Tuesday 30 December 2014

How is genius useful? Mainly by promoting group cohesion

I believe that (in some way) genius is group-selected, which means it is for the reproductive benefit of the group, i.e. to expand the size of the group - and not for the reproductive benefit of the genius himself.

Some geniuses have been reproductively successful, such as JS Bach with his nineteen children; but it is not necessary - and almost geniuses on average have relatively lower reproductive success for the simple reason that (unlike normal people) they put most of their life-effort into their 'work'.

So, what are the benefits of genius to the group?

When it is a matter of the genius inventing a better weapon or a more productive tool, the  benefits are obvious; but I think the usual benefit of a genius comes in the form of group cohesion.

This could be the explanation for artistic genius, or the genius of a storyteller - and the neglected topic of religious genius.

This group benefit of a religious innovation can be seen in the growth of the group of religious adherents, perhaps in the growth of new forms of social organization, and the results increase in (for example) economic activity or military prowess.

I got this idea from considering the difference between the Kalahari Bushmen, and Australian Aborigines. The main social difference is in group size - the Aborigines have significantly larger groups, which means that they cohere better and could assemble larger fighting forces.

And the Aborigine groups are based upon their Totemic religion, which is more fixed and more complex than the Animism of the Kalahari Bushmen (which seems to be a version of the spontaneous religion of natural men).

The Aborigine religion both requires and benefits from a more elaborate social structure of authority and learning of the legends - which must be transmitted through the generations by songs and chants.

Presumably (of course there is no direct evidence) some (or more than one) Aborigine religious genius created this Totemic social structure - and the group who adopted it was rewarded by improved cohesion, which enabled them to displace rival groups. 

This is conjectural, albeit plausible - my point is that some body at some time made these religious innovations and enabled more powerful social cohesion - and could be termed a genius (on that smaller scale); and that perhaps most example of genius could be regarded a creative breakthroughs of a cohesion-generating type.


(Of course, the works of some/most modern geniuses are cohesion-destroying; and (when adopted) such breakthroughs would tend to lead to the group becoming extinct, rather than expanding - for example fertility reducing technologies, or secular ideologies. indeed, this applies to modernity itself. But until the past 100-150 years, societies containing many geniuses seem to have expanded, and gained reproductive benefit from the presence of geniuses.)

Monday 29 December 2014

Genius is a DWEM kind of thing, hence its current unpopularity

Human Accomplishment by Charles Murray (2003) makes clear that world-historical, genius level accomplishment is - or rather, was - numerically and proportionately a Dead White-European Male (DWEM) thing.


This probably goes a long way towards explaining the current hostility to the concept of genius, and the non-evidential assertions people make about genius.


Dead - because there were more, and a much higher proportion of, geniuses in the past than at present; indeed, in modern times world-historical geniuses are all but extinct (and and other potential WHGs unknown or unacknowledged)

White European - because that is what nearly all world historical geniuses were. The reason for the pre-eminence of WEs is presumably some kind of combination of personal qualities (high average intelligence and the best type of personality for creativity) and the qualities of the societies which themselves were created by the work of earlier geniuses (which noticed and valued the works of geniuses) - but this is poorly understood. 

Male - because that is what nearly all world historical geniuses were; and the reasons are pretty-well understood. There are several-fold more men than women of the very highest intelligence; and the male personality is better-suited to high accomplishment (being, on average and at extreme, more motivated towards functional achievement, more creative, less empathic, less conscientious, more autonomous &c.).


But the fact that genius is a DWEM kind of thing naturally makes it almost-impossible for modern, New Left, Progressive, politically correct people to acknowledge the reality and importance of genius. 

The a priori assumption of modern leftism is that ability - including genius - is (indeed must be) absolutely equally distributed over time, between places, races, sexes, classes and subjects.

However, this belief is refuted by all evidence and knowledge; so there is necessarily a pretence that genius is not real, not significant; or nowadays so common that the reason genius has apparently disappeared is actually because now we are all geniuses - so that nobody in particular stands-out!


So not only has genius almost disappeared, but so has acknowledgement of its reality, its presence, its importance; the pretence is that genius is obsolete; modernity has superseded genius - and committees of the industrious, compliant and mediocre, with members appointed according to quota, can now accomplish more than was done by the geniuses of the past.

Which is presumably why modern multi-culti, PC-approved, state-subsidized, prize-given, non-'ist' egalitarian work has by so far surpassed Shakespeare and Dante, Beethoven and Mozart, Newton and Einstein, Aristotle and Plato - and all the rest of those nasty DWEM geniuses.


Tuesday 23 December 2014

Tolkien was more creative; Lewis was more intelligent: Creative Triad aspects of JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis


It is the rare combination of spontaneous creativity with high intelligence and a strong motivation which typically fuels high levels of achievement; the triad is mutually-reinforcing with motivation driving the ability, and creativity providing the intuitive insights which characterize genius.

This is relatively uncontroversial; but what is less appreciated is that creativity is part of a personality type (HJ Eysenck termed it Psychoticism) which exhibits traits regarded as socially undesirable - such as low conscientiousness, impulsivity, independence, wilful stubbornness and eccentricities of various types.


This can be seen in the life of JRR Tolkien, and to a lesser extent in CS Lewis. Although overall Tolkien and Lewis are quite similar types; Tolkien is a classic creative Genius with a high IQ and moderately high Psychoticism/ i.e. optimal for spontaneous creativity; Lewis was - if anything- even higher in IQ than Tolkien, but lower in Psychoticism/ creativity.

That Tolkien had a very high IQ would not be disputed by those who know of his biography and very rapid ascent to academic eminence; and the reports of those who knew him. High general intelligence is associated with the ability to understand and learn very rapidly, to solve novel problems, and to reason abstractly. Tolkien was always perceived, and from a young age, as extremely quick-witted.

However, I would argue that Tolkien also showed signs of moderately high Psychoticism such as a tendency towards experiencing altered states of consciousness - such as dreams which provided creative ideas or solved problems, mythic dreams of apparent depth and import - sometimes recurrent, and lucid dreaming (i.e. partial awareness of dreaming and control of dreams).

He also demonstrated moderately-low levels of self-discipline and conscientiousness as evidenced by his truly amazing lack of ability to finish projects in which he was not very interested - such as the Clarendon textbook about Chaucer, over which he spent several decades before abandoning unfinished, or the preface to Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (which could have been finished in a few days but was delayed for about a decade until Tolkien died before publishing it). The new Chronology of Tolkien's life (in the recent JRR Tolkien Companion and Guide) is replete with similar examples.

This trait of moderately low conscientiousness goes back to Tolkien's school days and his early university career where, despite his high intelligence and ability, he took two attempts to achieve a financial award to attend Oxford, and even then failed to get a scholarship but instead attained a lower level of funding called an exhibition.

And his first university course was 'classics' - the conventional highest status Oxford degree, but which did not much interest Tolkien. After failing to be self-disciplined about work and scraping a low second class mark in his first set of classics examinations (and only getting that high a mark due to the philological part of the course - otherwise he would have received a disgraceful 'third'), Tolkien switched to an English degree mostly consisting of his beloved philological studies - and excelled from that point onwards (first class degree), receiving a full Oxford Professorship (the pinnacle of his profession in the UK) at the remarkably early age of 32 (and despite his years of service in the 1914-18 war).


In other words there is a consistent pattern throughout Tolkien's life of very high achievement when doing things that he loved, combined with a near-inability to do things which he did not love.

This is a classic pattern of moderately-high Psychoticism seen in many (but not all) creative Geniuses - they do _not_ excel at things that do _not_ engage their deepest interest. Another example was Einstein, whose early scholarly career was somewhat mediocre until the point when he could work on exactly that subject which most engaged him. Einstein was of course - par excellence - the epitome of an imaginative, visualizing, intuitive creative genius.

Therefore Tolkien, like many creative geniuses, could work incredibly hard and fast on topics which deeply interested him; but was almost unable to get himself to work on topics which - although he felt a duty to do them - did not interest him deeply.


To see the difference between a highly intelligent person like Tolkien with moderately high Psychoticism/ high creativity and lowish Conscientiousness; and a person of similar intelligence but with low Psychoticism and high Conscientiousness - one need look no further than his friend CS Lewis.

Lewis was highly conscientious: he could make himself work hard and regular hours even on matters which bored him but which he felt he ought to do - for example correspondence - at which he laboured for about 2 hours per day in later life. Meanwhile Lewis was publishing around a book a year plus scholarly articles and journalism: a vast volume of finished work.

