Monday, 23 April 2012

You are more than a human resource

Philip Hunter in Prospect (April 2012) states the slightly politically incorrect, but nevertheless quite probably true, message that ‘IQ turns out to be a consistent indicator of success for individuals, nations and companies.’  He cites two books: IQ and the wealth of nations (2002) and IQ and global inequality (2006) both by Richard Flynn and Tatu Vanhause which give extensive evidence and arguments for this.

If by ‘success’ we mean earning power there is no doubt that, all else being equal, higher IQ makes you more able to solve problems which require speed and complexity of reasoning, and this is bound to be of immense practical value in achieving goals in everyday life, science, business or care for others. There are many other factors that have a bearing on how much money you are able to earn and on your role in society. E.g. artistic talent, inventiveness, lateral thinking, social skill, communication skill, cunning, empathy, compassion, competitiveness, ruthlessness, perseverance, honesty, affability, physical strength, physique and attractiveness. However, intelligence is probably the single biggest factor and often a necessary condition for the others to be effective, rightly or wrongly.

In general people are much more likely to admit to a bad memory or laziness in acquiring knowledge or bad education or lack of talent or lack of imagination than to a having a low IQ. Why are people so touchy about their innate intelligence? And why is it taboo to admit different IQ levels in different racial or social groups? 

 Human beings have a strong tendency to gauge a person’s worth by how useful he or she is. In the west this tendency has increased with the secularisation of society and what was once called the Personnel department in an organisation is now Human Resources. Labour is sold on a free market basis where supply and demand dictates the wage level and people accumulate signs of wealth which come to be regarded as marks of status and prestige in a meritocracy. Hierarchies in western societies are becoming steeper again, returning to what they were before the social reforms of a century ago  instigated by a strange mixture of Marxism and Christianity; and the welfare of those at the bottom is becoming increasingly precarious. A large strata of society have to work longer hours to support a family than a generation ago and it is no longer possible for most people to bring up a family on the wages of one man or one woman.

It is bad enough to have a hard life, working long hours, with no job security, fear of being thrown into debt by illness, no time to enjoy life, little hope of giving our children a reasonable education and no period of retirement prosperity to look forward to. But if on top of this the lowest paid in society are to be regarded as trash because they are not so intelligent or as useful as those above them this is not only a tragic denial of a person’s spiritual value to our Creator but, as the victims at the bottom of the social order also lose faith in their divine worth, they will feel even more oppressed.

When that happens they will follow whoever presents themselves as a saviour. If God is removed from their worldview they will follow whoever sets himself or herself up as the one to offer security, prosperity and purpose. Adolf Hitler did it in a secular democracy, the Wiemar Republic, in the 1930s Germany, offering all these rewards to a deprived de-Christianised populace. It worked for a while but the end result was hell, mercifully superseded by a post-war administration which at least attempted to re-instate Christian values.

So it worries me when I see people basing their self worth and that of others on material success, status and money. History teaches us that they can be swept away without warning by economic collapse, war, plague, famine or natural disaster, and then, what...?

For a nation state to run effectively and fairly we have to recognise the reality that people are different and have, through accident or providence, different degrees of intelligence and other attributes. It is the only way that everyone can be matched to one of the multifarious tasks that need to be performed in any country. But in a spiritual sense we are equal and if we follow the commands of Jesus Christ we are on the way to making our earthly existence more like heaven than hell. Fortunately, in my own country (UK), despite aggressive atheism, the Christ-inspired values are still prevalent. But how long will they last without constant spiritual renewal to remind us that we are more than a human resource?