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Wisdom is Separate to Intelligence.

The study of comparative religion plus plain commonsense observations have led to this essay.

Wisdom is Separate to Intelligence

natural wisdom

natural wisdom

Bernie Madhoff: a highly intelligent person without any wisdom whatsoever.

Bernie Madhoff: a highly intelligent person without any wisdom whatsoever.


It is often taken for granted that an intelligent person and a wise person are similar.

My premise here is

(1) that Wisdom is infinitely far beyond mere accumulated knowledge and that

(2) it is always closely linked to ethics rather than to mere intelligence, and that

(3) this can be demonstrated by arguments in favor of less technologically developed communities and even by

(4) other expressions of life.(In other words Wisdom can exist both within and without of human beings. If wisdom can exist outside of solely human beings then we have an argument in favor of sentience being able to exist outside of just "us".)


The one line dictionary definition of wisdom relates only to the "accumulated learning" of a society. However, a deeper definition would take into account the most important parts of this accumulated learning that definitively makes wisdom wise: ethical values.

By observing nature and the universe we can discern certain immutable laws that resemble ethics, such as mutual interdependence and respect. Early man observed and learned from Nature and the Universe about such basic ethics. This will be discussed more fully in the latter part of this essay.

The presence of basic "human" values such as compassion, sharing, mutual responsibility, tolerance and respect for others are often symbolized by one word: "love".

When analyzed objectively, the presence or absence of wisdom is dictated by such values. Many of these values are shared by other living organisms. Mutual interdependence can often be said to be a defining characteristic of even nature itself and the very atoms that make up the entire universe. Such values are inbuilt into the universe in the same way as gravity and other elemental forces.

Ancient and modern religions often perceive this "human-like" quality expressed by nature as Godlike. The behavior of natural laws are reminiscent of human sentience. Atheists tend to solely look at the characteristics of nature that don't seem to exhibit such tender values and they point to the unexplained miseries of nature as proof that God does not exist. However it is inescapable that a thing like mutual interdependence and sharing is exhibited, and encouraged, by nature and the universe. The religious amongst us can see the Love and wisdom present in the universe. The spiritually minded don't blame God for the bad things or give human beings the credit for all the good present in the Universe. The so called "empathy" promoted by modern atheists is just the same old "love" principle promoted by religions. Without this humans cease to be human. Empathy also exists as a physical force in nature as sympathetic resonance.

The eminent physicist Stephen Hawking once described the universe as a "free lunch". This is a humorous reference to the fact that all this infinite energy and structure is freely given. To the spiritually minded this implies a benevolent God. Without such a God concept the Universe becomes a "tale told by an idiot" as quoted by the madman Macbeth in Shakespeare's play of the same name.

Mutual sharing and interdependence therefore belongs to the foundations of true wisdom and without such positive values we only have mundane intelligence bereft of wisdom.


A highly intelligent person often exhibits greed and destructive forms of competition in order to make money to the detriment of the environment and society. This is because they have decoupled from basic human values such as compassion and tolerance. Hence their greater factual knowledge, or intelligence, is mistaken for wisdom, but in reality it is only a superficial form of sneaky cleverness or bogus "intelligence".

A person of less so called intelligence (or accumulated factual knowledge) can exhibit far more wisdom as they have retained an innate sense of compassion and tolerance. Hence we often see indigenous tribes, with far less modern technological knowledge, connected to an ancient ethical philosophy that teaches sharing and respect for the environment in which they live.

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Furthermore a person who suffers from Down's Syndrome is capable of exhibiting more wisdom than a room full of successful corporate identities. A person with Down's Syndrome will demonstrate a high degree of compassion and sharing in spite of an official low intelligence rating. Corporate executives may be highly intelligent but will often exhibit an almost sociopathic level of disregard for others.


Intelligence itself is bogged down by a mixture of factual knowledge and negative human failings. Greed, envy, malice, intolerance and selfishness etc. taint human knowledge and therefore easily corrupt intelligence.

Wisdom on the other hand is knowledge linked to ethics. It is almost entirely independent of any large reservoir of accumulated facts and is instead intimately fused with ethics.

Wisdom can not be corrupted as corruption is not part of the actual definition of wisdom.


By analyzing the difference between intelligence and wisdom we can see that wisdom is intimately connected to basic "human" values, or universal ethics, and operates on a kind of sliding scale: the less of these universal values the less wisdom a person has.

When we examine a person who is highly intelligent but who does not possess human values we get a very flawed individual who may appear "wise" but is merely an accumulation of factual learning and is actually bereft of wisdom.


Instructional didactic books were written by ancient philosophers who did not possess the accumulated factual knowledge of the average person today. However they were able to formulate writings that still remain beneficial to the study of ethics and to society's general welfare. This is yet another easily observable proof that wisdom is very different to ordinary intelligence.


