# What is the limit of human intelligence if any?

If you want to know the upper limit of human intelligence you first have to look at the lower limit - here it is as defined by a descended ape,

"With civilised nations, the reduced size of the jaws from lessened use, the habitual play of different muscles serving to express different emotions, and the increased size of the brain from greater intellectual activity, have together produced a considerable effect on their general appearance in comparison with savages".

Charles Darwin 1871. (page 197)

jammieg
One of my own deeply rooted limitation and advantage seems to be that most everything I do is done by observation and then immitation because my accent is the same as where and when I grew up and likely many more things I haven't seen, and I don't think this is really a helpful way to true understanding, by that I mean I don't understand how to make fire and I never did and I never had to go through the process of induction and deduction to come to an understanding of making fire, I never had to debunk the Fire Gods that the rest of my clan believed in and were the givers of fire occasionally sent down by thunder and light to give myself hope that I might do it on my own and if I had been born thousands of years ago I most likely never would have figured it out because that's what heavy clothing is for anyway. There is an errie sense that humans today are far superior to ancient humans, it's possible this is almost completely a matter of immitation but I don't think immitation is the way that leads to new understandings but rather it is an extremely efficient way to mostly knowing and slightly understanding and the difference between getting along feeling crippled by having to understand or easily by immitation and a false or incomplete sense of true understanding in a highly complex world.

loseyourname
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Kerrie said:
intelligence is the ability to utilize what one already has. to compare our abilities to a bat is to compare car to a bicycle. each are modes of transportation, but is one better then the other? only in specific instances. a car is much better at long distance travel, however a bike is much better at not polluting our environment and lower maintenance.

And? Again, the man's question was about the limits of our understanding. The problem here seems to be that you are answering the question posed in the title of thread, which is ambiguous, because you can define intelligence in any number of ways. I'm answering the question he actually asked in the post, which was about the limits of our understanding. Certainly you cannot think that there exist no such limits. You seem to have completely glossed over the fact that I just explained that I am not comparing the abilities of a bat to the abilities of a human:

loseyourname said:
While it is also beyond our sensory capacity to echolocate, that isn't what I was saying. That would indeed be a category mistake.

I think Nicomachus made a bit of a mistake in interpreting me as well, when he said that he could never envision what it's like to be me. My point was that we can't understand what it is like to see with echolocation. I use exactly the same visual sensory apparatus as he does, so he can certainly understand what it is like to see what I see, because he sees exactly the same thing. He cannot, however, imagine what it would be like to see that which a bat sees, because a bat uses sound waves rather than light waves, something that our brains are incapable of comprehending. For that matter, we can never understand how a shark senses the electrical impulses given off by the muscle contractions of other animals using its Organ of Lorenzini.

Regarding the Heisenberg Uncertainty, it seems to me that it places a limit on our knowledge, but not necessarily on our understanding. I do, however, suspect that is is beyond the capabilities of our brains to even understand quantum mechanics in the first place. We can write out the equations, and they might work extremely well, but ask any physicist if he truly understands what is happening at the quantum level and every one will tell you that they do not. Our brains evolved to understand objects and interactions at the macroscopic level that we are capable of sensing with only our own biological senses. Nor can we truly envision higher-dimensional space. The best we can do is design membrane models or Calabi-Yau spaces that reduce our familiar three dimensions to either two or one. We know, however, that these representations are nothing like the reality of the matter.

loseyourname
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Kerrie said:
intelligence is the ability to utilize what one already has. to compare our abilities to a bat is to compare car to a bicycle. each are modes of transportation, but is one better then the other? only in specific instances. a car is much better at long distance travel, however a bike is much better at not polluting our environment and lower maintenance.

Just for fun, I looked into this matter a bit. I ran some calculations and figured out that if I used a mountain bike on flat terrain, I would burn about 98 calories (actually, kcal, but calories is the commons designation) per mile riding at 15 mph. So I imagined a 60 mile trip on flat even terrain, taken three times a week for one year. I could either ride the bike or take a car. My car gets about 30 mpg, so it would use up 2 gallons of gasoline on such a trip.

If I took the bike, I would burn a total of 5882 calories on one trip. If I took the car, it would burn 62,000 calories (the amount of calories in 2 gallons of gasoline). So certainly the bike is more fuel efficient. Let's look at the cost, however.

If I take the trip 3 times a year for one year (or if you want, if I commute a total of 180 miles per week) then I will have used up 312 gallons of gasoline by taking the car. At $2.25 per gallon, which is the low price you can find in the LA area, I will have spent$702 on fuel.

