is not an indication of intelligence
Man had always assumed
that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so
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.
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
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
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 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 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.
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
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.
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