Moreover, certain animals also possess an innate wisdom that allows them to regulate their own societies with compassion and regard for other members of their group. We see in animal communities the existence of certain values normally associated with human beings. Wild animals such as lions often interfere with community disputes when there is gross unfairness shown to other members by another member who might for example bully others.

We also see in many animals a propensity to share food and to stifle greed in at least their own societies. This type of phenomena observable in the animal kingdom makes a pertinent comment about the nature of Wisdom as opposed to mundane intelligence or plain accumulated factual learning.

It is therefore arguably basic "human" or sentient values that give the spine and structure to actual wisdom. Such values are symptomatic of not only human consciousness but of animal sentience and perhaps even of actual physical laws which always seem to react with an inbuilt altruism. These values of communal sharing, lack of greed, benefit to others and compassion etc can also be seen in the smallest of insects and even beyond that in Nature Itself.


The earth was seen by many ancient and modern indigenous people as The Mother. They needed to take from Her only what was needed with a formalized system of thanks, and also to give back with a mutual sense of responsibility and care. This behavior will forever (infinitely) remain in the highest category of great wisdom. The earth, trees and animals were once personified and built into the same framework of responsibility and care as humans themselves were. On the other hand ordinary intelligence or simple accumulated factual learning denies this personification and hence often tries to claim that the Earth is merely a ball of rock which can be endlessly plundered. Hence such a modern materialistic attitude based on accumulated knowledge has far less Wisdom in it than an ancient indigenous tribe, a community of wild animals, an ant or a tree, as they all just take what they need and share with at least some others.


As the earth quietly supports all of humanity and life in a silently sharing manner there is even an argument to be made that so called inanimate nature also possesses more wisdom than a room full of wealthy intelligent corporate identities, or even by many modern philosophers who are bereft of the values of sharing and compassion.

Atoms also automatically share energy and perform functions which enable all other creatures and structures to exist, from bacteria to higher organisms, and from molecules to crystals.


In view of these self evident observations it has to be said that the importance of intelligence is highly exaggerated. Intelligent life does not mean wise life. The phrase "intelligent life" may even conjure up feelings and images of a new threat from deep space, for with mere intelligence comes connotations of ulterior political motives and unknown quantities. We are unaware if such life has wisdom as well as intelligence. Intelligence on its own is actually potentially highly dangerous.


The above line of thought can be taken to an ultimate end: for as it can be shown that wisdom exists independently of human beings,in animals and natural phenomena, then it must follow that Wisdom is in the same order as Mathematics. That is to say it exists outside the human brain as a natural law. As it has a "human" or sentient quality then it is only a small step in reasoning to see a principle of sharing and compassion inbuilt into the entire universe.

It is not intelligent creation but Wisdom wisely separated from mere human intelligence.

Interdependence in Nature

without atomic interdependence nothing else could exist

without atomic interdependence nothing else could exist

2015 update

I have added here some new research that claims to prove that wisdom (compassion and sharing) predates human intelligence by over a million years!

Here are some quotes from the Daily Mail regarding the research of Penny Spikins from York University:

“The milk of human kindness came before intelligence: Skulls of early humans show they developed compassion up to 3million years ago - before they could even speak.”

“Evidence has been found that humans living more than 3million years ago may have looked after and even helped each other to survive before they learned to speak, and these emotions may have actually helped intelligence and reasoning evolve.”

“In another example Spikins cites a Dmanisi skull, dating back 1.5million years, which showed evidence of someone surviving for years with no teeth. The group probably helped this early hominin, a Homo erectus found in Georgia, find soft food so it could survive."

"Another Homo erectus skull was found in Kenya, which showed evidence of it being cared for after a long illness. Spikins also points to groups of Homo heidelbergensis, which lived around 450,000 years ago, who cared for disabled youngsters. A deformed skull of a child with learning difficulties from this period was found in Spain.”

“The findings, revealed in a study by Penny Spikins of York University..”

'Our success since then, including the evolution of intelligence, all sprang from that (compassion).' …Penny Sipkins.


Tony on February 04, 2020:




Intelligence is an integral part of wisdom.

Without it you have neither.

Expressing what religious teachers have taught through scriptures over thousand of years is just rote learning and rote

imitation and repetition.

True wisdom is timeless and doesn't come from books.

True wisdom emanates from truth itself.

True wisdom emanates from the love that emanates from the human heart.

That has to be experienced, and requires humility and grace, not fake compassion to soothe the ego.

It doesn't take "a bit of thought" to understand wisdom. It take empathy, and that means feeling.

Feeling love.

And that's got nothing to do with books, scriptures or otherwise.

Food for thought is just that.

What do you feel?

You feel that you can teach what you don't know.

