IQ vs. Intelligence

from a letter to me by Grady Towers dated February 24, 1999
Used with permission from the author

Did you know that Homo erectus had an IQ of about 45? This is not just a guess, but the result of an experiment carried out by Thomas Wynn, an anthropologist at the University of Colorado.

Homo erectus produced a category of stone tool that anthropologists call the Acheulean tool industry. Dr. Wynn discovered that it takes a mental age of at least seven years to learn how to reproduce an Acheulean tool. Using the classic formula

IQ = 100 x (Mental Age) / (Chronological Age)

and using 16 for chronological age, we get an IQ estimate of 44. Using 15 for chronological age, we get an IQ estimate of about 47. An IQ of 45 seems to be a good compromise.

I used to be an anthropologist, and lived for several years with an indian tribe, which gives me a perspective on IQ that no one else in the super-high IQ societies is likely to share. So let me take this opportunity to expand your vision of human intelligence.

IQ tests measure something real and something terribly important, but they do not assess all of what is called intelligence. Many important mental abilities are left out. Abilities responsible for art, music, dance, cooking, mechanical invention, clerical exactness, foreign languages, caring for a baby, defeating an enemy in war, and so on, have little connection with IQ. They have little connection because literacy and numeracy have little to do with excellence in these fields.

IQ tests are powerful predictors only in the fields in which literacy and numeracy are of central importance. These are the core abilities responsible for the creation, maintenance and progress of civilization. Without them there could be no literature, law, religion, philosophy. There could also be no mathematics, science, technology, market economy, computer science, etc. No one could have more respect for these qualities than I have, but I don't mistake them for an index of human worth. There are other mental qualities of equal worth not assessed by IQ tests.


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