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Old 2008-02-05, 23:23   Link #1
Reckoner
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How one defines intelligence and a genius

Sorry if this has been spoken about by the way, I used to the search function and found no thread with this topic.

Anyways, a conversation started between my friend and I while we were eating lunch, and the topic was originally about a guy we knew who apparently did Calculus and Physics AP and many other hard academic classes while still in middle school. My friend started raving about how the guy is a genius and everything and we started to argue because I said that intelligence and true genius cannot be measured simply by academic performances.

For clarification, these were my friend's points:
  • Unintelligent people cannot do hard academic courses while intelligent people can, so academics is a true measure of one's intelligence and can therefore be used to classify people as geniuses.
  • There exists a huge steep positive correlation between intelligence and success in life.
  • Intellectualism is an inherent trait in people, one cannot enlighten one self with ideas and concepts and teachings.
  • Parents, guardians, etc. have nothing to do with a person's capabilities in life. Pushing children earlier in life will not make them be able to do things that much earlier than others.

And these were my points:
  • Academics mostly has to do with work ethic, intellect plays little role in succeeding in hard academic courses, unless one has a mental disability such as retardation.
  • There exists a gradual positive correlation between intelligence and success in life.
  • Intellectualism is not an inherent trait in people, people need to teach themselves and enlighten themselves with their own beliefs, standards, and ideas.
  • Parents, guardians, etc. play a huge role in someone's capabilities in life. If parents really want to, they can push their children to learning things much quicker than children their age. The child doesn't necessarily need to be that intelligent to do things like Calculus earlier in life. I do admit though that there existed and stills exists prodigy children in the world who seem to be amazing on their own, but this does not reflect the average population of people.

This is what we both agreed on:
  • Certain areas of intelligence, we feel, are more important than others in people. For example the person that does not have the common sense to realize that something like killing innocent people is wrong, but for some reason is brilliant at astrophysics, is not as smart as the normal person who is average at everything, but has the common sense to realize that, that action is evil.
  • Too much do people mistake the difference between sounding intelligent and actually being intelligent. For example two people can write a sentence that expresses their view on a subject matter. The person who sounds better is often mistaken as the more intelligent viewpoint on the matter, although the person who isn't considered the intelligent one could have had the better viewpoint.

So from this discussion I was wondering about the viewpoints on the matter of intelligence from the people of animesuki.

Questions such as these:

How do you define intelligence?
Is intelligence inherent, learned, or a little bit of both?
What measures intelligence?
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Old 2008-02-05, 23:43   Link #2
tripperazn
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Reckoner View Post
For clarification, these were my friend's points:
  • Unintelligent people cannot do hard academic courses while intelligent people can, so academics is a true measure of one's intelligence and can therefore be used to classify people as geniuses.
  • There exists a huge steep positive correlation between intelligence and success in life.
And these were my points:
  • Academics mostly has to do with work ethic, intellect plays little role in succeeding in hard academic courses, unless one has a mental disability such as retardation.
  • There exists a gradual positive correlation between intelligence and success in life.
While your other points are somewhat subjective, these are rather more concrete. You are both right on one point each.

Yes, a person's intelligence does decide how far you can progress effectively in one discipline (elementary school arithmetic, basic algebra, geometry, precalculus/analytical geometry, single var calc, multi var calc, etc.). It's really more of a continuum rather than, strict cut-offs. Some people will only be able to do arithmetic, nothing more complicated than that due to birth defects or genetic illness. Some will be able to do some algebra. Where you place "mentally disabled" is really subjective. And by saying that unless he is "[retarded]", you are agreeing that intelligence does cap your ability. Psychologists classify "retardation" as having IQ of under 70, with under 40 being majorly retarded. How much you live up to your inherent potential is of course decided by work ethic. You may potentially be a very able physicist, but if you never try, you obviously will never achieve that proficiency.

However, every Psychologist I've ever talked with has strongly disagreed that intellect is strongly correlated with "success" of any kind. This was one of my areas of curiosity as well, so the answer is "no".

