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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Judging the intelligence of someone who doesn't care about intelligence

Most of the wits I've known have been stamped with the "smart" sign in one way or another: they did well on standardized tests, went to fancy schools, and pursued some career associated with above average IQs.

But, some of the wits have not.

I recently spoke with a 63-year-old woman who'd had some ambition when young, but who has spent the second half of her life working in clerical positions. She came from a dysfunctional background, and was never encouraged to pursue any sort of academic interest. She was also a beauty when young, and most people saw her primarily in that light.

I made some small suggestion to her about something which was bothering her. She replied, "Too late. Mental equilibrium has left the building."

My initial reaction was, hmm, clever -- I wouldn't have thought to phrase it that way.

She said other clever things as well.

And I found myself wondering, how smart is she? I probably understand more stuff than her; but, I've probably made more of an effort to. And I wouldn't have come up with that rejoinder, nor some of the others. So I really can't judge her intelligence.

Sometimes, a positive impression is largely a matter of not being familiar with the limits of the person's repertoire. But sometimes, there's a genuine, undeniable wit there. And you're left wondering.

Usually, it's all too easy to see someone's lack of intelligence.

When someone lacks logic, you can see their limits clearly.

When someone spouts cliches, or recites old jokes, and then looks proud, their lack of originality is painfully apparent.

When someone is only willing to harbor "respectable" opinions, you can see their lack of intellectual courage quite clearly.

When someone bases their opinions on fiction, technically speaking, they're crazy.

When someone thinks you'll be interested in a two minute diatribe about their health status, well, enough said.

But when someone may not be interested in same things you are, or may have different opinions, but has clever ways of talking and different ways of looking at things, they seem smart. Are they? It's hard to tell.

Not entirely coincidentally, I witnessed the same woman change her opinion based on a fact she had been previously been unaware of. (Open-mindedness in a 63-year-old is probably even more impressive than plain old wit.)

That was a refreshing change from witless "intellectuals" too timid to think thoughts that are verboten.

One interesting corollary to all this is that black people tend to have good senses of humor. Despite a lower average IQ, they are better at saying funny stuff, and appreciating funny things.

And in that regard, the converse is also true: Northeast Asians may have the highest average IQs, but when was the last time you heard one of them say something genuinely funny?

(How does all that reflect on the woman? I don't know.)

I explored the somewhat tenuous relationship between IQ and a sense humor a bit here, six years ago.

In any case, clever people are fun. And, high IQ or not, it's sorta nice not to be able to see someone's limits. 


Anonymous said...


I have to vent about something. It's off topic but not of this blog. I'll try to make it on topic.

I went away after the election because I had a family vacay planned, but also to get away from election chatter. My family doesn't discuss politics. We all sort of agree, and we all sort of agree not to discuss politics during get togethers.

I have a close friend, and a neighbor who I loathe. I have to get along with the neighbor (I live in an apartment) but it takes forbearance.

The friend is a liberal Democrat. We just don't discuss politics a lot, but when we do, I explain my side of the issue and we move on. She's really a lovely person. There's lots to talk about besides politics. Dammit, we're not married to each other. You get to a point in life where you treasure good people and you accept differences.

I don't think that's lying. I think that's being an adult.

My loathsome neighbor is a hard core left wing fanatic who is also a borderline maniac. I think a lot of hard core lefties are borderlines. No sooner does a syllable come out of your mouth than she thinks she knows what you are going to say. She takes offense at nothing. Hair trigger temper.

Well, I'd like to give you an example. I'm neutral on climate change. I just don't have enough facts on the subject. She thought I was denying climate change when I said once that the Great Plains of the US is a semi-arid region (it is) that traditionally had little rainfall (it is) and that the Dust Bowl was a man made occurrence, because we farmed land that was really not suitable for farming, when we ripped up the native grasses. Look it up, John, that's what happened. After WWII we exploited aquifers which now keep the crops irrigated.