Now feel the wisdom!

Take a breath.

Andrew Petrou (author) from Brisbane on February 19, 2016:

Thanks Savvy. Many of these ideas have been expressed by religious teachers over thousands of years but the various scriptures used words and concepts typical of the time, place and culture of the era. By modernizing and using some new concepts it comes closer to science. If I had the math I would try to create another proof of God as the universe is exhibiting wisdom.

Yves on February 19, 2016:

Beautifully written. " Intelligent life does not mean wise life." I wish that everyone could read this article and understand what you have expressed. With such an understanding, life is fuller and "sustainable." Many on HP, for example, who congratulate themselves on their intelligence would be wise to understand this philosophy. So-called intelligence without wisdom is empty. It is a state that is bereft of that which allows humans to have a "higher" consciousness. (I am not talking here about New Age consciousness, as it is generally a pretense of wisdom and nothing more.)

This hub article is truly wonderful. I can not say enough good things about it. All the examples you provided about nature and indigenous people, etc. were pertinent and right on the money.

Andrew Petrou (author) from Brisbane on January 12, 2016:


it just takes a bit of thought to understand wisdom.

I am particularly interested in the latest research that proves it was compassion that first created real humans. It grew out of the natural wisdom in the universe and can be seen in animals as discussed.

Namaste and Sai Ram

Deborah Demander from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD on January 12, 2016:

Fascinating article. I believe that wisdom is something we develop over time, and as you say, using love, compassion and kindness.

Anyone can gather intelligence, it's as easy as reading a book. True wisdom is developed with character.


Andrew Petrou (author) from Brisbane on July 27, 2015:

God is Love. The answer is too easy for many people to believe. It manifests as compassion and ethics which permeate the universe as this Hub logically proves.

jgshorebird on July 27, 2015:

Given the above...that God is logically proved...what is God?

Andrew Petrou (author) from Brisbane on April 13, 2015:

Is this comment re this or another hub?

Brain size in hominids is an important consideration as well as humanoid structures.

Jon Peloquin on April 13, 2015:

With these skulls that show human intelligence what is it about them that shows the development of intelligence? It couldn't just be size, there are animals that have larger brains that humans.

Andrew Petrou (author) from Brisbane on January 26, 2015:



Our wisdom tells us things that so called "intelligence" can't.

stella vadakin from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619 on January 25, 2015:

I like the way you presented this hub. Wisdom is totally different than intelligence. Intelligence is no guarantee you will ever have wisdom. I have all the prove I need that God exist.

Debra Allen from West By God on January 13, 2015:

I see what you mean about nauture teaching us. Well don't wrok too hard.

Andrew Petrou (author) from Brisbane on January 12, 2015:

Thanks LadyG

we humans only have nature to teach us therefore we have learned all we know from It.

Even something small like watching wasps make their mud nests inspired pottery for example.

I have been very busy at work.

Debra Allen from West By God on January 12, 2015:

Well that was an interesting way of putting things. I may not have understood all that you are saying here but the thought came to mind that just because another being acts likes us and may think like us does not mean that they are like us. Things mimic in nature too as well as in humans.

Thanks for writing this essay too and I am glad that you are back. I missed your responses in the Q&A's.

amazmerizing from PACIFIC NORTHWEST, USA on January 12, 2015:

Absolutely! People often misuse the ideas you have so deftly explored here! Love this hub!!!

Andrew Petrou (author) from Brisbane on December 24, 2014:



It only takes a small step to realise wise ethics exist external to man and hence this means a spiritual principle (or God) permeates the entire universe.

Deborah Morrison from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada on December 23, 2014:

I enjoyed reading this beautiful hub. Especially outstanding is the message that awareness of our inter-connectedness, compassion, and wisdom are much greater qualities than mere analytical schemes motivated by the greed for money etc. The analytical aspect of intelligence has it's rightful place when in service of higher ideals such as Truth, compassion, peace.

“It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” —J.K. Rowling

Andrew Petrou (author) from Brisbane on December 20, 2014:



Carl Jung studied the commonality of religious stories. It is interesting to note Jung was a very spiritual man but the stated heir to the atheist Freud! Similarly Kurt Godel proved God by science and math and was the favourite of Einstein!

Mel Carriere from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on December 20, 2014:

This is a beautifully expressed philosophical treatise and I concur wholeheartedly. I think that science will discover religion very soon, because it has already been pointed out mathematically that that there are many more dimensions than we can perceive, and I believe that these dimensions are the realm of those we call the "gods," if you will. It also intrigues me how mythological traditions mirror one another across so many different cultures. This could be genetic memory, or it could be that certain members of our societies, the ones we call "shamans" or "prophets," can see beyond everyday perception and into the dimensions beyond. Great hub, I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Andrew Petrou (author) from Brisbane on December 18, 2014:


how about this:

as the entire universe is in a state of entropy (gradual decay) science can only study what is true now and not what might be true in the future or may have been true in the past. As the entropy continues there are changes to what was true yesterday. This could be the reason behind the "incompleteness" of math paradigms.