If I take the bike, I will require 5882 calories every time I take the trip. Let's assume I am a healthy vegetarian and I eat only wheat bran to prepare for my trips. Wheat bran gives an average of 70.31 calories per ounce, so I will require 84 ounces each trip. By taking the 3 times a week for one year (or 156 times), I will require a total of 13,104 ounces of wheat bran for the year. If I buy pure wheat barn from www.pricegrabber.com I can get it for $0.99 per 12 oz. This way, my total fuel costs for the year will$1,092 dollars. So I can save $390 each year by taking the car rather than the bike. Now let's look at the time it takes. Given open highway on flat terrain, I can move at about 60 mph in the car, so the trip will take exactly one hour each time. Taking the trip 3 times a week for one year, I end up spending 156 hours in the car each year, or 6.5 days. I calculated the calorie expense on the bike at 15 mph, and at that pace, the trip will take me 4 hours. Multiplied out, I will spend a total of 624 hours on the bike each year, or 26 days. This is an additional 468 hours each year, or 19.5 days. So in conclusion, although the bike is more fuel efficient, it is grossly less cost-efficient. Assuming you make$25,000 per year, which is an average starting salary out of college, your time is worth $12 an hour. So not only do you lose$390 directly by taking the bike, but you also lose $5616 of your time, for a grand deficit of$6006.

In case anyone is curious, you would also eat up about 1 bushel of wheat each year in order to get that much grain. An average acre of farmland in the state of Georgia yields about 40 bushels of wheat each year, so you would use up 1/40 of an acre. I don't know what the ecological impact of this is versus the impact of producing 312 gallons of gasoline. One barrel of crude oil produces about 19.5 gallons of gasoline, so you would use up 16 barrels by taking the car each year. In terms of pollution, 1 gallon of gasoline produces about 18.5 lbs of carbon dioxide, so taking the car would release 5780 lbs of carbon dioxide into the air over the course of the year. About 130 lbs of fertilizer is used per acre of farmland and 2.2 lbs of pesticide, so by consuming 1/40 of an acre, you would be contributing 0.055 lbs of pesticide and 3.25 lbs of fertilizer to groundwater pollution, which contributes to the eutrophication and destruction of streams, estuaries, and lakes. Producing that much fertilizer also releases a total of 1.66 lbs of gaseous pollutants into the air, which is pretty negligible.

So although the monetary cost of taking the bike is much greater than the cost of taking the car, the ecological cost of taking the car is much greater than taking the bike.

Wow, you have a lot of time on your hands.
*Nico

Kerrie
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i agree nico, that and a strong will to be proven right.

loseyourname, you only have proven what i stated earlier:
to compare our abilities to a bat is to compare car to a bicycle. each are modes of transportation, but is one better then the other? only in specific instances. a car is much better at long distance travel, however a bike is much better at not polluting our environment and lower maintenance.

if you had read my words more carefully, you would have seen the admission that a car is much better for long distance travels. i am unsure why your need to have posted such a lengthy debate over a point i already made.

here is a link to an excellent theory of different intelligences:
Multiple Intelligence Theory

i don't believe we can measure intelligence in one lump sum, but rather take different aspects such as this theory suggests.

also, is the (slow) process of a society evolving necessarily proof of higher intelligence then other societies on earth? when i state evolving, i am referring to how humans have evolved from not knowing what fire is, to the formation of knowledge that has allowed us to harness energy (electricy, etc) and understand just how our world works.

loseyourname
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Kerrie said:
if you had read my words more carefully, you would have seen the admission that a car is much better for long distance travels. i am unsure why your need to have posted such a lengthy debate over a point i already made.

Ha! I wasn't trying to argue with what you said. I was just curious about exactly what the impact was, so I looked up some chemical equations, conversion factors, and did some calculations. Call me a nerd, but I actually find it fun to figure these things out. It makes it very hard to fool me with propaganda.

here is a link to an excellent theory of different intelligences:
Multiple Intelligence Theory

I've taken this test before, and though I won't comment on the theory itself, I will say that the test is bunk. It tests your preferences, not your aptitudes. I scored near the max on every intelligence other than interpersonal and intrapersonal.

i don't believe we can measure intelligence in one lump sum, but rather take different aspects such as this theory suggests.

Jeez, Kerrie, did you read the post I made before the one about the car? I'm pretty sure I cleared this up. You're answering the question in the title of the thread, which is about intelligence. There are a million different ways of defining intelligence, so I don't even see how you begin to answer that one. I'm answering the question asked in the post, which pertained to understanding, which I think is very obviously limited. I included several additional examples. Heck, most humans barely understand basic algebra.

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loseyourname said:
I've taken this test before, and though I won't comment on the theory itself, I will say that the test is bunk. It tests your preferences, not your aptitudes. I scored near the max on every intelligence other than interpersonal and intrapersonal.

So the fact that you scored high is evidence the test is bunk? :)

Kerrie
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So the fact that you scored high is evidence the test is bunk? :)

you beat me to it

Kerrie
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loseyourname said:
I've taken this test before, and though I won't comment on the theory itself, I will say that the test is bunk. It tests your preferences, not your aptitudes.

