Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Threatened by Intelligence

A series of studies done at University of Buffalo, California Lutheran U. and the University of Texas, Austin, appear to show that while many men say they would like a partner who is smarter than they are when the question is purely hypothetical, when confronted with the reality they really … don’t.

“Six studies revealed that when evaluating psychologically distant targets, men showed greater attraction toward women who displayed more (vs. less) intelligence than themselves. In contrast, when targets were psychologically near, men showed less attraction toward women who outsmarted them.”

This is surprising? Seriously?

The study itself makes for pretty dry reading. What’s way more fun is the spin put on the results by the media, who can never resist taking potshots at men. The Huffington Post huffs, “Men who blow off intelligent women might just be protecting their fragile masculine egos”. Alternet says, “Who knew masculinity could be so fragile?” The Telegraph opines, “Put bluntly, they feel threatened”.

Sure, that’s one possibility. But it’s far from the only conceivable hypothesis. It’s not even the most likely.

But whether we’re talking about men or women, what interests me is the inexplicable premium we moderns put on IQ, natural intelligence and formal education. People of either sex can be brainy, highly educated and professionally accomplished — and make truly horrible partners. I know a number of people who are exceptionally intelligent, and yet just can’t seem to stop sabotaging their own lives and relationships.

Come to think of it, I can’t think of a single scripture that praises intelligence (or, for that matter, good looks, height, athleticism or any other God-given naturally-occurring quality).

What the scriptures praise is wisdom: the ability to use information to make and recommend prudent life decisions:
  • “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom.”
  • “The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down.”
  • “Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance.”
It’s not how much you know, it’s how well you use what you DO know.

The great thing about wisdom is that it’s terribly egalitarian. It comes from God (“the Lord gives wisdom”) and is available to anyone willing to ask for it (“God, who gives generously to all without reproach”) and prepared to put it to use in the moral realm (“[Jehovah] stores up sound wisdom for the upright”).

Intelligent people run the world — and can’t seem to stop making critical errors about, well ... everything. I’d rather live six months prudently than gain 15 points on my IQ, assuming that were possible. I would rather have wise children than smart children, and I’d rather have a wise partner than an intelligent one.

That’s not because I feel threatened by anyone else’s smarts. It’s because when considering desirable qualities in someone one is going to spend one’s life with, intelligence is well down the list.

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