In recent days our Secretary of State has called the President a “fucking moron.” The President retorted that he believes he has the higher IQ score. But both are hiding behind faulty intelligence measures instead of saying how they really feel.
First, a not-so-fun fact about morons: this term, along with idiot and imbecile, was once a technical term for people with cognitive disabilities. In the early 1900s, anybody with an IQ under 30, for example, was labeled an idiot. If you had Down’s syndrome, you were (I am not making this up) a “Mongolian idiot.” Psychologist Henry Goddard coined the term moron to be more specific about people in what you might think of as Forrest Gump’s IQ range.
These words are all obsolete as medical terms today, and they should probably be retired as insults too.
But what if we just stick with IQ scores? Is it fair to prove your intelligence by dueling with pencils and paper?
Yes, if you only care about intelligence in its definition as “what intelligence tests measure.” But even though these tests are supposed to capture some kind of innate smartness, they don’t reveal an absolute truth about your inner self. “Your” IQ can change over time and with education. IQ tests can also carry racial and class biases that mean some test-takers score lower than others because the test was written with a certain type of person in mind. Intelligence test makers are constantly trying to make their tests better and more fair, but there’s a major problem: no matter how the test works, it’s trying to boil down all of “intelligence” to a single number.
A high IQ doesn’t mean you’ll make better decisions, or learn things faster, or be more successful in school or in life. So in that sense it doesn’t matter what your IQ “really” is.
Well, sometimes it…