Re: Emotional Intelligence Quackery [was Re: Mensa]

Darin Sunley (
Wed, 11 Aug 1999 15:38:59 -0500

John Clark wrote:


> The best definition of intelligence that I can think of is " the sort of thing
> that Richard Feynman did"

With all respect, that definition is simply not good enough for a science of the mind. If "intelligence" can only be defined in such fuzzy words, then people involved in psychology shouldn't be using it at all. You don't see quantum physicists referring casually to "particles" without having a very solid idea of exactly what the word means.

Words are spoken symbols for concepts. Debating which concepts the symbol describes is not science, it is mediocre philosophy. The common usage of the word is irrelevant. I know that I mean a very different thing when I say "particle" then when Enrico Fermi did. His concept of "particle" is solid, complex, well defined, and completely non intuitive. My concept of particle is "a little billiard ball type thing containing quarks that sometimes (most of the time?) behaves like a wave. Just as I would fervently hope that Enrico Fermi wouldn't give two bits what I think a particle is, I would hope that psychologists wouldn't care two bits what the popular definition of "intelligence" is. Unfortunately, this seems not to be the case.

When words are thrown around casually and regularly redefined, you don't have science. You don't even have a rigorous description. All you have is impressive sounding mouth noises.

[And don't get me started on the tendency in psychological theories to divide human behavior into arbitrary, well defined "stages", either. These people aren't doing science. Don't get me wrong. Many psychologists ARE doing real science, but the not wannabe philosophers who write some of this stuff.]

Anders, It IS entirely possible that my perceptions on psychology were badly warped by the intro class I took in it. Everything the professor taught, and everything the text said (and I studied it very carefully) painted a fairly complete picture of theoretical psychology as a bizarre form of philosophy. The text gave lip service to cognitive science and biology, but didn't seem to take them too seriously. I guess the moral is never trust a "science" taught by the Faculty of Arts :)]

Mr. Badger, my psychology textbook was Psychology: Themes and Variations, Fourth Edition, by Wayne Weiten. It concentrates a lot on the above mentioned arbitrary "stages" psychological models, and has a large section on "intelligence" testing and models of intelligence. One of the major problems I have with psychology as presented by this text is that absolutely no effort is made to "ground" psychological theories in neural structures and matter. Alleged "psychology" that does not ground in neural structures is, in my humble opinion, not science, but a branch of philosophy. It's what Aristotle was doing, pure description with only the vaguest attempts made at explanation or verification. Frankly, I expected better.

Darin Sunley