But conscientiousness is inversely correlated with Psychoticism/ creativity. And indeed Lewis was not so creative as Tolkien. He is of course much more creative than most people; but in comparison with Tolkien his fecundity was more a matter of selecting, combining and extrapolating from his vast fund of knowledge.

Because he was so conscientious, Lewis was able to 'make himself' do what was wished of him by other people, what he 'ought' to do. He fitted his creative work into and around these duties. By contrast, Tolkien neglected his duties to a significant extent, due to business and pressure - but nonetheless continued to work on his private writing projects (and even his painting and drawing).

Lewis had a tendency to lapse into pastiche, of pseudo-creativity, manufactured from existing materials; which is evidence of his lower mode of creation (Tolkien by contrast would lapse into bathos - which is more the mark of a first rank creative genius when having an off-day - think of some of Wordsworth's lamest poems, or Longfellow...).

Lewis was highly creative compared with the average; for instance he did have 'visions', or images - from which his fictions often arose (eg the vision of a faun with a parcel which was elaborated into the Narnia books); he suffered badly from nightmares and had insights in dreams  - but Lewis was not in the same league as Tolkien in terms of creative imagination, and the ability deeply to imagine a believable world (believable to the reader and inhabitable by the reader because it was believed and inhabited by the author).


One can also see this in their poetry - Lewis was a skilled versifier, able to parody and pastiche; but Tolkien was a lyric poet who at times (albeit rarely, like all but the greatest lyric poets) achieved greatness (e.g. Three rings for the elven kings...', or 'Where now the horse and the rider?").

Like other true lyric poets, Tolkien in his own poetic loves focuses on very specific phrases which have a mystical depth and resonance for him, such as "éala éarendel engla beorhtast / ofer middangeard monnum sended" or "Hige sceal þe heardra, heorte þe cenre, mod sceal þe mare, þe ure mægen lytlað" . This, I take it, is evidence of the highly creative mind, that finds wider associations than usual mortals can discover.

By contrast, Lewis - who was a greater scholar and more productive critic of English Literature than Tolkien - seems to me both to interpret as well as write poetry much more narrowly and literally - more as if it were a technical form of prose (which of course is true of almost all so-called-poetry, almost all of the time - i.e. most soi disant lyric poetry is a kind of manufactured fake, displaying borrowed plumes).


Tolkien has often been described as if he were a rather dull character who never did much - that is probably most people's take home image from Humphrey Carpenter's biography. A rather typically stuffy and inhibited English Professor of his stuffy and inhibited era. But the truth is far in the opposite direction: JRR Tolkien was an extraordinary man, with an extraordinary mind, and living at an extraordinarily vivid and creative time - he was not just intellectually brilliant but wildly creative.


What of the relative intelligence of Tolkien and Lewis?

In terms of approximations, general intelligence can roughly be measured in terms of speed of learning and capacity for abstract reasoning.

And in traditional educational systems, where ability is measured in supervised and time limited exams that require on the spot thinking as well as memory, there is a high correlation between exam results and intelligence.


So, we can compare Tolkien and Lewis head-to-head on examinations.

1. Oxford scholarship examinations. Lewis got a Scholarship (the largest financial award) at the first attempt; but Tolkien only got an Exhibition (a lower level of award) at the second attempt.

2. Both Tolkien and Lewis began by studying the same course (Classics, or Literae Humaniores) at much the same time (Tolkien 'went up' to Oxford in 1911, Lewis in 1917) - in the first set of exams in that course Tolkien (only just) got a second class while Lewis got a First.

3. Tolkien switched his degree to English in which he got a First class degree; Lewis stayed in Classics where he also got a First. But Lewis's L.H. degree was Oxford's oldest and highest-status degree (a four year course) while English was a lower ranked 'upstart' (and a three year course).

And just one year after completing his classics degree, Lewis did the English degree - a three year degree completed in one year - and got yet another First... A Triple First!

So, in youth and early adulthood; all the evidence suggests that Lewis was more intelligent than Tolkien. 


After this point there is a wide divergence, because Tolkien had a precocious academic career in which - with the assistance of good fortune - a few items of high quality early scholarship led to a very early Oxford Professorship - after which his published productivity declined substantially and was - over all his career - frankly inadequate. From middle age, Tolkien's motivation was increasingly channelled into his personal creative writing - little of which was actually published.

Lewis, on the other hand, published almost nothing except poetry until his mid-thirties and it was not until his late thirties when The Allegory of Love made his academic reputation, after which was unleashed a veritable tidal wave of published scholarship - plus of course the other work in fiction and apologetics for which he became famous among the general public -  and it was not until Lewis's fifties that he became a Professor (in Cambridge).

But Lewis continued to write and to publish prolifically in academic work almost into his sixties and until his death - there was no slackening-off, indeed perhaps an acceleration.

(In contrast to Tolkien Lewis published, or at least made public (in letters and lectures) pretty much everything he wrote.) 

However, these difference are not easily interpretable in terms of intelligence - being more related to conscientiousness (the inverse of Psychoticism).


The idea that Lewis has higher IQ than Tolkien fits with Lewis being famous for his memory, ability to quote, and swiftness of assertion and response in conceptual argument. Lewis was also more widely read - described as perhaps the best read man in Oxford

Having said that, Lewis did recognize other people as superior in intelligence to himself - for example he certainly regarded the philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe as more intelligent than himself.


So, Tolkien and Lewis were both exceptionally intelligent and both very creative: but Tolkien was more creative and Lewis was more intelligent.


Monday 22 December 2014

Isaac Newton as an archetypal Creative Triad Genius

I realized recently that I lacked specific knowledge of the psychology of perhaps the greatest ever scientific genius: Isaac Newton; so I have been reading Richard S Westfall's biography Never at rest.

Having developed the Creative Triad as a simple framework for explaining genius -


- I was curious to see how Newton's mind and life fitted with this model. The answer is: extremely closely.


The Creative Triad is:

1. Innate ability

2. Inner-motivation

3. Intuitive thinking

Genius is made possible when all these flow together - a person is internally-motivated to pursue that for which he has a natural ability; and does so in an 'intuitive' way that mobilizes his deepest self, all his mental powers.

Newton's intellectual ability, his intelligence, was very obviously stratospheric; so what I was most interested by was to discover his personality. HJ Eysenck established that the high level creative personality type was approximated by the trait of High Psychoticism, which I have attempted to elucidate in recent years



Newton's biography reveals that he was an extreme example of the Psychoticism trait. Psychoticism is important to genius because it describes someone who is uninterested and uninfluenced by the normal human concerns - which are essentially 'other people' Most humans are social animals, who see life through social spectacles, and who are motivated by the desire for friends, sex, status and so on. But not Newton. He simply wanted to be allowed to get on with his work.

As a child and young man of science he would spend nearly all of his time alone, when in company he would be silent, he had essentially no friends, formed no relationships with women, and made very little effort to fit-in - indeed as a boy his relationships with other boys tended to be antagonistic and at times rather sadistic (Newton was not likeable).

Newton was taught Latin at school; and nothing else. In terms of mathematics and science he was an autodidact. Whatever he did, he did because he wanted to do it; and he did it at close to 100 percent effort. Thus in a year or less he went from knowing no mathematics to mastering the subject and being among the best in the world; and then immediately went to to make some of the greatest ever mathematical discoveries.

(Newton's own explanation of his achievement emphasized the distinctive creative personality - he was asked how he made his discoveries and gave such answers as "By thinking on it continually" and "I keep the subject constantly before me".)


Then he all-but dropped mathematics, and moved on to one area of physics after another - making major discoveries, and moving-on. This reminds me of the 'schoolboy crazes' or obsessions, typical of some highly intelligent young men.

Stories of Newton's consuming focus abound - he would think solidly for hour upon hour - sometimes standing lost in abstraction half way down the stairs; forget to eat, forget to sleep; forget that he had visitors. For years he seldom left his college, almost never left Cambridge.

In all of human history there can have been very few (and perhaps nobody of Newtons astonishing intelligence) who gave such intense and sustained concentration to whatever problem they were working on.

And while Newton's academic performance was good, it was not amazing, and was somewhat erratic. It seems he performed badly in his BA examination - which was a disputation, needing to go on to a second round of questions (rather than passing straight away), which was regarded as somewhat disgraceful.


His methods were highly intuitive, reasoning from a relatively small base of axioms and principles, building out from them, making predictions and testing his ideas against general observations. This can be contrasted with the method typical of highly intelligent and conscientious uncreative people - who read widely, learn many facts, and apply other-people's solutions to problems. 

