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What is intelligence

  1. Mar 1, 2010 #1
    When I was young I was told humans were intelligent. As I grew up i heard hwo other animals are intelligent (dolpins, elephants). But how do we define this word? Are single cell organisms intelligent? Are we to beelive there is some sort of line when things are not intelligent?
    By this reason how can we not say DNA is not intelligent. We say that it is not because it is based on trial and error and randomness. But is this not the same thing we humans do when we creat things. When we try to fly we used this same technique of trial and error. Are we just not a reflection of our intelligent DNA. If anything would we not consider DNA more intelligent becuase it created us after all. How can something non intelligent create something that is intelligent?
    Thoughts? Comments? Opinions?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 1, 2010 #2
    One might posit that intelligence is attributed to living entities which alter their behavior through experience so as to enhance their own existence. There are probably some nuances in there, but that might work for starters.

    Hence, DNA might be intelligent, but we would have to capable of observing its behavior, as well as its perceived "healthy" or "happy" state in order to determine whether such intelligence could be attributed to it. Until such time, one has a tendency to treat such entities as unintelligent and more mechanical in nature; although at a basic level, it is likely that intelligence can be described in this way as well.

  4. Mar 2, 2010 #3
    Intelligence (in my opinion) is the ability to make good decisions based upon what you already know. It is much more different than knowledge.
  5. Mar 3, 2010 #4
    YES. Just like DNA will not create dinosours again. DNA learns from its mistakes aswell. So say Dinos did die by an astroud, maybe DNA realises that it needed to create something that could defend against this. It then created us with the ability to build machines to stop this from happening again. This may sound like science fiction but if evolution is scientific then I see no reason for this not to be true. Like our DNA we strive to survive.
  6. Mar 3, 2010 #5


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    Sorry, but a sudden catastrophic event doesn't effect normal evolution.
  7. Mar 3, 2010 #6


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    Obviously it does in gigantic proportions, but certainly not in the way binbots intended.
  8. Mar 3, 2010 #7


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  9. Mar 3, 2010 #8
    Yes, I am sure I got ahead of myself there. But evolution always has a purpose. So there must be a reason for our intelligence no?
  10. Mar 3, 2010 #9


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    There are no logical reasons evolutionary speaking for DNA to adapt to the situation you describe. DNA isn't consciously adapting, it is forced in general directions - which is a slow process.
  11. Mar 3, 2010 #10


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    If you want a serious comment from the perspective of theoretical biology, then intelligence is best defined in terms of anticipation (models of prediction and control). And purpose is best thought of as "serving the second law of thermodynamics".

    Both these are operational definitions that allow the prospect of models and measurements.

    So what can we say of DNA? I think it is quite defensible to talk about the genome of a species as "an intelligence". It is a memory of what has worked in the past (and so a prediction about what will work now) coupled with a capacity also to learn (via trial and error). So it fits the definition of a complex adaptive system. Or an anticipatory system.

    In a very general way (and generalisation is good in metaphysics), a genome can be said to have a state of mind. It encodes an awareness of the world. And so there is an intelligence at work.

    What about purpose?

    You could talk about local purposes of an organism or even species, such as the urge to survive and even increase in number. But it seems rather a stretch to see those sort of purposes as being encoded in DNA.

    Anticipatory systems theory would say the prime purposes of a living system are metabolism and replication (Rosen's M-R relational biology). And we can see this level of purpose in the form of DNA. And it is not the same thing as thinking about life as a competition with "winners". DNA would not seem to care about its level of sophistication - whether dinosaurs, cockroaches or humans are its current expression.

    Then to explore the idea of purpose, you would want to step right back to the system of which DNA itself is just a local expression.

    This is where you would want to consider dissipative structure theory, or maximum entropy production approaches to the second law.

    The point is that there are ways to pose the kinds of thoughts you raise in a scientific context.
  12. Mar 5, 2010 #11
    There is no scientific basis for this. DNA either survives or not, it doesn't learn.
  13. Mar 5, 2010 #12
    No it does not. Evolution simply describes adaptation based on selective pressure. There is no intelligence in evolution, it follows the path of least resistance.
  14. Mar 8, 2010 #13
    How is creating creatures that have eyes and ears, and that can fly be evolution just taking the path of least resistence?
  15. Mar 8, 2010 #14
    Can you prove to me scientifically that DNA does not learn?
  16. Mar 8, 2010 #15
    What is intelligence?
    How is it that the ones with intelligence get to define what it is?
    Do other creatures with intelligence think we have it the same as them?
    If a man says he is intelligent how do you know hes telling the truth?
    If a man cannot say any thing at all does he have the ability known as intelligence?

