Re: Emotional Intelligence Quackery [was Re: Mensa]
Fri, 13 Aug 1999 15:02 +0000

>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.

Indeed not. Particles don't in the main display comples behaviour of the sort you're reffering to.

>Words are spoken symbols for concepts. Debating which concepts the symbol describes is not
>science, it is mediocre philosophy.

If I might, they describe metaphors for particular behaviour. A brand-new behaviour in either psychology or the "hard" sciences mandates some sort of tie-in to what we already cognate, and unfortunately this process of metaphor-ising becoms particularly explicit when we describe the human sciences.

>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.

There you go: a billiard ball and a wave. If we agree on this point, we can continue.

>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.

*If* you disagree on the meaning of a workd that's applied metaphorically.

>[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.

With all respect, they are doing science, if you agree with the points I've made so far. They've created a set of metaphors to explain a generally occurring phenomenon. The issue with psych is that it's so far up the food chain that all that's left is metaphors that sound wrong to most people becase the bell curve is so wide. It's difficult to apply the findings of the norm to individual cases because no one's normal. Everyone does go through "stages," many of which resemble the issues particular to an individual's life. Problems occur with these models when a complex issue translates into people "being" at multiple levels, as defined by the particular model, at the same time. It does happen; if fact it happens most of the time, because no model can capture all possible behaviour all of the time. This even occurs at the subatomic level -- how much more we should expect it of a complex dynamical system like a human!

>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 :)]

Well said, but biology has a fairly rigourous model. Psych does not, yet. Most academic psych teachers will admit, when pressed, that psych as taught is wrong for most people most of the time. What is missing is the universal metaphor -- the set of symbols that will resonate with everyone. But actually, we can say the same for physics.

Doesn't mean all the naugahyde will disappear off the planet when a better model comes along.