But I couldn't say that. She cut me off in mid-sentence and assumed I was denying climate change. She was boiling with rage. I managed to make my point, but after "heated" exchanges of words. This was a few years ago. I wouldn't bother now. I avoid her.

The friend is highly intelligent. Yes, she's still a lib Dem. But I love her. The second person is not as smart as she thinks she is, but she's pretty smart. However she is destroyed by her personality defects. She can't stick to anything. She's always starting projects and never finishing them, and her rage level grows as she ages and sees herself stuck in the same ditch.

Vent over.


PS If you want to know what brought this on, after months of self-discipline I slacked and allowed myself to get sucked into her insanity. It wasn't that big of a deal - she accused me of insulting her and stalked off in a sulk, but it was upsetting. Fool me more than twice, shame on me!!

PPS There is a definite relationship between hard core leftism and BPD, esp. in women.

John Craig said...

Puzzled --
You're always welcome to vent on this blog, off topic or not.

The older I get, the more I realize that a lot of modern liberalism is populated by crazy white people. And yes, there seem to be a lot of women with BPD who are hard Lefties. I'm the same as you, agnostic about global warming, or climate change as they now say (since the facts didn't seem to back up global warming the way they wanted it to). And I had a similar experience once: all I did was say I was agnostic, and the SJW snarled at me, "That's such pretentious word to use! Why don't you get your head out of your ass and admit what's going on!" (That SJW, by the way, has since switched from the global warming line to climate change, and has been less vocal about it recently.)

So, my experience was similar to yours. And, coincidentally, the SJW I know never finished things either.

Anonymous said...

I have come to the conclusion recently that the majority of people seem to be nutty in some way, some people being nuttier than others.


John Craig said...

Birdie --
In that case, for once, I'm part of the majority.

Anonymous said...

I use to think I was completely normal, but as I age I wonder, realizing that I have a few quirks myself. The key (for me) to keep my sanity intact is to stay balanced mentally and emotionally, not allowing certain people in my life get to me, aggravate me. Having a sense of humor helps.


John Craig said...

Birdie --
Actually, one of the best measures of sanity is the extent to which you're ware of your own quirks.

Anonymous said...


I forgot to add some things. The vent was on topic, because my BPD neighbor denies innate intelligence. She's hyper on the subject of race and white privilege, etc. She is a text book radical. Of course, her own kids went to private schools.

When we had the exchange about the Dust Bowl, I thought I was explaining something benign and uncontroversial - that the plains are semi-arid. But she misinterpreted that as a threat on her religion. Which in a way it was. During our exchange, I made it clear that I thought what we had done in creating the Dust Bowl was an ecological crime, and she completely calmed down. It was almost funny. As long as you are attacking white, Western culture, they're OK. And sometimes I do, because white Western culture is dynamic, and has made many mistakes. When you attack the mistakes, they misinterpret that as hatred of the culture. That's really not my intent.

They really are sick, fucked up creatures. And the vast majority of SJWs are do-nothings. They don't want to solve problems. They want to lie in their own filth and kvetch. This woman will never accomplish a thing.

The problem is that they are led by the nose by do-somethings. Their leaders are very powerful, and effective.


John Craig said...

Puzzled --
Yes, I understand that mentality completely. And you rightly characterize the whole belief system as a religion. There are "good" and "bad" ways of looking was things, which is far more important than "accurate" and "inaccurate."

Agree, SJW's are mostly dysfunctional people. They are the people the Soviets used to refer to as "useful idiots" back in the days of the Cold War. The Soviets had absolutely no respect for their fellow travelers in the West, and, well, that phrase speaks for itself.

And yes, their leadership, typified by George Soros, are very powerful and effective. Soros's entire goal is to destabilize the West, and he and his ilk are doing a remarkably good job.

One question I've been meaning to ask: you ARE Coco/Lady Bug, right?

Steven said...