About your "genius": Yes, it might sound very impressive now that some kid is taking AP classes, but depending on where she takes it (high school, community college, self-study, etc.) difficulty will vary a LOT. For example, my high school's AP Biology program had a mean (average) score of 4.7/5 on the standardized test. The level of difficulty is obviously different from the national average of ~2.5/5.
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Old 2008-02-05, 23:46   Link #3
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Originally Posted by Reckoner View Post
[*]Parents, guardians, etc. have nothing to do with a person's capabilities in life. Pushing children earlier in life will not make them be able to do things that much earlier than others.
I do believe I have a study done on children in an orphanage which would contradict that.

here we go
Quote:
Originally Posted by wikipedia
A study of French children adopted between the ages of 4 and 6 shows the continuing interplay of nature and nurture. The children came from poor backgrounds with IQs that initially averaged 77, putting them near retardation. Nine years later after adoption, they retook the I.Q. tests, and all of them did better. The amount they improved was directly related to the adopting family’s status. "Children adopted by farmers and laborers had average I.Q. scores of 85.5; those placed with middle-class families had average scores of 92. The average I.Q. scores of youngsters placed in well-to-do homes climbed more than 20 points, to 98."[26] On the other hand, the degree to which these increases persisted into adulthood are not clear from the study.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intelli...ly_environment

The general idea in the wikipedia article is that your parents can influence your IQ as a kid, but that it becomes progressively less of an issue as you age, eventually becoming insignificant when you reach adulthood.
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Old 2008-02-05, 23:51   Link #4
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Hard work vs. talent? Talent. You can work as hard as you like, and if you don't have the talent to reward your hard work, you're screwed. On the same note, you need hard work to cultivate that talent, but it better be there to begin with.
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Old 2008-02-06, 00:03   Link #5
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I define intelligence as the ability to understand a subject, with intelligent people capable of understanding a subject exceptionally easily/well.
I believe some people are more intelligent than others, but given enough effort anyone can become exceptionally good at anything (barring any mental disability).
When it comes to geniuses they can be extremely gifted only in certain fields and be horrible in others, however I do not believe that people gifted with exceptional coordination and other motor/physical skills should be considered specialized geniuses (there are those who do). I define a genius as one who is both gifted and constantly working on their specialized field (but it must be intellectual)

I do not think that intelligent people are guaranteed to be successful, people waste gifts all the time, intelligence is no different.

I personally dislike the AP system, it is supposed to be the equivalent of college classes, but in high school I knew people with 6 AP classes, being generous that is 18 units (not impossible, but you don't see many people doing it, and here calculus is a 5 unit class not 3 units, so it can easily become 20+ units) and from my experience they do not compare to the college equivalent (though I do not have a particularly high opinion of the public school system, especially in California)
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Old 2008-02-06, 00:11   Link #6
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Originally Posted by Defron View Post
I personally dislike the AP system, it is supposed to be the equivalent of college classes, but in high school I knew people with 6 AP classes, being generous that is 18 units (not impossible, but you don't see many people doing it, and here calculus is a 5 unit class not 3 units, so it can easily become 20+ units) and from my experience they do not compare to the college equivalent (though I do not have a particularly high opinion of the public school system, especially in California)
That's not my experience. I took AP Calc AB and got credit for Calc I, took Physics C and got credit for Physics 211, and took Computer Science BC and got credit for CS 111. I had no trouble with the college courses and found the AP material adequately covered the material I needed to know. I pretty much got 3 credit hours for each AP course I took.
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Old 2008-02-06, 00:14   Link #7
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Let me see I seem to recall many people considered geniuses were considered flops at their younger ages.

Einstein and, Edison are names that comes top of my head.
They were both intelligent and were considered geniuses but really sucked in grade school.
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Old 2008-02-06, 00:18   Link #8
Defron
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Originally Posted by Ziv View Post
That's not my experience. I took AP Calc AB and got credit for Calc I, took Physics C and got credit for Physics 211, and took Computer Science BC and got credit for CS 111. I had no trouble with the college courses and found the AP material adequately covered the material I needed to know. I pretty much got 3 credit hours for each AP course I took.
I took AP calc and AP Physics, both classes were very easy here, didn't take the AP test (I knew I wasn't going directly to a 4 year as my parents were already paying for my two older sisters) and the highest level you can test into at my community college for math is Calculus 1, so I took it and was surprised at how much was seemingly uncovered in my AP class.

