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Age is not an indication of intelligence

Man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much...

The wheel, New York, wars, and so on, whilst all the dolphins had ever done was much about in the water having a good time. But, conversely, the dolphins believed themselves to be more intelligent than man for precisely the same reasons.  - Douglas Adams

It is generally thought and believed that the older one grows, the more intelligent and wise one is. This theory is based on the surmise that the older we become, the greater our experience in life and therefore we must necessarily become so. Let us for a moment consider how true this conjecture is. We are aware that as we go into old age, the probability and the possibility of loss of memory, senility, senile dementia, and the like, are greater - notably where the human mind has grown stale, remained static or erratic.

Further, intelligence is also dependent upon the quality, exercise, or product of active intellect; readiness of comprehension; the native ability to grasp the significance of a complex problem or situation; and especially, a spirit embodied with the ability to exercise the higher mental functions. Such being the case, exceptions excluded, wherefrom have we evolved this theory of age related progress in intelligence? If, and when, mental faculties are set to decrease or fail due to age related disorders and lifestyles, irrespective of acquired life experience and knowledge; and if the capacity to meet situations, especially if new or unforeseen, by a rapid and effective adjustment of behaviour is debilitated, marred, or non- existent: whither from this intelligence which is likely to trip?

A sign of intelligence, and most importantly so, is an awareness of one's own ignorance. To think otherwise is the height of stupidity. I would like to say to all who think otherwise - do not be stupid; we have world leaders and politicians for that. Great mental dullness appears to be the hallmark of all politicians the world over.

Proof

I do not know what to say of all those who elect them; except to say that there is no greater proof needed to confirm ones own ignorance - an attestation and testimony that the most learned man is still ignorant of many things. We, Sri Lankans are a literate nation.

However, there is a vast difference between the literate, the unlettered, and the ignorant.

The literate man is possessed of letters and the knowledge and learning that comes through reading; the unlettered man may have acquired the art of reading and writing and some elementary knowledge; but the ignorant man is destitute of knowledge, of intelligence, and wisdom.

Ignorance, of course, is a relative term whereas literacy is quantifiable. That is why we have statistics for literacy and illiteracy. No statistics of ignorance or intelligence are possible.

The famous sage Thiruvalluvar, a celebrated Tamil poet and philosopher, whose contribution to Tamil literature is the Thirukkural, a work on ethics providing a guide for human morals and betterment in life; wrote in one of the verses: what profit have those derived from learning, who worship not the good feet of Him who is possessed of pure knowledge.

Thus, the very act of paying our obeisance to Lord Buddha, is testimony to the fact; and because by this show of reverence we acknowledge that he is possessed of pure knowledge. It is so with every other religion and religious teachers.

Yet what gain do we derive from such worship if the essence of the religious teachings, are not grasped, not comprehended; and practised in real life. Imitative action devoid of understanding is akin to childishness; and proof that even in adulthood, we sometimes act as though we are in our second childhood.

The old saying "the older, the wiser" has been recently found to be without scientific background. While some aspects of intelligence develop with age, others seem not to be age-related.

In fact, research found that many younger people can be more intelligent than their older counterparts, and that some aspects of intelligence develop only by training.

A study made on 405 American subjects has proved that the link between intelligence and age to be quite slight. Are older people more self aware, better at self- management, and/or do they make more principled decisions? According to Lorenzo Fariselli, a lead researcher on the subject:

"The finding suggests that intelligence is a developing ability; it is likely that accumulated life experiences contribute to, but does not fully account for, intelligence." Thus, in times when it is generally thought, and believed, that intelligence is a critical factor for success; this discovery reveals that age is not a criteria for intelligence; and therefore young people committed to their own development possess great chances to succeed because intelligence is not entirely dependent on life experience.

Knowledge

Knowledge will flow from a man in proportion to his learning and intelligence. Individuals differ from one another in their ability to understand complex ideas, to adapt effectively to the environment, to learn from experience, to engage in various forms of reasoning, to overcome obstacles by taking thought.

Although these individual differences can be substantial, they are never entirely consistent: a given person's intellectual performance will vary on different occasions, in different domains, as judged by different criteria. Concepts of "intelligence" are attempts to clarify and organise this complex set of phenomena. Although considerable clarity has been achieved in some areas, no such conceptualization has yet answered all the important questions, and none commands universal assent. Indeed, when two dozen prominent theorists were asked to define intelligence, they gave two dozen, somewhat different, definitions.

How does intelligence relate to intellect? Some people certainly have high intellect but low intelligence or perhaps vice versa. People who are highly successful on game shows demonstrate high intellect because of the breadth of their knowledge. However, their intelligence may not be obvious even though they have a broad knowledge.

For instance, I am not sure if Donald Trump - an American business magnate, television personality and author - is very knowledgeable about business (he relies on experts a lot), but he has very high intelligence in decision-making and problem solving in business opportunities to achieve his broad goals. Thus, intellect is the mind's capacity for knowledge and reason.

Intelligence

Intelligence is the practical manifestation of knowledge to think in complex and pioneering ways.

At its simplest, intellect is knowing a lot of things, whereas intelligence is more about putting knowledge to use in an innovative, analytical and practical ways.

People often fear that ageing will cause their intellect to disappear, giving way to cognitive impairment and irrationality.

Decline

However, intellectual decline is not an inevitable consequence of aging. Research does not support the stereotypic notion of the elderly losing general cognitive functioning or that such loss, when it does occur, is necessarily disruptive.

Older adults tend to learn more slowly and perform less well on tasks involving imagination and memorization than do younger adults, but what older adults may be lacking in terms of specific mental tasks, they make up for in wisdom, or expert and practical knowledge based on life experience.

In the final analysis, I can only say that what we have learnt is equal to a fist full of sand whereas that which we have not learnt is equal to all the sand in the world.

See you this day next week. Until then, keep thinking; keep laughing. Life is mostly about these two activities.

For views, reviews, encomiums and brickbats: t_arjuna@yahoo.com

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