But Newton, the autodidact, worked things through for himself; thought things through using only those facts and principles he trusted. From this; creativity follows quite naturally and without being deliberately sought.

It is clear that Newton's solitary, wilful and autonomous personality; his un-empathic, un-conscientious, anti-social and eccentric ways - in sum his high Psychoticism traits - were as necessary a part of his supreme genius as was ultra-high intelligence.


What is intuition? The mode of thought characteristic of the soul

I think something can be said about intuition - mostly indirect and negative-definition; but it is useful to know some-things about intuition, given that it seems to be a mode of though characteristic of creative geniuses (when they are being creative geniuses).


We could approach intuition by stating that intuition is the mode of thought of the private soul/ the real self/ inner consciousness - that is to say the most profound, the most secret, fundamental mode of thought.

Intuition can be contrasting with two (lower, subordinated) modes of thinking passions versus reason; the body v the brain; gut-feelings v head-knowledge; instinct v logic.

These two modes are not absolutely distinct, but I think can usefully be distinguished.


The soul is usually (as it were) hidden beneath the busy activities of the mind and body, bombarded by perceptual data, sensory inputs, and unaware of itself. The soul is 'fed' by the mind and body.

But when these inputs are stopped, then the soul can (as it were) distinguish itself - and these inputs are stopped in sleep, in trance states - when the inner activities are insulated and isolated.

So, what is the mode of intuition? It is not by instinct or by logic - but by something of both and more. Therefore, intuition is a mode of thinking which simultaneously uses emotion and logic but is a context of (for example) motivation, purpose, meaning, relationships etc.


The result of intuition is therefore an evaluation which is uniquely convincing because it is validated by the full range of positive responses.

By contrast, even we use only (for example) logic, or only emotions, to evaluate something; then the evaluation will be incomplete, and evaluation in one sub-mode may be contradicted by evaluation in another sub-mode - as when logic and emotions reach different conclusions, point in different directions.

Only the evaluations of intuition are fully satisfying, fully convincing, and harmonious. Only the evaluations of intuition mobilize the whole range of thought modes.

This intuition is the most powerful mode of thought, and the only mode of thought capable of mobilizing the fullest motivation. This is why intuition is necessary to the highest levels of creativity, to the greatest attainments of genius.


Friday 19 December 2014

Red Queen natural selection (mutation selection balance) is universal, primary, normal and normative: My conceptual breakthrough of the the year

Natural selection is not primarily about the creation of new complex forms, but about the preservation of already-existing complex form.

This is primary and necessary because of the spontaneous tendency for the degradation of complexity by spontaneously occurring damage: de-differentiation is natural.

Indeed natural selection is very poor at explaining the arising of novel forms. Very poor at explaining genuinely new adaptive forms.


Natural selection is good at explaining modification of already existing forms - by re-shaping mechanisms such as partial amplification or suppression, combination - but not good at explaining truly novel forms.

I would go further: there is not, and never has been, any observation or experimental or empirical evidence that natural selection can create genuinely new complex form - not from Darwin until now has there been any such evidence.

That natural selection alone can do this, can create new forms, can by itself and without aid from other processes lead to the whole diversity of life... is an assertion purely based on theoretical arguments. And the theory that natural selection can actually, in real life, make new forms is not convincing, since it takes for granted the pre-existence, the reality and identifiably, of forms.


The Red Queen mechanism of natural selection was originally formulated and elaborated as a special case, a phenomenon sometimes found, but usually not found. It is the idea, from Leigh Van Valen and named from Lewis Carroll's Alice Through the Looking Glass of natural selection working to keep things the same, rather than to change them.  

Traditionally, Red Queen effects have been seen in phenomena such as 'evolutionary arms races', resistance to parasites and pathogens, and in the mutation selection balance (eliminating fitness-reducing mutations) regarded as a process which sometimes happens in particular cases... .

However, it turns-out that the Red Queen is universal, found everywhere; it is normal and usual; it is normative in the sense of being required - by maintaining already existing form, the Red Queen mechanism is what underpins and makes adaptation possible; what make novelty possible.

Because without the Red Queen mechanism to prevent the spontaneously-occurring loss of complex form, further adaptive complexity could not be sustained but would soon break-down.


So, this is what natural selection does - it does two main things: first it maintains (already existent) adaptive form; and secondly it adaptively modifies already-existing form. But it apparently does not create forms - rather natural selection works on already-existing forms





Thursday 18 December 2014

Creativity is transcendentally the opposite of fashion

Creativity is nowadays frequently confused with - but must be distinguished from,  fashion - because the one is essentially good (although may be used for evil), while the other is essentially evil (although may well have good aspects).

So to regard the 'design' of modern products - such as Apple computers - as prime examples of creativity is strictly mistaken; such design has the imperative of novelty, which makes it primarily fashion - and creativity is an optional extra.

True creativity is about reality - and qualities such as functionality and excellence; but fashion is about the requirement for novelty and change.


I think it probable that high creativity is a group selected trait - which means that (on average) it benefits group reproductive success rather than the individual; many products of creativity have the effect of promoting group cohesion and cooperation.

Fashion, however, is a luxury good and parasitic on the group functionality - because its changes and reversals tend to promote inter--group conflict and damage group cohesion.


Real creativity springs from the individual's motivations, drives and internal reward system: creativity is natural and spontaneous for the truly creative person - although it can, of course, be suppressed - by contrast fashion, design, novelty.

So to control creativity the group would actively need to crush it; otherwise the creative person just will be creative.

Fashion, on the other hand, is done for the usual reasons of external reward: status, salary, sex and so on. Fashion needs to be incentivised; designers need to be paid; recurrent novelty is a consequence of reward; perpetual change is driven by paid managers (and managers do not manage unless they are 'paid' in some valued currency).  


Therefore, psychological tests of the kind that ask subjects to list as many uses as possible for a stick or a hook or a ball are not asking about real creativity, but about something more like fashion - because they are measuring novelty but not measuring functionality or usefulness.

And the Big Five psychological trait of  'Openness to experience' is essentially about novelty/ fashion, rather than excellence/ creativity.

But Eysenck's personality trait of Psychoticism (flawed as it is) is essentially trying to probe and quantify real creativity, not fashion.


Fashion, novelty, change... these are intrinsic to modernity and have become the primary attribute of secular Leftism: they are more dominant now than ever before.

But real creativity is in a bad way in the modern world. Major geniuses have all-but disappeared, and minor geniuses are ignored, their work (even when potentially useful to group 'fitness') is attacked, suppressed, made illegal; creative people are punished not rewarded.

So real creativity is one kind of thing - being scape-goated and declining fast; while the pseudo-creativity of fashion - which is celebrated and expanding - is a very different thing.


Wednesday 17 December 2014

Creativity as the process and outcome of structuring (subjective) emotions to conform with the (objective) field of interest

This basic idea originated in my book Psychiatry and the Human Condition - see excerpt below - but I think I can now formulate it more clearly and precisely.

In a nutshell:

1. Creative thinking is made possible by structured emotions. But creativity applies to objective fields of interest (e.g. a branch of science, technology, music, literature)

2. Emotions become structured to an objective field of interest during the creative Quest stage. That is, emotions are brought-into-line with the structure of the subject matter.

3. Then, in the moment of Illumination, the 'creative 'breakthrough', the structure of the subject matter is brought into line with the structured emotions - to make a more positive and rewarding structure of emotions.

4. If the emotions have been properly structured to the field of interest during the Quest - then the subjective illumination will (plausibly) correspond to a breakthrough in understanding of objective reality.

(Of course, this illumination will need to be tested by further observations - and by consistency with other knowledge.)


Note - Successful creativity requires both a natural ability to structure emotions, and an ability (and motivation) to re-structure emotions, in line with the creative Quest. Either alone will not suffice. Structured emotions in unchangeable, autonomous detachment = a psychosis. But a person unable to structure emotions can be objective, but will not be able to be creative - since they cannot re-conceptualize the subject matter. Therefore the personality trait of Psychotic-ism is creative - since it describes the ability to structure emotions; but actual psychosis is not creative.


From Bruce Charlton, Psychiatry and the Human Condition, 2000.


