DO things with one's knowledge, not merely to HAVE knowledge. And it is a classic PhD / overly-credentialed snob position to lord over others how much knowledge one has. (I plead occasional guilt to this, and I don't even have a PhD...) Hill takes the view that a person should be embarrassed to have a lot of useless knowledge. I don't fully agree with him but I am more won over to his position.

In contrast, the following article I came across yesterday, which purports to be a bold critique of academia by an insider rings quite hollow to me. He fails to see precisely the things Hill argues for with such force: for all of his proposed "reforms", the professor still assumes that the university should continue to be the proper place where people are "educated".

I find it incredibly blinkered of him to see all of the signs he sees without coming to much more radical conclusions: in the new world, "learning" may be had anywhere; to the extent universities will continue to be valuable, they will be so (or should be so) at a much, much smaller scale; and -- if we were honest about IQ -- we would encourage far, far fewer people to attend university.

Ultimately, despite his grim diagnosis, this professor still cannot imagine a world where the university is not at the center of "education".

I believe this is an incorrect assumption about the future. In fact, we may already be there.

http://chronicle.com/article/Teach-or-Perish/151187/

John Craig said...

Remnant --
Yes, disparate impact is one of the most insidious concepts ever to invade our country, and it has caused a lot of the sort of torturous thinking you describe.

I think I understand what Hill is saying, but I'd shift it slightly. To me, the mark of someone who is truly educated is the ability to synthesize his knowledge, relate what he has learned in one field to another. For instance, how do nature and nurture interact? How does the mainstream media use psychology to brainwash people? How do pick-up artists use the knowledge originated by sociobiology (evolutionary biology)? And so on.

I actually just happened to be having a discussion with a friend (Jared Taylor, actually) the other day about the useless knowledge we all carry around. As an example, I gave the fact that I can remember almost all of the swimming world records dating back to the 60's. I don't think we have any choice about that kind of stuff. While I would readily admit that there's something pathetic about a guy who never outgrows his sport, it's not a gin of empty-headedness. It's almost more like a sexual fetish, something we got fixated on at an early age and can't shake.

I agree with you about education: fewer people should go to college, and more learning should be done online.

I read the article you linked. I will say, the Georgetown professor captured the pathetic quality of higher education pretty well.

BTW, here are my thoughts for a "practical college" which I wrote about a few years ago:

http://justnotsaid.blogspot.com/2011/01/practical-college.html

Katy said...

Completely agree and thanks for bringing this up! I thoroughly enjoy a brilliant person's quick wit and humor when they have a good temperament. The pretentious degree toter makes one only want to roll their eyes in annoyance.

John Craig said...

Katy --
Amen, and thank you.

Anonymous said...

john what kind of person is jared taylor?
i've read a few articles but don't know much about the guy himself. he seems well read and fluent in foreign languages - i think he is a business translator?

oddly enough, for the longest time i kept reading of amren and co being vicious sexist racists. but they're just normal people for the most part.

John Craig said...

Anon --
I've known him since we were on the same boarding school track team together in Kobe, Japan, in the school year 1967-68.

He's extremely smart, and, obviously, quite brave. He speaks his mind but is willing to take and accept criticism; in fact he's usually grateful for criticism, if it's accurate.

Once when we were arguing about race, I pointed out to him that people of East Asian descent in this country really ought to look down on whites for the same basic reasons that some whites look down on blacks. He agreed.

He tends to be far more open-minded than many of his readers.

I haven't seen him in close to a decade, but we keep in email touch.

Remnant said...

Jared Taylor is, in my view, one of the great men of our age.

I used to think of him as "the most hated man in America", although he probably isn't well known enough to merit the title.

In any case, I realize now that he could NOT be called the most hated. A week or two ago, he wrote an article decrying and mocking the American obsession with professional sports: NOW he may be called the the most hated man in America.

Very interesting to learn that you knew him growing up, John Craig. He is one of my contemporary heroes.

John Craig said...

Remnant --
Yes, Taylor is remarkably brave. He'll speak his mind no matter the circumstances. He appeared on the Queen Latifah Show, for instance, saying his bit about racial differences in front of a crowd of jeering, booing blacks. I know few people who would have the courage to do that. And he always maintains his composure, speaks in measured tones, never loses his temper.

Ha! He actually asked me to take a look at that article about the Super Bowl before he published it (I made a couple suggestions he incorporated). I didn't read ally he comments after it, but he told me that while some called him a pussy and some called him un-American, most of the commenters seemed to basically agree with him.

Anonymous said...

John, it seems the smartest people, those with the most credentials (although they brag they have a high IQ - maybe a lie?) are the least likely to have any common sense. These "book smart" people sometimes have trouble interacting with many of us who are average. How do you explain that? Do you think our President has a high IQ? Just wondering....
Donna

John Craig said...

Hi Donna --
I wouldn't call the people you're talking about the "smartest people." You're talking about the eggheads who are most impressed by credentials, and I would guess that most of them don't really have high IQ's. If you're truly smart, you'll have some common sense.

No, I don't think Obama has a particularly high IQ by the standards of people with his academic and professional background. I'd guess he's in the 120 range. What he has is a facility for and an ease with lying that has helped him get ahead with the people he's needed to impress. Plus he has a simpatico media which is willing to refrain from calling him on all his lies. When he was first elected, people used to talk about his "soaring oratory" and his eloquence, but take away his Teleprompter and he's like Tom Cruise without a script.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting, John. I am acquainted with numerous people with impressive pedigrees who are incredibly dry, lack common sense, yet they are extremely well read. They are definitely the eggheads. What about the people with the highest scores on the SAT? Do you think the SAT can measure the smartest people? Or, do you think it is a game that some learn how to play? Donna

John Craig said...

Donna --
I think there's a much higher correlation between SAT's and intelligence than there is between grades (and degrees) and intelligence. I've read in th east that the correlation between the SAT's and IQ is .9, which is very high. With grades, it's more a question of how much of a grind you are, how much you kiss the teacher's asses, what courses you take, whether you're graded on a curve and how tough the competition is, etc.

As far as people who are well read, well, they're as smart as you have to be to be able to read. That said, one of the defining characteristics of intelligence is curiosity, and people who read more are generally going to be more curious people.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, John,
Re SAT, the kids who have the resources to take good prep classes and/or receive SAT tutoring may be at a greater advantage if they are average though? I have always wondered whether the SAT is really fair and perhaps more a function of financial resources and emotionally stable homes. Someone with a high IQ no matter his surroundings will do well. I knew kids in Stamford who scored above 90% in the Matrix Analogies test in first grade, but their home life and surroundings were likely to hold them back from higher education. But if they managed to stay in school chances are they would have done well on the SAT without the financial resources a wilton kid might have.

John Craig said...

Donna --
No question, environment makes a difference, and yes, taking practice tests on the SAT's and finding out why you got the wrong answer on some of them is an advantage. Nobody on the nature side of the nature/nurture argument says that someone's home environment makes no difference.

And yes, an emotionally fraught home life can also have deleterious effects.

I'd have absolutely no problem with affirmative action if it were based on an individual's circumstances rather than his race.