Apr 18, 2010

MYTHS ABOUT MAN (PART 1): Intelligence.



Einsten is less intelligent than you
Is man intelligent? Of course he is. But is he so intelligent as he thinks he is? What is intelligence after all? It is the capability of grasping the overall picture of things, meaning by that not only, theoretically, the elements that compose a reality and their functions in it, but also, pragmatically, their positioning and role in the flow of human actions of which we are supposed to strive to see the final approach. What I want to say is that in the very moment that you forget the link between theory and praxis, you are potentially heading to the catastrophe.
You might think that a nuclear scientist, closed in a super-secret government facility in Texas with his high-tech research tools as only companions, is possibly the most intelligent being on the planet. Think again. If he loses - as he does, in fact - the faculty of thinking about the possible uses of his theoretical achievements, he loses along with that the crucial requirement of human intelligence we described above. That way, he's only little more than the rats he's testing on, without offence. Is man intelligent in that respect? the question is out there for anybody to provide an answer.


A kick-ass opinion
One more question I would like to propose to everybody's attention. Thus far I've only considered human intelligence, with adjectives like, well, "human". The question is: is human intelligence the only one existing on our planet? Of course not, and that has been proved. And is it the best? If you were to ask a giant squid what he thinks about humans, it would consider us inferior in comparison to its species. Of course it would be its opinion against ours. But an opinion is made count only when it's let fight on his own battleground, and the way of violence is precisely what works against any opinion. The opinion that man is superior to other beings because he has the power to annihilate them, is ambiguous to say the least: an opinion validated by the means of force and violence is a contradiction in terms. Where is in that the human intelligence everybody talks about? Still, that argumentation is hard to die.


The evolution like you have never thought about before (maybe)
But let's assume you insist on that point, because you have found my objection too reliant on abstract logic. You might insist that human is the most intelligent being on the planet because, from the standpoint of the main law of evolution, he has reached a point where he dominates the planet, gaining the potential ability to wipe out all the other living forms from the face of the earth, if he feels like that. The sentence is incomplete though, the missing part being: included his own. Man has gained the potentiality to clear the surface of the earth of all its living forms, included his own. The self-destructive potentiality of the human species is one aspect evolutionists rarely consider, because evolution is normally understood preeminently as the progressive implementation of competitive advantages aimed at the unlimited extension of life in a given environment. But there is more to it. Evolution is more about the cycling through life and death, where we know that life eventualy succumbs. Man is at the top of the evolution scale, but that is not necessarily an accolade, because man serves the purposes of the evolution bindingly and universally, with all the benefits and all the drawbacks of his type of intelligence.


Ah, the bitter-sweet taste of doom!
All that takes us to a natural conclusion: man is the top of the evolutionary development and he doesn't need a superior form of life that could potentially put his species in danger, because HE HIMSELF is that very form of life. Man is the only form of life on this planet that is capable of putting its species in danger until, eventually, extinction. Interpreted this way, can being the non plus ultra of the evolution, the
prodigy-creature called man, be considered an achievement? A million years from now, the evolution might present the world with a mammoth-like creature that has the intelligence of an alien, can run like a cheetah, has got arms that host distructive plasma-cannons and can teletransport using antimatter technology, who knows. The problem is: the evolution doesn't need that, because through man it has already gained the
potentiality to put an end to the life-death cycle who pertains to all the components of the universe, stars included. When we understand that death is equally important to evolution as life, we'll have made an important step forward.


You think you are smart? Just ask Hegel
Something  more can be added. There is a crucial difference between intelligence and smartness (shrewdness), though the two concepts are broadly identified. We have to focus on the concept of intelligence that can be deduced from Hegel's works such as Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts ("Elements of the Phylosophy of Right", 1820). His rationalism, controversial as it might sound nowadays, is of paramount importance for understanding the concept of rationality I want to highlight.  For example, if you trick somebody to gain an economic advantage, then you are being smart. But your behaviour is actually irrational and shortsighted in that its apparent rationality is concealing the egoism of nature operating underneath. What you cannot see, is that by doing so you are going to create appendixes to your deed the extent of which could be seen only by a prefectely rational being (man become spirit, according to Hegel). Beside your landing in jail or your giving your son a bad example as to how to handle people, your little action can escalate fairly easily within the complex interconnections of human society, just like throwing a match in a clearing can set on fire a whole region way beyond our intentions. Smartness is the idea of intelligence the spirit of the evolution has in mind. We can do better than that.


Fly, Icarus, fly ...
To sum things up, there is no primary or absolute form of intelligence, to which to compare all the other ones. There are as many forms of intelligence as are the living forms prowling this planet. The definition of intelligence must be put into the context of each life condition. But this is something we all already know about, I guess. The question that has seldom been adequately addressed, is that the primary quality of human intelligence, the capacity to abstract from reality so as to gain access to the general laws that govern it, may seal man's doom in a not-so-distant future, possibly due to the global warming melting the wax in man's Icarus-like wings. Who knows.


"We cybernetic women can love better than human women. In fact, we were made for that."

1 comment:

OldProle said...

Ok, here we are. It looks like the comments are working. The paragraph breaks much improve the appearance of the text. Now I will finish this off and we'll see if it registers as a comment.