Consciousness as a storyteller
Human consciousness operates as a storytelling device. The somatic marker mechanism associates perceptions with emotions in working memory, so that thought is accompanied by a flow of emotions. These emotions in turn generate a flow of expectations or predictions, which the story may either confirm, or else contradict in interesting ways that - after they have happened - can retrospectively be seen to flow from what went before by less obvious paths hence are not contradictory after all. What makes a story is essentially this flow of linked emotions, a bodily enactment of physical states that have been associated with those propositions that we use in internal modelling.
Consciousness seems always to ascribe causality - it is not content with recording detached representations, but works by synthesizing events into a linked linear stream which is then projected into the future as a predictive model to guide behaviour. As bodily emotions fluctuate, feedback to the brain will monitor and interpret this flux in terms of the meaning of perceptions - the emotions interpret the perceptions. Since the somatic marker mechanism is a device for using emotions to infer intentions and other states of mind, then sequences of emotions will automatically create inferred narratives of quasi-social relationships - in other words stories.
Consciousness is so compulsive a storyteller as to be a master confabulator - consciousness will always invent a story in terms of cause and effect relations, even when it has no idea what is going on, and available data are inadequate or contradictory. Young children will interpret abstract computer images that ‘pursue’ and ‘flee’ and ‘hit’ one another in terms of exactly these social behaviours - they will give the abstract shapes personalities and intentions even though they are merely shapes moving on a screen. Seeing faces in the fire, or animals in the clouds, is another instance of the same kind of nearly automatic meaning-generation.
Theoretical science works largely by analogy, by modelling. Perhaps nobody can reason in utter abstraction. Scientists build simplified working models of reality, and map these models onto reality to make predictions - seeking a one to one correspondence between the model and the world. Some scientific models are mathematical - where real world entities are mapped onto mathematical symbols and real world causes are summarized in mathematical operations - such as Einstein’s theory of special relativity: e = mc2 where e stands for energy, m stands for mass and c is a very large number. Mathematics predictions can then be tested against observation to see whether the model corresponds to reality.
Other models are much simpler - the ‘ball-and-spring’ models to show atoms and chemical bonds and valencies, and a host of idiosyncratic mental models which are used to make breakthroughs and then discarded, often unacknowledged. The molecular shapes used by Crick and Watson to construct their model of the double helix of DNA are a well known example, the models represented the shape of molecules and some of their ways of bonding to each other - and physically manipulating the shapes was a vital element in solving the structure of DNA. Indeed the ‘eureka moment’ was probably when Watson put together cardboard shapes of the bases and saw that they formed specific complementary pairings. The great physicist Clark Maxwell’s notebook musings about how electro-magnetism works strike modern observers as extraordinarily ‘childish’ - with their peculiar shapes and swirls of how magnetism and electricity might operate - yet they nonetheless led this first-rate genius to the insights that enabled several major breakthroughs in theoretical physics.   
The social nature of scientific models
Stories are perhaps the commonest mode of analogical thought. The link between story-telling and scientific theorizing is instructive. A scientific hypothesis is like a story in the sense that entities and causal processes are analogous to characters and their motivations. I would guess that - at a deep level - the science and the storytelling processes of the conscious mind are identical; what differs are the ingredients. It has even been suggested that theoretical physicists and chemists endow their musings with human like qualities, just as chess masters constantly deploy ‘battle’ metaphors to describe their strategies in what would otherwise appear to be the most objective and mathematical of games.
Certainly, I find that I develop emotions about all aspects of science. For example I must admit to an idiotic preference for adrenergic over cholinergic neurotransmitters, since the adrenergic system was associated with physical action (eg. the ‘adrenalin rush’, while cholinergic activity had connotations of lying around feeling bloated after a meal (acetylcholinergic fibres innervate the gut). Silly, of course, but I couldn’t help anthropomorphizing about entities which were important to me.
I would go so far as to suggest that creative science is constrained anthropomorphism. Learning to do a science involves learning how to tell a particular kind of story: who are the important characters and what are their typical causal motivations - that is the anthropomorphism. Each scientific discipline has a distinctive set of personalities and behaviours - in physics there might be fundamental particles acted on by gravitational, electromagnetic and nuclear forces; in biology there might be cells and organisms acted on by macromolecules such as DNA and proteins under the influence of natural selection.
The constraint comes in because the range of possible stories one is permitted to tell about particular entities is strictly limited by previous relevant science. So that whether the entities in the story are attracted or repelled, counterbalanced or exaggerated, add or multiply their effects… these aspects are controlled strictly by scientific criteria.
But having established a proper set of ‘dispositions, motivations and intentions’ for the entities, we predict what they will do by exactly the kind of ‘story generating’ social intelligence that we have been exploring in the earlier parts of this book. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that most people can only be creative in this quasi-narrative fashion, and scientific creativity involves storytelling of a highly specialized kind - the exception is mathematics, where the outcome of interacting entities is determined not by quasi-social factors but by mathematical functions.
The role of narrative is both to generate theories and to make them useable - because science is a human product it needs to be shaped to the human mind. If a scientific theory cannot be put into a quasi-social shape, then we find it very difficult to think about. Our mind, after all, is bubbling with social meaning even when the world is chaotic: we see pictures random dots, monsters in the shadows. We confabulate causal pathways to explain our emotions and behaviours. Inanimate objects - such as stones, rivers and trees - are imbued with personality and powers of malevolence or benignity. For humans, the world is full of relevance and purpose. Reality comes to us already imprinted with labels of preference. Theories that cannot be subsumed to this world do not have much chance of being remembered or used, they will be forced aside by more ‘interesting’ ideas.
So it is a fusion of constrained reality, trained aesthetic appreciation and emotional preference that makes possible the scientific peak experience. The peak experience is that moment when analogy strikes us - we see underlying unity, similarity in difference, meaning emerging from chaos - a bunch of disconnected facts coalescing into a story. 

Monday 8 December 2014

The difference between the conscientious personality, the contemplative personality, and the Genius - inner orientation *and* inner motivation

The conscientious personality is driven by external social perceptions - he is attuned to peer pressure, he accepts peer evaluations, and may work hard on problems and jobs which are derived from the social milieu.

But the conscientious personality has not chosen his problem; more exactly his problem does not derive from inner sources. He is motivated to act - but by other people, not by trying to solve his own 'problem'.

The conscientious personality has no sense of being on a track of Destiny; he does not 'own' the problem he is working-on. That line of work may be adopted from obedience, or duty - or as a matter of expediency (for status, or money, or to get sex). But when a line of work ceases to be externally required, or is externally discouraged, or becomes inexpedient then it will be abandoned.

But it is clear that the conscientious personality is not suited to a Genius, is un-original and unlikely to lead to breakthroughs. He has drive to do something in the world; but that something does not derive from within him, and therefore does not mobilize his inner resources. And his motivation will fail when times are tough - he will not push through discouragements.


By contrast to the externally-orientated conscientious personality, the contemplative personality is focused upon the inner world. The mind's eye is turned inward; and the contemplative personality is meditative; occupied by thoughts, fantasies, speculations...

However, the contemplative personality is... contemplative. For a contemplative 'action' is meditative - understanding, experience, the observation of transcendental such as truth, beauty, virtue, unity... this is what provides the greatest satisfaction.

The contemplative personality is a dreamer, not a do-er. Therefore the contemplative will not summon the long-term, stubborn determination required to do Genius-type creative work; the Quest to keep pushing and pushing at a problem until it yields to Illumination - then to communicate the outcome.

The contemplative personality has the kind of autonomy of 'public opinion' which is necessary to originality - but lacks motivation towards actions, lacks the 'drive' to solve a problem - instead he is content to contemplate perceived reality rather than to re-conceptualize reality.


The Genius must combine the inner orientation of the contemplative - in order to find his own problem - the problem he is destined to work on; with an inner motivation towards action - he must desire to translate understanding into engagement, to just to contemplate reality but to 'solve' reality.

Because his motivation comes from within, and his focused upon a problem which also comes from within, the Genius is not easily discouraged; his drive will enable him - will indeed compel him - to keep pushing and pushing, even when support is withdrawn or he is met by discouragement and failure.

Thus - when it comes to his own problem - the Genius is autonomous, self-motivating, tenacious and stubborn in pursuit of his chosen goal.

He will see the Genius Quest through to its conclusion in Illumination or 'die in the attempt' - unless he is actively prevented from doing so.


So the Creative Personality of a Genius involves at least these two aspects:

1. Inner orientation

2. Inner motivation.  

Destiny implies deity


Sunday 7 December 2014

Creativity is a total mobilization of inner resources in pursuit of an inner and destined goal

Genius can be defined simply as high intelligence/ ability plus creativity - but what is creativity?

Although there is a scientific literature on creativity, describing its psychological mechanism and purporting to measure it quantitatively, there is a serious problem when science addresses creativity - a category error; in the sense that insofar as creativity is captured by science then science captures is precisely not creativity.