Thats just my experience here though (and the fact that many of my friends who did take the AP test got 1s attests to how bad AP classes are here, or at least at my high school)
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Old 2008-02-06, 00:39   Link #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Reckoner
Unintelligent people cannot do hard academic courses while intelligent people can, so academics is a true measure of one's intelligence and can therefore be used to classify people as geniuses.
Not to sound as thought I'm putting words in your friend's mouth, not achieving academic excellence does not mean that someone is any less intelligent than someone who has. My father, who was a very intelligent man in life, was a college dropout who did poorly in school. He was, however, fairly successful in life. If you don't have the drive to attempt to achieve academic excellence, then in all likelihood, you will not achieve it.

I have seen people who were veritably retarded excel in some higher-level academic courses. I have no means of arguing on this, since it baffles me to this day.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Reckoner
There exists a huge steep positive correlation between intelligence and success in life.
If you lack motivation, then regardless of how intelligent or capable you are, you'll be hard pressed to succeed. I believe that wisdom and motivation are the key factors to success.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Reckoner
Parents, guardians, etc. have nothing to do with a person's capabilities in life. Pushing children earlier in life will not make them be able to do things that much earlier than others.
While it can be said that they [Guardians] do not directly affect an individual's capabilities, it can affect that individual's ability to nurture their potential. Talent, if left unattended, can rot. Confidence increases the potency of ability tenfold. I believe that it's all in your head.

----

How do you define intelligence?

Obviously, there is a difference between intelligence and wisdom, just as there is a difference between ignorance and stupidity. I believe that intelligence can be measured both by one's ability to solve a problem and the speed at which they can do it. I don't believe that both are required to be considered intelligent, but I do believe that each could be put on either end of a scale to balance each other out.

However, you also have to take into account test anxiety. If the individual believes or knows that it is a test, or if they are under some degree of pressure, or if they are in any way "out of it," (tired, drugged, emotionally or mentally strained) then their score will be adversely affected. Thus, I don't believe that any one test can accurately determine someone's intelligence.


Is intelligence inherent, learned, or a little bit of both?

I suppose that it depends on whether or not you have a mental handicap. Of course, I do believe in prodigies; Amadeus Mozart and Felix Mendelssohn are prime examples. I assume that, due to the varying levels of rarity in mental disabilities and prodigal talents, it can be seen as inherent in a way. There are people with photographic memories, superb observational skills, and certain interests. I believe that what comes naturally can affect your ability to learn. I do not believe that the lack of these natural talents makes it impossible to excel, though. I've seen hard work overcome natural talent far too many time in my life to believe otherwise. Beethoven, one of the most popular composers of all time, was anything but a prodigy. He struggled horribly with his writing, as can be seen in the furious scribbles and markings in his original transcripts. Mozart, however, simply heard it in his head and wrote it down perfectly.

I think that the third question was answered in the first one.
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Old 2008-02-06, 00:42   Link #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Defron View Post
I took AP calc and AP Physics, both classes were very easy here, didn't take the AP test (I knew I wasn't going directly to a 4 year as my parents were already paying for my two older sisters) and the highest level you can test into at my community college for math is Calculus 1, so I took it and was surprised at how much was seemingly uncovered in my AP class.

Thats just my experience here though (and the fact that many of my friends who did take the AP test got 1s attests to how bad AP classes are here, or at least at my high school)
The latter statement would seemingly explain the former. The AP classes I took were always, always, harder than the AP tests themselves. Taking them during May felt more like a formality than anything, since you don't go in there expecting to fail...

This is why I wasn't that impressed that a middle school kid can take AP classes. The level of the classes vary so much between different schools that it really doesn't mean anything without context.
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Old 2008-02-06, 01:10   Link #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Defron View Post
I took AP calc and AP Physics, both classes were very easy here, didn't take the AP test (I knew I wasn't going directly to a 4 year as my parents were already paying for my two older sisters) and the highest level you can test into at my community college for math is Calculus 1, so I took it and was surprised at how much was seemingly uncovered in my AP class.