"I'm the same as you, agnostic about global warming, or climate change as they now say (since the facts didn't seem to back up global warming the way they wanted it to)"

A few years ago, about 2013-2014, there was a lot of talk of a 15 year hiatus in global warming. I looked at the data and called bullshit on it. I'm not a specialist but I could see it was disingenuous.

The hiatus supposedly began in 1998 which was an unusually warm El Nino year, actually one of the most intense el ninos on record. So of course that was a really warm year but it was a 90's outlier. By 2013, what was a freak warm year in the late 90's was basically normal (I think it was was even being matched in la nina years, which are meant to be cooler) but it looked like there had been no warming. However, you could see clearly that 2000-2010 was warmer than 1990-2000.

I also predicted at the time that the supposed hiatuses was going to come to an end and we'd start getting record breaking warm years again. It sounds like I'm blowing my own trumpet here, which I suppose I am a bit because I'm a little bit proud of my prediction, but honestly it was a pretty safe bet if you looked at the data with some basic knowledge and factored in el nino.

2015 was the warmest year on record and even broke the record by the largest margin it had ever been broken (another strong el nino year like 98 but now the temps are even higher) and 2016 will probably break the record again. 15 or the top 16 warmest years on record have been since 2000. There is a definite ongoing warming trend as far as I'm concerned.

That's all assuming the data is correct of course, which I have no idea about. Admittedly, I'm just believing the data.

I think global warming is probably caused by humans to a significant extent (I can't get away from the basic logic that greenhouse gasses have a warming effect and we've put shitloads of them into the atmosphere) but I'm a lot less sure about it than I used to be.

Not really relevant but just thought I'd give you my two cents and inform you of what I know. Hope it made sense.

John Craig said...

Steven --
I've heard a lot of different statistics from different sources and a lot of them contradict each other; and I'm not smart enough to put it all together, nor do I know enough about the science to have an informed opinion. So I generally just stay away from the argument.

Here's one little factoid which I've heard which makes me a little suspicious: while the receding ice cap at the North Pole got a tremendous amount of publicity, at the same time, the ice cap at the South Pole was supposedly increasing, and that got next to no publicity. And while there was a huge amount of publicity about how the polar bears near the North Pole would never survive this catastrophe, the polar bear population was actually increasing during that period.

And, the same Lefties who get hysterical about global warming tend to lie about everything else, so I'm naturally suspicious.

That said, it would make sense that all the changes mankind has wrought would have some effect. But again, I just don't know enough to have an informed opinion.

Runner Katy said...

Not completely off subject, but I wanted to add my two cents to your comment "When someone is only willing to harbor "respectable" opinions, you can see their lack of intellectual courage quite clearly." (thinking maybe they have the courage to not engage in an argument when they completely disagree with a comment or thought process).

I don't consider myself much more than average intelligence, but often I find that by remaining agreeable, on the outside at least (even to use clich├ęs, as you've put in other comments, so that average friends understand my point), simply avoids trouble that maybe more intelligent friends don't intentionally avoid.

What makes one more courageously intelligent to actively pursue the argument, when we know that the person we are in disagreement with likely won't bend or change? Just wondering your thought on this, as you know I do value your opinion. Thanks!

John Craig said...

Runner Katy --
You make a good point: I should distinguish between people who avoid argument out of good manners, vs. people who really only think in cliches, or are completely unwilling to entertain the idea of opinions which are outside the mainstream. So, yes, being agreeable is completely different from having a limited way of thinking.

I can tell just from your comments on this blog that you're the polite type (unlike me). And you're also right about the futility of trying to change peoples' minds.

But what I was talking about more than anything else is, people you get to know fairly well, or at least well enough to know how they think. That, in the long or even medium term run, is a pretty hard thing to hide.

Runner Katy said...

Ooh, good point, there! The limited thinking, unbending polite types who only agree with mainstream and follow media, celebrity thinking and the like? I see where you were going, now. Thank you for the clarification, and yes, I try to be polite, for the most part. It seems to accomplish more than other emotional paths, in my humble opinion.