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The Intuition Myth


 There is a term that I have heard for many years and just kind of assumed I was missing something when I heard it. The word is intuition. I don't know how it has been used in the past, but I know that I mostly hear it used when comparing males and females. Females are told that they have intuitive skills, or that they think intuitively, whereas men think in some other way, e.g. rationally. Unless I've missed something, it always seemed to imply two things, both of which I would like to challenge in this article: (1) that intuition is some kind of a skill; and (2) that women have some kind of a special claim on this skill.

Let's start with the second one first. If I was to say that men are stronger than women, there would be those who would be quick to point out that there are plenty of women who are stronger than plenty of men. And if I was to suggest, for example, that men are more intelligent than women (and I don't believe they are), then that would raise even more hackles. Intelligence, we would be told, can be measured in many different ways, and if women come up short in any area, it is just as likely that the difference is caused by errors in the testing method or by oppression from men. In other words, they would be saying that men do not have some kind of a special claim on either intelligence or physical strength.

But do we as a society take the same attitude toward intuition? Do we say that men are just as capable of intuition as women, and that men have been deprived of the opportunities to develop their intuition? I don't think so. It is waved as a banner by many feminists as something that only women have, and that it represents some kind of a fundamental weakness in men.

Now, believe it or not, this article is not intended as an argument against women... or even against feminists. It is an article in favour of rational thought. You see, I have recently come to the conclusion that intuition is not a skill at all. It is, instead, a description for a LACK of a skill, which is reasoned thought.

One might as well be arguing is that what we need today are LESS intelligent people rather than MORE intelligent people.

And here is where we switch to the first of the two implications I have always associated with talk of intuition, which is that intuition is some kind of a skill.

Here is the dictionary definition: "immediate insight or understanding without conscious reasoning".

What I am assuming is that anyone who has immediate insight or understanding and consciously knows WHY they have that insight or understanding, either lacks intuition, or else has intuition PLUS rational thought (i.e. reasoning). I'll give an example: I'm lost in the city, but I have a feeling that I should turn left to get to my destination, and my wife also has that feeling, but she says that the reason she feels we should turn left is because she remembers having passed a certain landmark which is visible on the left when we were trying to find the same place on some previous occasion. One could say that I have intuition, but my wife has something more than intuition. She has a REASON for wanting to turn left.

Now ask yourself honestly, how many times have you been in a similar situation, and thought that you should turn left (without any conscious reason for thinking that), when you later discovered that you should have turned right? I am confident that if we carried out experiments, we would find that people who have reasons for making such decisions have a better record of being correct than people who operate only on intuition.

So is intuition a skill? I don't think so. I think it simply identifies a failure to understand why someone feels a certain thing is right; and without a reason, the intuitive person is more likely to make wrong decisions. I also feel that those times when intuition works are often because there IS a reason why the person has that gut feeling, even though they are not aware of it. If they WERE aware of it, of course, they would be better able to decide whether to go with their gut feeling.

Now notice that I used an illustration where my wife recognised the landmark, whereas I just had a feeling. You see, I'm not really talking about a battle between the sexes. I am really talking about a battle between superstition and reason. Whoever it is (male or female) that promotes intuition as being a skill is really working counter to reason. When you don't have anything else to go on, then you have little choice but to "trust your intuition" or to "go with your gut feeling". But rest assured that you will be less likely to make a bad choice if you have something more than intuition to go on. And the more awareness that you can develop, the less you will need to rely on intuition.

All of this goes along with our conviction that what is often referred to as "male" and "female" in the Bible just has to do with qualities that have been traditionally linked to males and females. Feminists who want to claim some special skill for women, on the grounds that women have more intuition, are, I believe, actually putting women down, or trying to mislead them into thinking that intuition is a skill in itself. What both sexes should be doing is trying to understand their intuitive knowledge, so that they can make better use of both sides of their brain. And to do that, we need to accept the fact that insight or understanding WITH conscious reasoning is better than insight or understanding WITHOUT conscious reasoning.

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