What real creativity is, is something uncanny.

It can perhaps best be understood as a consequence of the bringing to bear nothing less that the whole personality upon a problem; not just for a Eureka-moment of illumination, but also for the preceding 'Genius Quest' which may last for years.

Creativity has a source beyond science - inspiration is both within and without; it both seems to come from inside by in-trospection; and from outside by being in-spired like breathing-in.

Creativity is thus an inner fire, and also a yielding to destiny - both are unique. Our inner fire is distinctive, and our destiny is also distinctive - therefore creativity is a key to working-out our uniqueness.


The variations in real creativity between people are therefore in essence a matter of value - value to the creative person; so behind public perceptions and fashion, differences in underlying creativity correspond to a difference between those who are more- and less- spiritually advanced in terms of discovering, realizing and developing themselves - in the way, in the direction, along the path that is their unique destiny and necessity.

Friday 5 December 2014

The Genius's Journey - Destiny, Quest, Illumination

Think of this as analogous to 'The Hero's Journey' as described by Joseph Campbell ^


The Genius has a Journey to make, a Path to take - a Way to live.

This may be embarked upon, but there is no guarantee is will be completed. It may be tried but may fail. The genius may die, or get sick before it is finished - or in some way be thwarted.

The destiny may be accepted, but may be abandoned; because the commitment must be renewed many times. Illumination may actually be achieved but rejected by society - the genius unrecognised.

Or, illumination may be achieved but stolen and no credit given; or achieved and socially-accepted and acknowledgement given - but then the genius become corrupted into careerism, status seeking, pleasure seeking or whatever.


Destiny, Quest, Illumination

We are prone to think of only the last step in this journey: the Eureka moment' of inspiration when the Genius is flooded with Illumination and sees the answer to his problem, and what the answer means.

But there are at least three distinct phases of which this comes late.

1. Destiny

From childhood, youth or early adult life there is a sense of destiny, of having some special role to play. This destiny is accepted, not chosen; so that task is not to manufacture, invent or devise a destiny; but rather to discover, to find-out the nature of one's own personal and unique destiny.

Such a process of discovery is a matter of trial and error, following hunches, drifting; false leads, blind alleys and red herrings - there is no recipe to find one's destiny.


2. Quest

After seeking the genius recognises what it is that he is meant to do (or, meant to attempt): this is his Quest.

Now he has to choose - does he embrace his destiny and accept the Quest - or not. Only he can decide; and he will inevitably decide: the decision is unavoidable.

Life takes a fork.


3. After prolonged effort - months, years, a decade or more - Illumination is achieved: the thing is done! The experience accumulated, the skills gained, the understanding achieved during the Quest at last come together and the breakthrough is made.

Of course there are other phases - for instance the Illumination must be communicated  but beyond a certain minimal effort at recording, reproducing and revealing, this is often 'in the lap of the gods' - and beyond the scope of purposive activities of the genius.


^Here is a nicely animated video summary in What makes a Hero? by Matthew Winkler

Monday 1 December 2014

Why are modern conditions so hostile to genius? Because those in power are zealously protecting the web of lies

Western Modernity is hostile to genius, in a way that contrasts strongly with the history of the West.

This is not a matter of merely failing to reward geniuses. That is true, but does not really matter; since genius is (and must be) internally motivated; so genius does what genius does (unless it is actively prevented from doing it).


So modern geniuses do what they do - but whereas Western societies of the past eagerly seized-upon the products of genius and exploited them (with or without the geniuses consent - and often while denying the genius any reward or even credit for their discovery) nowadays the West not merely fails to benefit from the activities of genius; it actively attacks the breakthroughs of genius.


This seems hard to understand - because in principle there is power and money to be made from the breakthroughs of genius; but this is in fact why attack is necessary - so as to prevent people spontaneously exploiting the insights of genius.

In general, the breakthroughs of a genius are paradigm-busting; they tend to break-down and re-make structures of knowledge. In the past this was not usually resisted because there was an implicit aim of basing our lives upon truth, beauty and virtue.

But 'reality' as perceived by modernity is NOW a vast and interlocking web of selective facts, distortions and outright lies - sustained by a powerful, enveloping, pervasive and addictive mass media.

Any insight or breakthrough in understanding of any kind threatens the entire edifice of the web of lies; whether that breakthrough is in ethics (virtue), science and technology (truth) or the arts (beauty).


Those in power at the highest levels know that their position depends on sustaining this web of lies - they know because this is the main everyday activity - the manufacture and 'management' of the tissue of dishonesty; and the web of lies is the only world they know.

Therefore, for modern leaders, the most dangerous people in the world are those who threaten the web of lies - the geniuses; therefore genius will be fought, and their insights denied and suppressed, by whatever means are most effective: denigration, mockery, misrepresentation, demonization... whatever works.


Thus, Western Modernity has become more actively and comprehensively and systematically hostile to genius, and the insights and discoveries of genius, than perhaps any previous society; and no matter how much they are needed, the breakthroughs of genus cannot (and will not) be used - for fear of triggering a meltdown in social order; a domino-effect in which one truth leads to another, one beauty or virtuous act leads to another, and another... until the universal web of lies suddenly snaps, and gives way... and then what?


Saturday 29 November 2014

The problem of finding your problem - Francis Crick as a late-developing genius

Francis Crick (1916-2004) was not picked-out as a genius in early life; although his co-discovery of the structure of DNA, his intellectual domination of molecular biology in its golden age, and his role in understanding the genetic code make him a candidate for the single most influential scientist of the late 20th century.


Crick was clearly well above-average in ability, quick witted and had a flair for problem solving; but he was (and remained) an intensely-annoying person with an arrogant manner, a loud voice, and an irritating laugh.

His exceptionally abrasive personality was certainly a factor in holding him back as a young man - but later it became a crucial asset in his major scientific work.

Crick had an intellectually privileged childhood and went to a premier academic school, but failed to gain entrance to his first choice universities, and graduated with a second class degree; and then started but failed to complete two PhDs, despite changing from physics to biology

So that by the time he met James Watson in 1951 he was in his mid-thirties, on the third attempt at completing a PhD and with poor career prospects (having been told by the Director that he was not wanted at the laboratory after the PhD was completed).

He was a failure, who had squandered multiple chances; and people did not like having him around.


In other words, Crick was a very late-maturing genius - both by absolute and career standards, and for his early life (and what are usually the peak years of achievement) he was just drifting and he was going nowhere in particular.

Then he met Jim Watson, was persuaded that the gene was made of DNA, and that the structure of DNA was solveable - and he was off and unstoppable!

This illustrates how vital it is for a genius to find his problem.

Francis Crick was not visibly a genius until he found DNA - yet of course he was the same man, with the same abilities (the same intelligence, the same personality): but until he met Watson and discovered DNA he was unmotivated - or rather his motivation was too fickle, and too compromised.


It is presumably of some relevance that Crick was psychologically very 'normal' by genius standards; in that he was very sociable and gregarious, had a high sex drive; and, in general, wanted the kind of things that normal men want - alongside being very highly motivated to work at his scientific problems.

The relevance is probably that Crick was for many years too easily distracted from his intellectual destiny by 'worldly' matters, and was less aware of his inner compulsions than are most geniuses.

Perhaps this is a pattern for late-developing genius?


This matter of finding your problem is vital; and not only for genius level scientists but for us below that level who are yet very driven and motivated by intellectual matters: to be working in the right area, to have found one's destiny, is something that makes all the difference.


My own experience has some parallels with Crick - in the sense that I did not 'find my problem' until my mid-thirties when I seized upon evolutionary psychology/ evolutionary theory; up until then I drifted from subject to subject through early adult life.

By 35 years old I had been employed at medical school, medical 'internship', psychiatry training, neuroendocrinology research, English literature scholarship, and lectureships in physiology, anatomy, epidemiology and public health... 

In my case, this sudden clarity about what I should be doing damaged rather than enhanced my career (as so often happens in modern science), but there was and is no doubt that 'here was my destiny', at last.

So I was far more successful than Crick up to age 35, having done well at everything except the internship - but, obviously, the reverse afterwards; and I am not in line for a Nobel!

But - like Crick - I know what it is to have found your problem, and what it is not to have found your problem. 


In later life, aged about 60, Crick  left molecular biology and went into neuroscience to work on consciousness which continued until his death; but for whatever reason made no decisive contributions and was just a 'mainstream' member of the field.

Crick's intellectual deficiencies, in particular his rather crude 'shallowness' as a person and his strident atheism, indeed made him especially un-suited to working in the field of consciousness; where he never really even grasped the scope and nature problem (leave aside solving it).