Thats just my experience here though (and the fact that many of my friends who did take the AP test got 1s attests to how bad AP classes are here, or at least at my high school)
If they got 1s on the AP test then the teachers obviously didn't teach the right material.
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Old 2008-02-06, 01:38   Link #12
Reckoner
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Some nice comments in here already.

Well the AP curriculum has always been flawed due to the already present flaw in school education itself. Schools are not equal in any way no matter what we do. Certain schools will always have better teachers and more money than other schools. The students themselves could present a big problem like these downtown L.A. schools filled with gangsters here in California.

I would just like to clarify though, that the school district I go to is a very good one. Go look up Oak Park High School and Medea Creek Middle School and you can see that they are blue ribbon schools in California. My AP European History teacher and AP Biology teacher that I had last year had a 100% pass rate on the AP exams, which is pretty darn amazing. I personally got a 5 on the Biology one. The person in my school that my friend marveled at passed all his AP exams with 5s, I was seemingly unimpressed.

I just dislike the idea that many people get that when someone works really hard and achieves something, they equivocate this to being very intelligent.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tripperazn View Post
While your other points are somewhat subjective, these are rather more concrete.
Well the very subject matter of this topic is subjective, it's very opinionated.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ziv View Post
The general idea in the wikipedia article is that your parents can influence your IQ as a kid, but that it becomes progressively less of an issue as you age, eventually becoming insignificant when you reach adulthood.
That was quite an interesting read.
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Old 2008-02-06, 01:56   Link #13
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Well the very subject matter of this topic is subjective, it's very opinionated.
Not really, this topic fits very neatly into psychology, defining intelligence, self-actualization, and nature vs. nurture are just some major topics within it. If you take AP Psychology, it'll probably answer a lot of your questions about this.

Do you guys believe in a "general intelligence factor", that those who are good in one subject are generally good at all subjects? Or do you think that smart people are only specially good at a few closely related subjects (ie. math and physics)?
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Old 2008-02-06, 01:59   Link #14
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Intelligence *isn't* really about how many facts you can memorize or be knowledge-base filled about something (though it is an aspect of memory skills and an element of allowing intelligence to blossom). Root intelligence is about:

1) problem-solving skills (how do I get that banana that's hanging from a string? I want to nail that deer without coming close to its antlers. ...)
2) success in adapting to and manipulating new environments (terrain, tools, social environments, etc)
3) Collecting data elements (histories) in enough quantity to so that one has a robust set of previous experiences to use as metaphorical models to apply to the current experience. (I've seen large teeth-infested animals before -- I shouldn't *taunt* them.)

IQ tests are infested with bias... even the best ones. At best, they test for people who might be successful in a social environment that is important to the testers.

I believe *anyone* can do well in an AP course if they come with the right mental toolkit, a decent foundation of prerequisite skills, and motivation -- its not an indicator of intelligence per se.

I do really well in math and physics (well-defined classes of problems that can be extended to larger problem domains), less well in chemistry (more memorization). I joke that people who are able to store and manipulate large bundles of data that vary from one item to the next are better at chemistry (and Pokemon). People like me are more apt to morph a few rulesets to fit a large number of situations.

Intelligence... is figuring out HOW to jump the ravine. Wisdom is deciding *whether* to jump the ravine
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Old 2008-02-06, 02:12   Link #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Reckoner View Post
Some nice comments in here already.

Well the AP curriculum has always been flawed due to the already present flaw in school education itself. Schools are not equal in any way no matter what we do. Certain schools will always have better teachers and more money than other schools. The students themselves could present a big problem like these downtown L.A. schools filled with gangsters here in California.

I would just like to clarify though, that the school district I go to is a very good one. Go look up Oak Park High School and Medea Creek Middle School and you can see that they are blue ribbon schools in California. My AP European History teacher and AP Biology teacher that I had last year had a 100% pass rate on the AP exams, which is pretty darn amazing. I personally got a 5 on the Biology one. The person in my school that my friend marveled at passed all his AP exams with 5s, I was seemingly unimpressed.
AP classes aren't that much different from Honors other than the 2 semesters you had to take it. Well... from my experience.
Quote:
Questions such as these:

How do you define intelligence?
Is intelligence inherent, learned, or a little bit of both?
What measures intelligence?
1. Intelligence is the mental capacity to retain physical memory and when the time come, be able to express it fluently and properly, something like that ^^
2. Both
3. How you speak, write and responds to questions. If you cannot do either of these, you are what I consider average or below. A "intelligent" person would have a large capacity for information, thus almost nulling my first fact.
--
Quote:
Originally Posted by Vexx
Intelligence *isn't* really about how many facts you can memorize or be knowledge-base filled about something
But you would still have to say, memory skill and the capacity to retain that physical memory when needed is quite necessary, humm?

