Sidebar to The Physics of Betrayal:
Is Genius in Theoretical Physics Related to Moral Intelligence?
By Alec Rawls © 1998 Published in The Stanford Review, 5/12/98

My friend Nick, who was driven out of physics by the professors who stole credit for his work (see accompanying story), believes that a lot of the top guys are smarter than him with their sheer capacity to push through complicated analyses, but he says most of them are missing something. They lack an essential quality of judgement, of "taste": to be able to consider everything and somehow sense which direction to go. I think of Einstein's explanation for his ability: that he just happened to be blessed with a "good nose."

I have a theory about this "nose" thing. I believe that what Nick has in an extraordinary degree is moral intelligence. The foundation of moral intelligence is to account all value, to love everything there is to love, to conserve every bit of evidence and understanding about where value lies. Moral intelligence leaves all the senses wide open to where truth and sense might lie.

At the opposite extreme, these physicists like Mugliver and Spinner who make a career out of stealing other people's work are always looking for how they can discount some claims and promote others, depending on where they can sniff out a proprietary interest. That is, they are moral imbeciles, and since this moral imbecility penetrates to the core of their beings, it keeps them from being able to see past their noses. How can they sense the universe if their method of favoring a direction is based on proprietary advantage? They can't. They can only try to glom onto other people's insights and establish proprietary interest before anyone else can. Nick says that if you examine Spinner's ouvre, you will discover that he has never had an original idea. Mugliver is a better physicist in Nick's opinion, capable of making some contributions, but still operating in basically the same way as Spinner.


Date Last Modified: 8/27/99
Copyright Alec Rawls © 1998