Also, by the time Crick went into neuroscience, science was becoming very corrupt - and neuroscience was one of the most corrupt parts (because it was so lavishly funded) - so most of the papers Crick will have read (and he read far too much!) were dishonest and/or incompetent - so the data he was working with was unsuitable for theoretical purposes.


Altogether, the life and work of Francis Crick makes a very interesting and relevant study - as perhaps the last British genius to be famous outside of science professionals.


Note: There is a stylish, concise and scientifically-informed biography: Francis Crick by Matt Ridley -  2006. Also, here is what I wrote after Crick's death: 


Thursday 27 November 2014

The nature of creativity - purposive inner thought

Creativity is about a mode of thought relatively cut-off from the environment: it is about inner thought.

Thus creativity implies a disengagement from sensory input (e.g. detached from visual and auditory stimuli), and from engagement with the immediate surrounding environment, including the social environment.

But, to be inner-directed is not sufficient to define creativity; for example, sleep, psychosis and delirium are all states in which attention is directed to inner stimuli - yet these are not creative.

When there is no control over the direction of thought - as in dreams, or in hallucinatory and thought-disordered states - there is no purposive control. Thought is being passively-driven-by the inner world.

Creativity entails that the direction, the subject matter, of thought be voluntarily directed; directed towards something like understanding a circumstance, solving a problem, or making a thing.

Creative inspiration is therefore IN-spiration - comes from inner reflection; but to be truly creative inspiration is sought, it is strategic, it is a product of motivation.

So, there is a type of inner-directed thought which is deranged, and may be pathological (for example induced by drugs).

But, the inner-directed thought of a creative person is a result of the way he is made - the inward-attending-bias of creativity is 'hard-wired', innate, present from young childhood.

The creative person is made so that his attention and interest tends to be relatively cut off from the environment, relatively uninterested in the social world (which - in most people - commands most of their interest) .

And indeed, because he is made with an inward bias - if or when a creative person suffers some mental impairment, he is more-than-usually-likely to become psychotic.

But it is not the psychosis which gives the creativity; rather the creativity and the prone-ness to psychosis have the same basis - presumably the same nature of inner-directed hard-wiring.


The acorn theory of genius

It seems likely that (as a rule) genius is inborn - and the way this works could be described in terms of an acorn which grows into an oak.

The pre-requisites of genius are intelligence, which we know is mostly inherited; and creativity, which is much less well understood, but which is also substantially in-built.

(Intelligence cannot be taught, although IQ tests can - neither can real creativity be taught.)

So a mature, adult genius is a product of the growth and development of a child in whom the ingredients and their balance can be traced right back to early childhood; much as the oak tree grows from the acorn.

So, there is destiny to genius - and the primary qualities are either absent, or present (to varying degrees) from the very start - and (unless thwarted) these qualities will tend to unfold by their own inner logic.

And as with an oak tree, the exact, specific result depends on the environment - if the tree is growing in thin soil on the top of a windy mountain, the tree will be stunted and bent; if alone in the middle of a landscaped park it may grow to symmetrical magnificence.

But, whatever the final result - even if the oak is eaten as a sapling by a rabbit - its basic potentiality and distinctive nature was in the acorn from the beginning.


Note: The acorn metaphor (although not my proposed psychological mechanism) comes from The Soul's Code by James Hillman (1997), who also collected a wide range of examples.

Tuesday 25 November 2014

How are highly intelligent people sometimes born to unintelligent parents (and ancestors)?

This (assuming the phenomenon is real) seems hard to explain in the way that intelligence is normally considered - in terms of intelligence being a consequence of very large numbers (thousands?) of genes-for-intelligence. With intelligence genes conceptualized as additive in effect, and in such large numbers, it is hard to understand how a very highly intelligent child could emerge by chance from low intelligence parents.

But if  person's level of intelligence is also determined by the number of deleterious mutations they inherit from their parents, and these mutations are numbered in tens - then it is imaginable that, by chance, a child may be born with very few deleterious mutations, despite his parents having a relatively heavy mutation load.

This notion is perhaps testable, on the basis that a low mutation load should be associated with generally higher fitness - so the high intelligence child of low intelligence parents would be expected to be (on average) taller, healthier, more symmetrical, more long-lived than his low intelligence parents.

Monday 24 November 2014

Geniuses are "vulnerable and fragile" and "need to be looked after"

Quoted from an article in The Daily Telegraph

Dr Michael Woodley of Menie, from the Free University of Brussels, believes that individuals who can be classified as geniuses have brains that are wired differently and are programmed to be unable to deal with small details. “They’re incapable of managing normal day to day affairs,” says Dr Woodley.
“History is littered with anecdotes of geniuses who fail at the most spectacularly mundane tasks. Einstein got lost on one of his sojourns in Princeton, New Jersey. He went into a shop and said, ‘Hi, I’m Einstein, can you take me home please?’ He couldn’t drive and the small things that most people take for granted were totally beyond his capabilities.”
Dr Woodley believes geniuses are “literally not hardwired to be able to learn those kind of tasks. Every time they attempt to allocate the effort into dealing with the mundanities in life they’re constitutionally resisted; their brains are not capable of processing things at that low level.”
Genius, Dr Woodley says, can be found in people with modestly high levels of psychoticism [often typified by interpersonal hostility] and very high intelligence, with IQs scores of more than 140 or 150. Furthermore they are, he says, often asexual as their brains use the space allocated to urges such as sexual desire for additional cognitive ability.
"You have a trade off between what Freud would have referred to as libido and on the other hand pure abstraction: a Platonistic world of ideas,” he said. The evolutionary reason for this may lie with the theory that geniuses have insights that advance the general population. “It’s paradoxical because you think the idea of evolution is procreation, and that might be true in a lot of cases,” he explains. “But what if the way you increase your genes is by benefitting the entire group, by giving them an innovation that allows them to grow and expand and colonise new countries?”
The lack of common sense is in keeping with the idea that a genius exists as an asset to other people, and so: “They need to be looked after,” he says. “They are vulnerable and fragile.”



Michael Woodley makes an important point here. Far from being high in reproductive fitness, in biological terms many geniuses or vulnerable and fragile, and benefit the group rather than themselves; and therefore they often need to be looked after.

The corollary is that when geniuses are not looked after, they do not fulfil their potential, and everybody loses.

If you look at the geniuses throughout history, which obviously only detects successful geniuses, and not those who were thwarted or crushed - there are a very large number who had some kind of 'minder' - typically a specific person who looked after them; whether an influential colleague, a sympathetic employer, a patron, or a monarch - or else their family or a group of close friends.


So, the reclusive poet Emily Dickinson was 'managed' by Colonel TW Higginson; and Jane Austen flourished in the obscurity of her family. Thomas Aquinas was looked after by his brother Friars; and Mendel in his monastery. Pascal by his family. Plus many a genius was sustained by a capable wife.

When there is a close-knit and idealistic community, this may also do it - for example, the community of mathematicians looked after Paul Erdos, who never had a home and camped out at in the house of one mathematics Professor after another for decades, while collaborating on research papers. The Indian genius mathematician Ramanujan was discovered and protected by the Cambridge Professors Hardy and Littlewood.

But poor William Sidis was exploited rather than protected by his parents, and was a sensitive man who had to survive in a hostile and mocking world; so his achievements were limited, and indeed largely unknown and unappreciated.


Modern society is dominated by 'bureaucracy', that is by voting committees and formal procedures - rather than individual humans making personal judgments.

And committees do not look after geniuses - rather they ignore them, or persecute them.

It is no coincidence that English genius very suddenly all-but disappeared in the era (from about 1955-1980) in which bureaucracy waxed dominant in national life - and nowadays geniuses are absent, invisible, or fighting for survival against the forces of mass media, committees, peer reviewers and other faceless officials.

This is sad for the geniuses; fatal for our society.


Tuesday 18 November 2014

The Creative Triad: Need for a new concept to replace Eysenck's Psychoticism in relation to creativity?


I am beginning to believe that - important though it was in understanding creativity - it may be necessary to replace Eysenck's personality trait of Psychoticism to distinguish between adaptive and pathological causes.

The sub-traits which constitute Psychoticism have been summarised here:


In brief they are

High Psychoticism is in bold font; Low Psychoticism is normal font.