    All questions I answered for myself in first grade.
  17. Mar 8, 2010 #16
    Those are good questions. Will you share your answers?
  18. Mar 8, 2010 #17
    If you have a good question sure :)
  19. Mar 8, 2010 #18
    How is it not?
  20. Mar 9, 2010 #19
    Ok im in a more giving mood :) so I guess I'll answer the questions you wanted me to.

    Q:What is intelligence?

    A: Intelligence is understanding what is going on. If a person has intelligence then they will probably know 1. how to solve problems and 2. how to create them. I'll leave this answer short and simple because honestly I really just wanted to leave it at intelligence is understanding but some would consider that too simple. :)

    Q: How is it that the ones with intelligence get to define what it is?

    A: The reason the beings with intelligence gets to define it is because only they would know. You can't ask a rock and expect it to answer back because it's been well deminstrated that rocks don't speak english. However for any silicoids out there I mean no disrespect. However it seems to me that one must be smart and understand that the rocks do infact talk however what they say is wrapped in mystery for thouse that do not understand it.

    Q: Do other creatures with intelligence think we have it the same as them?

    A: Some do and some don't. I have met many creatures in my life that say im a smart guy however I have also met a few that say im a "fat donky" whos to say they are wrong or right? Hopefully I am lol. I myself do not view other beings as having the same intelligence as me anymore. I used to think as a child that every thing should be equal however the truth of living a life has shown me that infact not all people are equal in every way. With that said I think it is best to go into it with the belief that you are lesser then the other. Some might call that humility I personally call it planning for the worst case.

    Q: If a man says he is intelligent how do you know hes telling the truth?

    A: Clearly you know he is a liar in this case the only real question is why is he a liar? Some people lie to gain power others lie to lose it. If you can figure out the why of the lie you can then deal with it if not then you are trapped by it. I would say trust your self first and foremost however that can go badly if you happen to be actually crazy. I think the mad hatter would be more apt at answering this question then I.

    Q: If a man cannot say any thing at all does he have the ability known as intelligence?

    A: Who knows? Only god would know the answer to this question and I believe it would be on a personal level between god and the silenced man. I do know this much talking will get you into more trouble than anything I can think of but then again perhaps a little trouble is a good thing?
  21. Mar 9, 2010 #20
    That was a very appealing definition! :approve:

    But a person knowing absolutely nothing then could be regarded as clever whatever s/he did - because there was no knowledge to build the choice of decision upon. The lesser knowledge the lesser brain capacity is demanded to make a clever decision due to this definition. I agree "knowledge" is not a raw intelligence factor. But maybe "Ability of knowledge" = "Memory" x "Grasping ability" is a raw intelligence factor. That may result in
    a formula resembling

    Intelligence = (Memory) x (Grasping ability) x (Good decision ability)

    Although not exactly correct, because for instance any factor = 0 would unfairly make
    "Intelligence" = 0 or just huge memory could make "Intelligence" unfairly high. It also depends on how the separate factors are defined.
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2010
  22. Mar 9, 2010 #21
    The bottom line is there is no definition of intelligence. There is no way to measure intelligence, because it is a concept that we've created. I think all creatures are "intelligent" to have survived through millions of years of evolution. They all have their own strengths to play off and weaknesses to hide. Just like our strengths are complex thought and opposable thumbs, and our weaknesses are greed, self destruction, and we're slow. And so many other things. Now if you define intelligence as complex thought, where we question our own existence and so on, then so be it. But I personally think intelligence is an immeasurable idea.
  23. Mar 9, 2010 #22
    Was it my post you were adressing? If so, you have misunderstood me. I just tried making a
    "mathematical" definition of "intelligence" - as us humans experience it. I never said "intelligence" was equal to "intellectual value".

    Regarding animals I worship and adore them perhaps more than anything else. Including insects. For instance a wasp is to me a "personality" at very high intellectual level. I have several times helped for instance wasps, moving their nests to safer places and so on.
    What I have experienced is almost scaring: They are at least at the same level as us!
    They are very sensitive, may feel ashamed if not accomplishing certain tasks, and so on.
    Not to mention cats and other animals also comparable to us. :rolleyes:
  24. Mar 9, 2010 #23


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    How is this either philosophy or science?

    I refer you back to my earlier post where the best operational definition of bios - mind and life in theoretical biology - is "anticipation". Or better yet, a modelling relation.

    You can argue that this not a definition you agree with, and give good reasons why. But it is the way those in the field would approach the question.
  25. Mar 9, 2010 #24
    No no, it wasn't addressing you, that was just my take on the situation. Ironically I am not an animal lover in general.

    That is the exact reason I don't think intelligence can be defined. Depending on how you approach it, the criteria for it can be completely different. Rainman can talk to anyone and hes insane, but he can count stuff extremely fast. Some autistic people have extraordinary musical talents and so forth. Intelligence can be measured with respect to a specific task or group of tasks, but who decides what tasks model intelligence?
  26. Mar 9, 2010 #25
    I concur.
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