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Luis Javier Salvador

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Survival of the smartest: Brains over brawn, why? (moral question)

Hello, fellow TED users,

First of all, I would like you to look upon this exposition more as a philosophical moral exercise than anything else. As you can expect, this is not in any shape or form a claim in favor of physical abuse or any other kind of abuse, for that matter.

We live in a society where people who take advantage of other people by means of their superior natural strength are rightly considered bullies (except in sports, of course). On the other hand, people who do the same by means of their innate intelligence are considered winners in virtually every possible circumstance. For instance, in the ruthless business world (among many others). Is it right to use this innate advantage to make mincemeat of less intelligent competitors, crush their hopes and destroy their lives? Why is this behavior not even frowned upon?

Some could say that in order to success in life or in business in particular, it's also required to work very hard, that a high IQ is simply not enough. Yet, a similar effort is made by the muscular guy in the gym. Consequently, level of effort doesn't seem to be the key to understand the difference in perceived morality.

Some others could say that strong people can success in sports and smart people in business and therefore, they should stick to what they excel in. Very well, but then we find that in every single sport or physical job, it's morally acceptable to use our intelligence to our advantage (even in weight-lifting, where a wise workout planning is vital), while in white-collar professions, it's unacceptable to use our physical strength to defeat our competition. So, appropriate field of work is not likely to be the key either.

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    Jan 25 2013: your reasoning is based on a fallacy. you mixed two different concepts, one would be the physical / mental and the other is aggression / competition. in our society, bullying is indeed considered morally wrong. but nobody laments because security guards are often tall and muscular, or that tall people often has better chances to be leaders. of course, you hear people talking about it, but everyone understands that the difference is huge. we might not like the effect of being tall on the results of the elections, but it is not the same as beating the other candidate up.

    similarly, using brains to cheat or steal, to destroy or hinder another person is immoral. nobody thinks that stealing a password, or faking a contract is acceptable. but we accept that smarter people get the jobs that need brain. and we also, to some degree, accept that a smart man might get a job not because he is more able, but because smooth talk has its use. everyone understands that using charming intelligence to achieve things is not the same as hacking someone's computer.

    in short: as long as there is mutual consent, and there is no fraudulence, there are no moral implications. moral implications start to appear when there is aggression or violation of contract.
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      Jan 25 2013: I agree with much of what you say, but the point is the terms of the contract are mostly based on morality. Otherwise, we wouldn't think of beating competitors up as a bad thing. Today, there are many more instances where it seems acceptable to take advantage of intelligence (almost every single activity) than there are by means of strength. Which is a clear advantage for innate intelligent people over innate strong people. Survival of the smartest. And from an abstract moral standpoint, some could say it's not fair that the chances at birth of surviving and succeeding are not the same for everyone.

      But as I said throughout the course of this discussion, I don't think we can change that and probably shouldn't, of course.

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