--

Well... vocabulary isn't the best way to measure intelligence, it's a good way to start. It at least seem you're smarter ^^
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Old 2008-02-06, 02:13   Link #16
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Originally Posted by tripperazn View Post
Not really, this topic fits very neatly into psychology, defining intelligence, self-actualization, and nature vs. nurture are just some major topics within it. If you take AP Psychology, it'll probably answer a lot of your questions about this.

Do you guys believe in a "general intelligence factor", that those who are good in one subject are generally good at all subjects? Or do you think that smart people are only specially good at a few closely related subjects (ie. math and physics)?
Perhaps I should explain what I meant. There are certainly many factors that can affect a person's ability to comply with tasks in life, but the way someone looks at others and how they judge them to be intelligent or not is what I'm interested in. I feel that this is very a subjective topic because of that as not all people view intellect in the same manner. I am willing to bet that psychologists would debate on a matter such as this.

On your question though I would have to say that it depends on the person. For freaky geniuses who seem to have an uncanny ability at a certain particular task that is abnormal, a general intelligence factor does not affect them. For most people though, a general intelligence factor does exist. The only problem is that self interests conflict with this very often and people sway towards subjects that they like, or in my case find more bearable than the other ones.

I myself am for some reason really good at math and sciences, but for some reason have a disability at using the English language properly in writing due to my lack of interest in learning it properly. It's not that the subject is hard to me or anything, I can easily become good at it, I just don't want to.
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Old 2008-02-06, 02:24   Link #17
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Well, this entire question is flawed because intelligence is an ambiguous concept and a social construct that isn't empirically defined, but operationally defined.

We can easily come up with things that we could attribute to an intelligent person, but the fact is, we don't know the mechanisms of intelligence, so therefore we cannot truly describe it.

On the idea that intelligence is socially designed, think about the OP's example of the person who cannot distinguish good from evil. Good and evil are in the realm of morality, not science--you cannot scientifically define these concepts. Rather, someone who is good can be operationally defined as a person who follows utilitarian laws set by society. In psychology, someone who fails to follow this is diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder (as opposed to being asocial), or just plain "bad". Does this make the person any less intelligent in any way, though? If you use intelligent planning in committing a crime, are you any less intelligent than someone who used it for good purposes?

As for actual research regarding the subject, while I can't provide any sources, I did take a class on intelligence and creativity two years back, and the general consensus on the mutability of intelligence is that people are born genetically disposed with a certain baseline of intelligent ability. Their development, education, and social circumstance can then vary this intelligence greatly.

However, I would like to make it clear. Depending on which school of cognition you follow, situated or functional, you may disagree here. Speaking from a situated theory of cognition, I would like to say that, like everything else, conscience, intelligence, and other mental constructs in the end, rely on physical attributes--brain development, brain functionality, brain health. It is by no means out of the question to argue that people are born with different limits in intelligence, the same way one person is genetically predisposed to grow taller than someone else. Anyone who argues that "you can do anything if you put your mind to it" just hasn't learned enough about how the mind works = (
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Old 2008-02-06, 02:31   Link #18
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On your question though I would have to say that it depends on the person. For freaky geniuses who seem to have an uncanny ability at a certain particular task that is abnormal, a general intelligence factor does not affect them. For most people though, a general intelligence factor does exist. The only problem is that self interests conflict with this very often and people sway towards subjects that they like, or in my case find more bearable than the other ones.