1. Cold - versus warm, charming
2. Aggressive - versus submissive
3. Egocentric - versus follows groups expectations
4. Unempathic - versus sympathetic, feels the emotions of others
5. Tough-minded (i.e. impervious to events) - versus tender-minded, strongly affected by experience
6. Antisocial - versus gregarious, needs other people
7. Impersonal - versus life consists of intense, direct relationships
8. Impulsive (behaviour dominated by current emotions) - versus behaviour dominated by predictions or weaker emotions.
9. Creative - versus applies peer-approved, learned rules and traditions 
I believe that there may be two distinct reasons why a person is rated as high in Psychoticism:

1. One cause is pathological, i.e. functional brain damage from various causes - innate/ genetic, traumatic, drugs or toxins, and psychotic diseases. These increase the susceptibility to altered states of consciousness, and damage evolved psychological adaptations for social living.


2. The other cause is adaptive - the evolution (probably by some kind of group-selected mechanism, associated with an extreme K of slow Life History) whereby some minority of individuals are developmentally specialised for socially valuable roles in creativity; by means of a variety of lop-sided maturational trajectories that lead to some highly developed cognitive motivations and intuitive abilities at the cost of others.

For example, among the most extreme creative - creative geniuses - there are 'always' some deficits indicative of an imbalance away from 'normal' abilities and motivations - for example a reduced interest in sex and reproduction, reduced interest (and often aptitude) in social affairs (including indifference to the opinions of others), reduced motivation to achieve power, status, wealth and other socially-valued 'goods'.

And highly creative people often use states of day-dreaming, trance, sleep and other altered states as the primary mode of their creative thinking - but not because these states are imposed on them by disease and deficit; rather as a deliberate strategy, because these states are when creativity is facilitated.

These altered states are usually only deployed in solitude - and switched-off when full alertness is needed (driving a car, operating dangerous machinery etc.), or in social interactions.

So high creativity is a package of positive abilities and emotions, and also a relative indifference to aspects of life which would tend to interfere with creative autonomy and self motivation.


However, pathology might mimic evolved creativity, when there is focal damage to social/ sexual psychological adaptations - leading someone to pour all their interest into a specific and idiosyncratic interest. But such pathologically focused individuals would lack the positive aspects of creativity - the type of mind capable of make wide and unusual associations and jumps of logic. Pathological individuals would perhaps be obsessed with a subject - but only in learning about it and not in making original contributions to it.


So, what could be a term for the trait displayed by those High Psychoticism individuals who are creative?

Perhaps Creativity is indeed the proper and best term?

So, the category of Psychoticism could be broken down into sub-categories of 1. Pathological Psychoticism, and 2. Adaptive Creativity - and the list of sub-traits modified accordingly.


I suggest the following Creative Triad as characteristic of those who display adaptive (and presumably evolved) high level creativity - Creative Genius:

1. A characteristic mode of thought - primarily intuitive, associative and generative; rather than logical and rational and factual. This mode of thought is attained in some kind of altered state of consciousness, usually attained in solitude - rather than full alertness and social interaction.

(Logic, reason and facts are of course necessary to creation - but come after the creative process; as a test applied to the products of creativity.)

2. High ability of a specific kind - different in different creative people: mathematical, inventive, artistic, philosophical etc.

3. Internal, self-motivation to channel one's major energies into the subject of that High Ability.

(High specific ability is of little value unless it is fed with sufficient time and energy to develop that ability, and to apply the outcomes of that ability.)


Wednesday 5 November 2014

Intelligence probably declines by considerably more than a standard deviation from age 16 to 63


IJ Deary, G Der. Reaction Time, Age, and Cognitive Ability: Longitudinal Findings from Age 16 to 63 Years in Representative Population Samples. Aging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition  2005; 12: 187-215.


Deary and Der's paper referenced above seems to be the best available estimate of the effects of ageing on simple reaction times (sRTs).

Simple reaction time correlates with general intelligence (g) and there is, I believe, a lot of reason to believe that group-averaged sRTs are the best, most valid measure of long-term changes in intelligence.

At the individual level, the modest correlation of sRT with IQ makes the sRT a relatively poor predictor of cognitive; but this is dealt with be averages the sRT measure in a large group, and of course the sRT is a real, physiological measure on a ratio scale - while IQ is only a measure of relative performance in tests, and is merely an ordinal scale with has no fixed interval measure or zero.


It is well known that general intelligence declines from late teens/ early twenties and into old age - for example as measured by fluid intelligence. In other words, raw scores of fluid intelligence in IQ tests will decline.

But the real magnitude of this decline cannot be obtained from IQ testing - and only a ratio scale, physiological functional measure such as sRT can measure the real magnitude of decline.

Deary and Der 2005 make possible this measure. They measure Men and Women in three cohorts: aged 16 retested at 24; age 36 retested at 44; aged 56 retested at 63. So, there are six data points for men, and another six for women.


Simple visual Reaction Times in milliseconds (rounded to nearest integer)
- Mean (Standard Deviation)


16- 293 (72)
24- 294 (78)

36- 304 (75)
44- 316 (90)

56- 348 (109)
63- 373 (124)

Total decline 16-63 - 373 minus 293 = 80 milliseconds.

Using age 16 average as a baseline value with its standard deviation of 72 - this 80 ms decline represents an intelligence decline of slightly more than one standard deviation - i.e. slightly more than 15 IQ points.

So, an average man of average IQ would decline from 50th centile age 16 to somewhat below the 16th centile aged 63.



16- 295 (57)
24- 306 (73)

36- 314 (79)
44- 333 (95)

56- 346 (101)
63- 375 (126)

Total decline 16-63 - 375 minus 295 = 80 milliseconds.

So, using age 16 as a baseline value with its standard deviation of 57 - this 80ms decline represents an intelligence decline of significantly more than one standard deviation - i.e. significantly more than 15 IQ points.

So, an average woman of average IQ would decline from 50th centile to significantly below the 16th centile aged 63.


A decline of more than one standard deviation - or 15 IQ points, represents the minimum average decline in general intelligence from 16 to 63 - in women the real value is likely to be even larger, because the three cohorts of 16-24, 36-44 and 56-63 very probably had different starting levels for intelligence - with the oldest age group having had a starting (age 16) sRT of about 36ms faster than the measured value for the 16-24 group.  See:


This may be taken imply that among women the true decline of sRT from 16-63 is more like 113 ms instead of 80 ms - and 113 ms decline would be two standard deviations.

However, 2SDs is likely to be an overestimate, because the distribution of sRT is not really a normal distribution, but positively skewed such that there is a longer tail of higher values - so the standard deviation breaks down as a valid description after about one standard deviation.


Nonetheless the data presented in Dear and Der 2005 seems to be measuring a very significant degree of decline in real, underlying, physiological general intelligence/ fluid intelligence between ages 16 and 63; suggesting a significant decline in those cognitive aptitudes underpinned by g.

In practice, this decline in general intelligence may well be obscured by increased specific or 'crystallised' intelligence, due to accumulated specific knowledge, skills and expertise. But the decline in g would be apparent in reduced cognitive flexibility, e.g. slowing of the learning of new knowledge and skills, reduced capacity at solving novel problems and so on.

This data set also suggests that the effect of declining intelligence with age may also be obscured, in this group of women, by declining average intelligence over time, with older generations having a had a higher starting point of for intelligence.

But however the data is adjusted or corrected, the basic finding seems to be that average intelligence declines by more than one standard deviation from age 16 to 63.


Ref: see also


Monday 3 November 2014

Broadly inverse correlation between average intelligence and per capita standard of living in pre-modern societies (before the industrial revolution)

One neglected inference from Gregory Clark's master work A Farewell to Alms: a brief economic history of the world - is that before the industrial revolution the effect of average societal intelligence was broadly the opposite of what it is today - the higher the average intelligence, the lower the per capita standard of living.

In the modern world, after the industrial revolution, it has been exhaustively shown by Richard Lynn and co-workers, and multiply confirmed, that there is a positive correlation between average intelligence and economic measures such as GDP and per capita income.

(More exactly that high average IQ - or perhaps a high IQ of the ruling elite - is nearly always necessary for economic success in the modern world - however, this tendency can be blocked by adverse economic ideologies, such as Marxism/ Maoism, which kept China poor for several decades.)


But, before they underwent the industrial revolution, China and Japan probably had the lowest standard of living per capita in the world - the average Chinese was perhaps the poorest in the world; with the mass of the population almost exclusively on rice, and a very small amount per day - despite that the population laboured almost every waking hour. (See also Ron Unz reference below)

By contrast, in Africa at about the same time, it is probable that the amount of food per person was among the highest in the world, and most African people had far more leisure than people in China or Japan.

