Monday, June 29, 2015

Intelligence, Leadership, Knowledge and Belief

I watched a talk on TV by H.W. Brands on his book, Reagan: The Life. One point that he made was that intelligence as measured by the IQ test is not necessarily the best predictor of success in the office of president. Brands suggested that a president had to be reasonably smart, but that it was important that he surround himself with smart people who have more detailed knowledge than he has himself, and that he know when to defer to the right person to draw on that detailed knowledge. When I worked in the White House, there were about 1,000 people there, and of course the president could draw not only on the Office of the President, but on the millions of people who worked in the departments of the Executive Branch and indeed on the entire population of the USA (a former professor of mine told me he agreed to work for President Nixon because when the president asks you to do something on the telephone, it is almost impossible to say no!).

Let me suggest that there is a "Leadership Quotient" (LQ) that ought to be considered for presidential candidates (and indeed for anyone seeking to run a large organization). It measures not the ability to do well in school, but the ability to successfully lead an organization. Brands seems to suggest that someone with a high LQ probably has a pretty good IQ, but also has strong ability to set targets, choose subordinates, and delegate. In a democracy, the LQ should also probably include the ability to communicate with the public and to be liked and trusted by the public.

Knowledge vs. Belief

Brands discussed the Iran-Contra affair. He read Reagan's hand written notes in Reagan's diary (notes made day by day while he was in office) and saw Reagan write that weapons were to be delivered (sold) to Iran and that then prisoners would be released from Lebanon. Brands had no doubt that Reagan understood the quid pro quo nature of the exchange -- arms for hostages. Yet Brands also thought that Reagan could be sincere saying that he did not authorize the payment of blackmail to get the hostages released; Reagan simply did not believe that the U.S. government paid blackmail to kidnappers. Therefore, in Reagan's belief system, there must be some other explanation for the arrangement with Iran for the release of hostages held in Lebanon. (Brands also suggested that Reagan's lack of attention to details led him to fail to find out what was happening to the money Iran paid for the weapons, that he simply did not know it was being used to fund the Contras in Nicaragua.)

I think something similar happens in some people's minds with regard to knowledge of evolution and belief in Genesis. I suspect that there are people who could do very well on a college exam that required the answer to four questions:

  • What is Darwin's Theory of evolution?
  • What is the nature of the evidence in support of that theory?
  • Explain the Modern Synthesis of Darwin's Theory and Genetics.
  • What is the nature of the evidence supporting the genetic basis of evolution.

And yet among those people able to answer the questions, there are some who would say that they don't believe in evolution. Rather they would say that they believe that man was created in God's image, and that they believe in the account of creation in the Book of Genesis. Such a person might know about evolution but believe in the bible.

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