There are a million different ways of defining intelligence, so I don't even see how you begin to answer that one. I'm answering the question asked in the post, which pertained to understanding, which I think is very obviously limited. I included several additional examples. Heck, most humans barely understand basic algebra.

you call the Multiple Intelligence Theory bunk, but then you claim there are a million different ways of defining intelligence...did you not read the link?? The theory is stating the that there are different forms of human intelligence. In the beginning of this thread you claimed:

We're never going to know exactly how a bat (or any other creature that uses echolocation to "see") experiences the world, which is a limit placed on us by evolution,

now you are claiming intelligence is about understanding. So what is your definition of intelligence??The ability to experience the world or understand it to the best of your abilities?

It's clearly evident you need to loseyourwilltoargue and gainsomerealperspective.

loseyourname
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Kerrie said:
You call the Multiple Intelligence Theory bunk

loseyourname said:
though I won't comment on the theory itself

Funny how you missed that little caveat, which I specifically put in so that you wouldn't think I was calling the theory bunk.

Kerrie said:
now you are claiming intelligence is about understanding.

loseyourname said:
You're answering the question in the title of the thread, which is about intelligence. I'm answering the question asked in the post, which pertained to understanding . . .

Notice how I make a distinction there between understanding and intelligence. I'm not claiming intelligence is about understanding. I'm claiming that I'm answering the question "Is there a limit to human understanding?" Rather than the question "Is there a limit to human intelligence?"

Kerrie said:
It's clearly evident you need to loseyourwilltoargue and gainsomerealperspective.

Please don't make fun of me. It's very unbecoming, especially of a moderator.

loseyourname
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So the fact that you scored high is evidence the test is bunk? :)

loseyourname said:
I will say that the test is bunk. It tests your preferences, not your aptitudes.

The fact that the test asked how you prefer to go about solving problems, rather than actually giving any problems to solve, is evidence that it is bunk. Again, it tests preferences, not aptitudes.

Just so that, hopefully, there is no further misunderstanding (though I get the distinct feeling there will be anyway), I will say one more time that I am not commenting on the theory itself. It may or may not be bunk. I have no idea. The way it was explained to me when I took the test, the theory seemed perfectly consistent and it makes sense, although I have no idea what kind of evidential backing it has. I am only saying that the test does not in any way measure a person's intelligence.

Kerrie
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Funny how you missed that little caveat, which I specifically put in so that you wouldn't think I was calling the theory bunk.

i wasn't aware there was a link for a test on this page. i only provided a link to the this theory. why are you then commenting on a test?? and like SA commented, if you scored so well on the test, yet think the theory is bunk, it's not a wonder why you feel so misunderstood. your train of thought is extremely inconsistent and downright confusing.

Notice how I make a distinction there between understanding and intelligence. I'm not claiming intelligence is about understanding. I'm claiming that I'm answering the question "Is there a limit to human understanding?" Rather than the question "Is there a limit to human intelligence?"

if this is the case, you are then off topic. i think here you are trying to twist the words for whatever reason that is not worth arguing. if you are choosing to participate in this thread, then address the question being presented.

Please don't make fun of me. It's very unbecoming, especially of a moderator.

not poking fun, but rather making a point. stop being so sensitive and argumentative.

loseyourname
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Kerrie said:

You also didn't read my post very carefully, because I stated pretty clearly that I was not criticizing the theory. I stated that so that hopefully such a misunderstanding as this would not occur.

Kerrie said:
if this is the case, you are then off topic. i think here you are trying to twist the words for whatever reason that is not worth arguing.

Nope. I'm just answering the question that the author of the thread asked. I'll post it here for you to read once more:

Tom McCurdy said:
Do you feel that humans will ever reach a point where they just won't be able to understand something?

Notice the word "understand." I am inclined to say that my posting about the limits of human understanding were not off-topic. But I suppose it's your call. This is your forum.

Kerrie said:
and like SA commented, if you scored so well on the test, yet think the theory is bunk, it's not a wonder why you feel so misunderstood.

All right. Let me state one last time, as unambiguously as I possibly can: I do not think that the theory is bunk. I do not even know the specifics of this theory. I have no idea what kind of evidential backing it has. For this reason, I am not commenting on the theory in any way, positive or negative. Is that clear enough for you, or should I repeat it a fifth time?

What's the deal here? I thought we were discussing epistemology? As far as this theory ... What so it basically says "Some people are good at math and some people are not but are good with language" or whatever ... big deal. Nothing revolutionary there. Oh well.
*Nico

Kerrie
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i agree nico. i believe there is a certain amount of biological influence coupled with a will that drives intelligence, whether it be expressed artistically, intellectually, athletically or emotionally. certainly there can be something said for artists and their abilities (music, classical, etc) that the average human is unable to achieve. as i stated before, the only limit is what we place on ourselves. to elaborate more on that point, we are in direct control of how far we can take ourselves within the boundaries of our biology. if more were convinced of this fact, humanity as a whole could achieve so much more then we already have.