Growing up, the culture taught me that the arts was for stupid people. Expressions like “it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out” or “it doesn’t take an Einstein to figure that out”, clearly sent the message that math/science = smarts. No one ever said “it doesn’t take a great painter to figure that out” or “it doesn’t take a Shakespeare to figure that out”. The schools taught me that if we failed art and music class, the teachers would just laugh it off, but if we failed math, God help us. I remember a friend once complaining that she was “smart at all the things, that don’t count, like music and art”.
Meanwhile everyone in Ontario knew about scholar J.P. Rushton’s views that East Asians were the smarter than whites who he felt were smarter than blacks, and yet everywhere I looked it seemed like blacks were great at art (especially popular music) yet East Asians were invisible in the arts but dominated math and science.
I remember my best friend and I were laughing hysterically at a rerun of my favorite show The Cosby Show and his racist grandmother entered the room, looked at the TV in disgust and muttered “all they’re good for comedy.” The implication was clear: Arts is for the primitive people. Us whites and East Asians do math and science. They entertain us on TV and radio, but we built those inventions! Toni Morrison might be a good writer, but who would read her if East Asians hadn’t invented the printing press!
In the 9th grade students began complaining about the disproportionate emphasis colleges were giving to math grades. My big-headed math teacher told the class “if you are good at math, then that means, you are good at logic.” In the 11th grade a chemistry teacher took me aside to tell me that if I wanted a single umbrella to cover the vastness of intelligence, then it’s “the ability to adapt; to take whatever situation you’re in and turn it around to your advantage. That’s really what intelligence is.” So that’s why math and science are considered the smart subjects, I remembered thinking. All of humanity’s most practical and life changing advantages come from technological advances. Arts is fun and games, but scientists are the ones who adapted the environment to humanity’s advantage.
It wasn’t until I started corresponding with a British Promethean (who who claimed to have a head as big as Chris Langan’s, despite claiming to be much less robust though a bit taller) that I considered an alternative view. This Promethean felt the greatest minds were artists and that Hollywood was crawling with brilliant minds especially the great actors whose charisma oozed through the screen. He felt art required lateral thinking, while science generally didn’t, but he felt conventional IQ tests were too highly crystallized and math-centric to measure the artist’s enormous g (general intelligence). He felt chronometric tests (on which he was one of the three best in the world at the time) were needed.
However another Promethean with age adjusted chronometric scores even higher, did not share this eccentric view. The British Promethean felt the disagreement was a cultural difference between Britain and North America. There’s some truth to this. I remember British actress and Cambridge grad Thandie Newton gushing about how incredibly smart Oprah was for her proficiency at technical acting, despite this not being her primary profession. That shows Newton’s British upbringing; it’s rare for Americans to cite acting talent as evidence of intelligence.
I would learn that writers, especially literary writers, consider themselves intellectual elites despite the fact that they are not in a STEM field. Jonathan Franzen was famously kicked out of Oprah’s book club for making snobby comments about some of her other selections and the accessibility of his “high art” writing to a mass audience. I think a lot of the literary elite deeply resented the fact that an overweight dark skinned black woman who entertains soccer moms was deciding who made the bestseller list.
Clearly good writing requires intelligence. Verbal abilities are highly g loaded, but writing also requires certain special abilities in-which blacks excel like rhythm and artistic creativity, which may help explain why literature has more black Nobel prize winners than any other academic field, including Oprah’s favorite author Toni Morrison.
In the book Understanding Human History, scholar Michael Hart (pages 274-275) had some relevant comments about intelligence, India, and art:
…no other non-European civilization has produced nearly the variety of high-quality literature, music, and art that India has…The average IQ in India is considerably lower than in China or Europe. If we assume that a very high level of the talents measured by intelligence tests is essential for major breakthroughs in mathematics, science, and invention, but not as crucial for artistic achievements, it would explain why Indian civilization was able to produce so much of the latter, but so little of the former.
While I agree with Hart’s argument, he overstates his case by failing to acknowledge how much malnutrition stunts the current IQ of India.