Western European societies seem to have been somewhere in between - higher standard of living than China/ Japan but less than Africa; more hours of work than Africa but less than China/ Japan.


If it is assumed that the rank ordering of average general intelligence, as measured by performance in IQ tests, was then as it is now - with China/ Japan highest; Western Europe intermediate, Africa lower - then this represents an inverse correlation between intelligence and per capital standard of living.

Clark explains the reasons why this would be the case - which is that higher intelligence and a more conscientious personality were selected-for in complex agrarian societies (because higher intelligence and the ability to work had for long hours both improved reproductive success); and these selection pressures and the higher average intelligence led to things like increased productivity of food, improved hygiene^, and reduced violence; which combined to increase the population density until the population was constrained by starvation (China/ Japan) and starvation mixed with infectious disease (Western Europe).

(^High standards of hygiene - as was normal in medieval Japan - therefore reduces the mortality rate from infectious disease, which drives down standard of living by increasing population density.)


This is the 'Malthusian Trap' which affected all pre-modern societies in the long term, population could only increase at the cost of reduced standard of living - although average material conditions could be improved over the short term of a few generations after a drastic population cull, or qualitative jump in productivity - before population density increased, and the Trap resumed. This happened in England after the Black Death halved the population - a couple of hundred years of improved average prosperity resulted.

But Africa had extremely high mortality mainly due to diseases, and to a lesser extent violence; which meant that for the survivors of endemic infectious disease and violence there was enough land, enough to eat, and little need for long hours of intensive hunting, gathering or agricultural work.


So, broadly speaking, comparing between societies in the pre-modern world, high average intelligence led to lower average standard of living: intelligence was negatively correlated with standard of living;

Despite that within pre-modern societies, and looking at individuals, higher intelligence was positively-correlated with a higher standard of living (and higher average reproductive success from reduced child mortality).


(Many of these correlations now go the opposite direction in modern societies: between societies, higher intelligence is now associated with higher wealth, as I have just described; within societies higher intelligence is still associated with higher wealth - which is the same as for pre-modern societies; but, both between and within societies, higher intelligence is now associated with lower reproductive success, via lower fertility.)


I am co-author on a new paper published on decline of intelligence, measured by slowing of simple visual reaction times

Possible dysgenic trends in simple visual reaction time performance in the Scottish Twenty-07 cohort: a reanalysis of Deary and Der (2005).

Michael A Woodley, Guy Madison, Bruce G Charlton.

The Mankind Quarterly 2014; 55: 110-124



This is based on the same data as:



Friday 31 October 2014

Chance, form and natural selection in the origins of life

Biology is the science of living things, therefore the definition of life is a matter outside biology.

Indeed, the definition of life is, properly speaking, outside of science; despite that the mainstream current definition is derived from chemistry - based on the replication of molecules with the possibility for variation and selection. But that this really constitutes 'life', does not come from science but is a non-scientific assertion or assumption.

The other mainstream definition of life refers 'metabolism' - but the 'real' nature of life is just a matter of choosing a definition - there is no right answer; and furthermore replication and metabolism may have evolved separately and using different molecular types.

(For example, Freeman Dyson has argued that metabolic life may have evolved firstly among proteins, and this metabolism was parasitised by replicating RNA molecules - and later protein and nucleic acids co-evolved to join in that symbiosis we observe as 'the cell'.)


Natural selection must have something to work on - and that something must be sufficiently stable to allow for some reasonably large number of generations to do the work of natural selection.

(In a deeper, metaphysical sense; natural selection presupposes an understanding and identification of 'form'; because form dictates what it is that evolves, and when that form stays the same or when it changes to another and different form. Unless form, its constancy and change are already known, in a definition originating outwith biology, then the workings of natural selection could never be observed.)    

Therefore, life must have been initiated by chance; then this spontaneous life must have 'fallen-into' some natural form, pre-existent order, stereotypical pattern, auto-catalytic system,  or 'strange attractor' which kept it going for a while - because only then could natural selection do its work.


Even with natural forms - when it comes to life: what chance has given, chance also can take away. And any form of life will have a tendency towards extinction from what has been termed 'error catastrophe' (unless it has evolved methods for preventing this).

Error catastrophe is what happens in a metabolising or replicating system due to the spontaneous occurrence of errors to processes and copying. Such errors will naturally accumulate over time, unless there is some means to prevent them accumulating.

(Mutation accumulation is a special type of error catastrophe:
http://iqpersonalitygenius.blogspot.co.uk/search?q=mutation+accumulation )

And the vast majority of errors will damage functionality (because only a tiny proportion of undirected changes will improve functionality), and each new accumulating error will tend further to damage functioning - tending towards a catastrophic loss of function with death of the individual and/or extinction of the lineage.


But however life is defined, the principles apply that life must form and have some degree of stability by some combination of chance and natural forms; and then the first job of natural selection is to stabilise life.

Put it another way - life may form spontaneously - but it will not last without the help of natural selection.

Natural selection must primarily be about sustaining life, because only when life is being sustained, is there a possibility of the of life being improved.

Because it is statistically improbable for an error to be an improvement; and therefore it typically requires considerable time (in terms of generations), and or a considerable population (because numbers amplify the number of generations) before the undirected ('random') occurrence of a beneficial error.


So, life happens by chance but life is also is doomed by chance to be short-lasting; therefore the first 'job' of natural selection is to keep life going just as it is - just as it has arisen by chance.

And only after life has evolved such as to have been kept going just as it is by chance, is there any possibility of natural selection to produce adaptation of organisms.

Natural selection and the origins of life: First sustaining, then later (perhaps) improvement.


Saturday 11 October 2014

A common misunderstanding of r/K selection - if you LOSE K adaptations, that does NOT make you r-selected

The idea of r/K selection theory applied to humans is that a population could be r-selected for fast Life History - such as rapid sexual maturation and high fertility, with relatively low levels of parental investment into each offspring;

or else K-selected, for a slower and more long-termist Life History - fewer offspring with more gradual and delayed development, and investing more resources per child (with the aim of generating more cognitively specialized adults).


(In a nutshell, and approximately - r selection is for quantity, K selection is for quality. In some environments only 'high quality' offspring - making which requires longer development and more resources - are able to compete successfully with other members by aiming for narrow niches requiring particular qualities.)


But r and K are not opposites. Nor are they reciprocal: to reduce one does NOT mean to increase the other. 

Because 'selected-for' means 'specialized-for'.

And specialization implies adaptation.


Therefore to be r-selected is to be specialized-for r - this means that an r-selected population has evolved a suite of adaptations which together enable it to become better at rapid and fecund reproduction.

And to be K-selected is to be specialized in producing offspring who have a better chance of themselves reproducing in a context of more long-termist Life History.

And to lose long-termist adaptations of K-selection is NOT thereby to gain short-termist adaptations; and to lose short-termist adaptations is NOT thereby to gain long termist adaptations.

So, in the modern world, the selective regime in the West has resulted in sub-replacement fertility for K-selected populations, and this will indeed destroy-K selected adaptations; but the resulting population will NOT thereby have r-selected adaptations by default - the population will just lose adaptiveness!


(Loss of adaptiveness is - more or less - disease. Mutation accumulation is disease. On average, disease does not benefit adaptation in any way.)


And a selective regime (such as the modern world) which reduces child mortality from approximately 60 percent to about 1 percent, allows mutation accumulation in r-selected populations.

Mutation accumulation will NOT increase r-selected abilities, it will NOT improve short-termist adaptations - but the opposite: these r-selected populations will lose their Fast Life History adaptations, as these specialized attributes enabling a fast Life History will be damaged by accumulating deleterious mutations.


So the modern world is NOT becoming more r-selected - it is become less K-selected AND less r-selected: the modern world is becoming less adapted all round. 

This is concealed (temporarily) by the expansion in numbers of the previously r-selected populations- which is enabled by the massive reduction in child mortality rates and an increase in longevity - and an illusion of r-adaptedness - but in fact these populations are LESS r-adapted now than they were before their populations began to expand.


If r-selection is summarized as specializing for quantity and K-selection as specializing for quality - then both high quantity and high quality are adaptive products of evolution. And, destroying quantity does not improve quality - also destroying quality does not improve quantity.

So modernity does NOT increase r at the expense of K - instead, modernity destroys BOTH r and K adaptations by means of mutation accumulation.

What results is that humans as a whole have lost adaptations, both short-term adaptations and long-term adaptations: the human genome has been damaged.


Note: The above idea comes from Michael A Woodley - to whom credit should be attributed; but any errors or inaccuracies in expression are my responsibility.