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A visual representation of intelligence.
Magis CenterFebruary 5, 20242 min read

What Is Intelligence?

With the rise of artificial intelligence, defining intelligence is more important than ever. The John Templeton Foundation blog and weekly newsletter recently featured a piece, “Intelligence Without a Brain,” by Maggie Ciskanik, one of Magis Center’s regular blog contributors. Maggie’s Templeton article invites readers to ponder the possible implications of new research on intelligence.  

Does Intelligence Require a Brain?

In her post, Maggie looks at Dr. Michael Levin's research, which questions the conventional classifications of human, animal, and artificial intelligence. Levin, a pioneer in developmental biology at Tufts University, challenges the essence of intelligence in his groundbreaking research.

Levin disputes the notion that intelligence requires a brain. His simplified definition of cognition emphasizes goal-directedness in biological systems. Levin's experiments showcase intelligent activities at the cellular and molecular levels, challenging preconceived notions about the sources of cognitive capacities.

His TAME theory introduces "cognitive light cones," illustrating the spectrum of intelligence across various spaces. Levin's work suggests that recognizing and harnessing the inherent goal-directedness of biological systems may advance regenerative medicine and developmental biology.

Intelligence from a Scientific and Philosophical Perspective 

In addition to her featured John Templeton post, Maggie has written a three-part series on intelligence for the Magis Center Blog.  Similar to “Intelligence Without a Brain,” the first post, “It Might Not Mean What You Think It Means,” takes a deeper look into Dr. Levin’s research on intelligence. The post questions the exclusive classification of intelligence to humans and animals, showcasing Levin's TAME theory and its application in understanding purposeful activity in biological systems. 

The second post, “Can Aristotle Give Insights Into Intelligence?” explores the connection between philosophy and neuroscience.  Maggie questions whether Dr. Michael Levin's definition of cognition as "goal-directedness" is sufficient to define intelligence, especially human intelligence. The post also looks at the role of artificial intelligence (AI), emphasizing the importance of defining intelligence accurately in debates about AI's potential existential threat.  

Are We More than Our Intelligence?

The third post poses a more profound question: Does intelligence define us as humans, or is there more to us than our minds?  The discussion emphasizes the importance of recognizing humans as rational animals, with intellect being just one facet of our distinctiveness. Language, creativity, and the ability to contemplate our existence are highlighted as integral aspects differentiating us from animals and artificial intelligence. 

Maggie’s posts offer fresh perspectives on intelligence from both scientific and philosophical viewpoints, challenging conventional ideas and exploring the implications of the latest research. Be sure to check out these posts and reflect on what it truly means to be human in the age of artificial intelligence.


Magis Center

The mission of the Magis Center is to create content that helps people find higher purpose in life, an awareness of their transcendent dignity, a sense of the transcendent providential power who guides them, and a determination to live ethically responsible lives. To that end, the Magis Center produces and distributes media that provides contemporary commentary on timeless topics.