I myself am for some reason really good at math and sciences, but for some reason have a disability at using the English language properly in writing due to my lack of interest in learning it properly. It's not that the subject is hard to me or anything, I can easily become good at it, I just don't want to.
For those "freaky geniuses", how do you know that isn't a more exaggerated version of what makes you better at math than English? There are people who study outside of school due to parents, interests, or whatever. Rarely have I ever encountered someone who was very good at only one subject and sucked at everything else.

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Originally Posted by Papaya View Post
We can easily come up with things that we could attribute to an intelligent person, but the fact is, we don't know the mechanisms of intelligence, so therefore we cannot truly describe it.
You're absolutely right, but even operational definitions of intelligence are still under debate. You could say that about pretty much all of psychology.
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Old 2008-02-06, 02:42   Link #19
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Perhaps I should explain what I meant. There are certainly many factors that can affect a person's ability to comply with tasks in life, but the way someone looks at others and how they judge them to be intelligent or not is what I'm interested in.
Oh, that's easy. An intelligent person is someone who mostly agrees with me. I think you'll find that's the definition that's most often used, more or less consciously, even though people don't often admit it out right.

And if you disagree with me, you're and idiot.
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Originally Posted by tripperazn View Post
For those "freaky geniuses", how do you know that isn't a more exaggerated version of what makes you better at math than English? There are people who study outside of school due to parents, interests, or whatever. Rarely have I ever encountered someone who was very good at only one subject and sucked at everything else.
The existence of idiot savants is well documented.
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Old 2008-02-06, 03:36   Link #20
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  • (He) Unintelligent people cannot do hard academic courses while intelligent people can, so academics is a true measure of one's intelligence and can therefore be used to classify people as geniuses.
  • (You) Academics mostly has to do with work ethic, intellect plays little role in succeeding in hard academic courses, unless one has a mental disability such as retardation.
In the hard sciences at the very least, hard work alone gets you nowhere, and talent is surely the more important factor (although at least here students of physics are know to work harder (=longer) than e.g. students of economics). Or to put it that way: a faculty where you can graduate with hard work alone has low standards and their degrees aren't worth much.
  • (He) There exists a huge steep positive correlation between intelligence and success in life.
  • (You) There exists a gradual positive correlation between intelligence and success in life.
The ability to have "success in life" depends on a lot of character traits, and also a lot of luck. It is my observation that especially the most intelligent people often have a different concept of "success" than society, BTW.
  • (He) Intellectualism is an inherent trait in people, one cannot enlighten one self with ideas and concepts and teachings.
  • (You) Intellectualism is not an inherent trait in people, people need to teach themselves and enlighten themselves with their own beliefs, standards, and ideas.
Please define what you mean with "intellectualism". If you have no input (ideas and concepts and teachings), you're also not capable to produce much coherent output. On the other hand, if you're not capable of critically thinking through the input you get, you'll end up as one of the sheep.
  • (He) Parents, guardians, etc. have nothing to do with a person's capabilities in life. Pushing children earlier in life will not make them be able to do things that much earlier than others.
  • Parents, guardians, etc. play a huge role in someone's capabilities in life. If parents really want to, they can push their children to learning things much quicker than children their age. The child doesn't necessarily need to be that intelligent to do things like Calculus earlier in life. I do admit though that there existed and stills exists prodigy children in the world who seem to be amazing on their own, but this does not reflect the average population of people.
Parents have an important impact on their children's abilities, but there are limits. I'm not sure if there are limits on how much parents can screw up their child's education though.
  • (Both) Certain areas of intelligence, we feel, are more important than others in people. For example the person that does not have the common sense to realize that something like killing innocent people is wrong, but for some reason is brilliant at astrophysics, is not as smart as the normal person who is average at everything, but has the common sense to realize that, that action is evil.
This is ethics, not intelligence. It is a common mistake to throw every postive/negative adjective at something deemed praiseworthy/condemnable.
  • (Both) Too much do people mistake the difference between sounding intelligent and actually being intelligent. For example two people can write a sentence that expresses their view on a subject matter. The person who sounds better is often mistaken as the more intelligent viewpoint on the matter, although the person who isn't considered the intelligent one could have had the better viewpoint.
Being able to give your thoughts a coherent form is already part of intelligence. Making a stupid idea sound smart even requires a lot of intelligence. Sadly, way too many people misuse their intelligence in that way.
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