Having It All

Recently, I heard someone say that it is unusual for someone to be creative and to understand science and technology.

As someone who has been reading science fiction for a very long time, I found this statement quite surprising.

You can’t write good science fiction without knowing about science and knowing how to write.

I know people who are scientists and engineers and, at the same time, photographers and musicians.

A voice teacher once told me that people who are good at mathematics usually also have musical talent, because mathematical s and musical ability both involve recognizing patterns. In my personal experience, I have found this to be true.

I probably shouldn’t have been surprised, though.

In our society, there is a myth that if you excel in one field, you must be a failure in another field and that any positive qualities you have must be countered by negative ones.

If you write poetry, you can’t possibly understand calculus.

Make a living writing code? Your social skills can’t be very good.

Good looking? A good athlete?  Popular? You must be stupid.

In reality, things don’t work out that way.

A recent study published in Social Cognitive & Affective Neuroscience appears to reveal a link between general intelligence (the kind of intelligence measured on IQ tests) and emotional intelligence.

So much for the stereotype of the scientific genius who doesn’t know how to get along with other people.

Beautiful but dumb? Actually, there appears to be a positive correlation between physical attractiveness and intelligence. One possible explanation of this phenomenon is evolutionary – a long time ago, the smart guys got all the hot women and together, they made a bunch of beautiful, brilliant babies.

Why then does the myth that you can’t have it all persist?

Perhaps the perpetuation of this myth is a way of maintaining a society’s status quo – by discouraging people from developing their abilities to the extent that they become capable of challenging the social order.

If someone who is good looking and popular constantly receives the message that they can’t also be intelligent, they probably won’t go out of their way to learn how they can change things around them or why things should change. Thus, they won’t be able to use their looks and popularity as tools to help effect those changes.

Someone who thinks of innovations in technology that could revolutionize the way essential tasks are performed may never share their ideas with the rest of the world if they have been convinced, from a young age, that they will never develop the skills required for eloquent communication.

Convincing a brilliant person that smart people can’t be popular can be a way of preventing such a person from seeking political power.

People who are especially talented or good looking are likely to be victims of bullying. This could indicate that societies don’t like people who are too smart, too skilled or too good looking – they threaten the stability of the social structure. Bullying is a way of keeping such people in their place.

Powerful people have often been threatened by intelligence. Good looks, talent, charisma and intelligence combined can be even more threatening.

Bullying, though, may be a last resort. Perhaps it is easier to convince someone that they can never be popular, intelligent or creative, so that they never try to develop their social skills, learn new things or discover effective ways of expressing themselves, than to terrify them after they have already become aware of their potential.

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