Monday, December 21, 2009

How Smart Am I

So I’m watching CNN last night with my husband and they’re doing a segment on global warming. Is it or isn’t it? That is the question. Anyway the dude that’s reporting is speaking to a scientist, a geo-physicist whose name escapes me and this geo-physicist is explaining his solutions for the problem of global warming. As he’s talking away I find that I’m not listening to him at all because my husband and I start into another conversation about intelligence. Seems this geo-physicist entered college at fourteen years of age, attained his Ph. D by twenty-three and now, for the past thirty years or more has performed all of the necessary duties of becoming a pre-eminent geo-physicist. Clearly a really smart guy.

And so I get to thinking… is this person really smarter than me? Actually let’s back up a step so I can admit that I don’t even know what the hell a geo-physicist is. What is the definition of a geo-physicist? I don’t know.

Anyway, does the fact that this person entered college at fourteen mean that he’s smarter than me? His head is normal size and therefore one could reasonably assume that his brain is normal size i.e. no bigger than the average six foot tall male. Should I assume because of his academic credentials that he is actually smarter than me, that when God was handing out brains he injected this gentleman with more of the intelligence chemical while perhaps giving me more of the athletic or artistic chemical to balance things out? I don’t know. Can this geo-physicist catch a football or run a sub-minute mile or ski moguls in addition to knowing what are the relevant factors when formulating a solution to global warming? Maybe he came up with the solution while participating in the IronMan Triathalon.

Could I have, if I had found that one thing that really struck my fancy, could I have had the ability to enter college at fourteen and succeed? If I had had the requisite interest in something, along with the requisite determination and persistence and thirst for knowledge did I have the smarts kick ass academically? Again, I don’t know.

So the question comes down to this: are we all, us average human beings, are we all generally endowed with the same level of intellectual potential? Is it there, lying dormant waiting for us to tap into it, either choosing to use it or not?

I think a lot about potential these days. How much do we have? Far more than I think anyone of us might suspect but beyond that how do we tap into our potential? How do we discover what riches lie deep within us for intellectual, artistic, athletic achievement?

I do not know the answer to this question.


  1. I think many of us have untapped potential but there are certainly some dim bulbs among us as well and despite the popular belief you can't be or do anything you want if you try hard enough.

    I am disappointed by the parents, high school teachers, counselors, etc. who push university on kids who just don't make the grade. Some people are cut out to be trade workers and that's okay! I've met many university graduates who can't write a proper sentence. No joke. :(

  2. I work with many university graduates that can't write a proper sentence. I also don't think that trade worker = not smart enough for college. It is a matter of personal preference. I'm quite sure that many a trade worker went on to attend college later on in life. I also happen to know many college grads who decided later on in life to become trade workers. Funny how that works out.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is that I don't think it's about making the grade, I think it's about what is appropriate for that individual at that particular time in their life in regard to what they want to do, not what somebody else thinks they should do. Working with your hands does not equate to lack of intelligence, book or street smarts. On the other hand if someone who is an average (or below) really wants to attend college than that is exactly what they should do and there should be opportunities for them to do so.

    I know your comment advocates not pushing people into something that isn't right for them just because that's what everybody is 'supposed' to do. I get that. I just felt like climbing up on my soapbox for a few.

  3. Of course none of this answers my original question which was "am I smarter than a geo-physicist?"

    Who is it that can tell me how smart I am.

  4. My view (not uniquely mine, of course) is that there are many different types of intelligence. IQ tests measure analytical skills for the most part. But there are integrative skills, intuitive skills, artistic skills, social skills. All of those 'skills' can be learned to some extent, but we all know that some people just seem to have an easier time with one or another. It's a rare person that gets them all.

    Then you add in differences in upbringing. Some people are encouraged to push, push, push. Others are lucky if they get a bowl of cereal before school. And tragedy can strike anyone, slow anyone down.

    We all have more potential than we realize. The geophysicist probably has areas where he did not fulfill his potential. Maybe, like you suggest, he wasn't such a great athlete. Maybe he could have been if his focus had been in that direction.

    The older we get, the more obvious it becomes that people are different, but usually not 'better' than one another.

    By the way, I left a number of comments on your excellent spiritual posts. Since they did not get posted, I am hoping that my usual loudmouthed way did not offend you. I was that annoying kid who always raised his hand in class, always had to toss in his two cents. Like now, I suppose.

  5. Hi Will - I'm that annoying kid now. I have no unmoderated comments so I have no idea where your comments might have gone. Out into the comment netherworld apparently. I'm sorry about that, I certainly would have liked to see what you had to say.