It seems science will never be able to explain "everything" and scientists admit this! It doesn't matter how logical or objective the scientific analysis, it will always fail to answer the big questions as it is only capable of seeing a universe in a state of change.

Spirituality on the other hand is the study of what is permanent and unchanging. This can't be quantified by science as scientists admit the limitations of their subject.

Apparently part of what is unchanging is a "thing" resembling great wisdom as I have tried to describe in my Hub.

Hence, logically, the only way left to understand the Universe and "everything" is spirituality and philosophy.

KU37 on December 18, 2014:

Oztinato, your article and replies really got me thinking - thank you. I've been looking at Wikipedia's philosophy of mathematics, and I see that Godel supported mathematical realism (which is the second school of thought you mentioned.) This is opposed to Hartry Field's fictionalism, which is what I was referring to. According to Wikipedia, fictionalism has been largely rejected. But I still like it. I came across a quote from Einstein that I like: "as far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality."

KU37 on December 17, 2014:

Yes, you're right. I apologize. I was thinking of Godel's incompleteness theorem. I did not recall his ontological proof. I looked it up, and it rings a bell. I think I must have studied Anselm once upon a time. Anselm's ontological argument reminds me a bit of Cantor's diagonal argument. I think Cantor's uncountable infinity could correlate to Anselm's "understanding" somehow. The human mind is capable of thinking more thoughts than there are atoms in an infinite universe. Do you have a reference for the second school of thought about maths that you mention? Thanks.

Andrew Petrou (author) from Brisbane on December 17, 2014:


with respect you are getting Gödel's theories mixed up.

There is an actual God theorem as distinct from his other well known theorems. Its called his "ontological proof". He also has the Incompleteness theorem ( the one you mentioned?) and several others.

There are two schools of thought about maths: one is that it is just made up in man's mind; the other is that it actually does exist and we are only discovering it. The second hypothesis has gained enormous ground as predictions can be accurately made and inventions totally based on numerical systems etc.

Einstein spent his last years mostly in the company of Gödel and stated himself that he was only interested in talking to Gödel in his last years. Hence my observation that he was Einstein's anointed successor. Many people tried to see Einstein in his last years: only Gödel was regularly given that privilege.

KU37 on December 17, 2014:

Your answer brings up some more very interesting ideas! I am familiar with Godel's work, and I think it would take a very very long article to try to explain it. I think it's debatable that Godel is the successor of Einstein. Also, referring to Godel's theorem as a "God theorem" is misleading, to put it mildly. Godel's theorem demonstrates the limits of computability within some symbolic systems. It's very profound, but I think you might want to try to understand it a bit more before you say that it proves something about spirituality. Some people think analytically (by breaking down), and other people think synthetically (by building up). I think analytically, so I'm not very good at discussing things like philosophy/spirit/religion/wisdom. That being said, I do think mathematics is supernatural, but not in the everyday sense of the word. Concepts like "5", "$100" and pi, I would argue, are "all in your head", and do not have any objective reality. Both mathematics and wisdom are abstract things, but that does not mean they have very much else in common.

Andrew Petrou (author) from Brisbane on December 17, 2014:

Thanks for those comments.

Kurt Godel was the anointed successor of Einstein. Godel has a provable God theorem that can't be faulted by supercomputers or scientists.

I am arguing that if analyzed scientifically the sole distinction between wisdom and plain intelligence can be seen as another proof of God which can't be refuted by reason.

Such pure logic, as Godel's, can be written in mathematical language by those with the skill to do so (I don't have that math skill!).

I certainly believe in evolution although there now does seem to be the some truth in the older debunked forms of Lamarkian evolution as well. ( I am also interested in Freud's ideas about man's early evolution in regards to explaining early "sacrifices" of people).

I have focused on (as opposed to "cherry picked") compassionate things as this was the premise of my Hub! To go further would require another Hub; but there are already many Hubs about why suffering occurs and I have tried to add my opinion to those hubs.

KU37 on December 17, 2014:

Lots of very thoughtful original ideas in your article. I think the title is a bit misleading and unnecessarily provocative, as the article is mainly about the distinction between intelligence and wisdom. It strikes me that you have cherry-picked the most compassionate and wise examples of natural phenomena to suit your thesis, ignoring (to use a loaded term) their Darwinian aspects. At the end you made a jump from Math to Wisdom that's a bit dubious. Math has a very precise well-defined language with well-defined concepts and irrefutable ideas. Wisdom has a different kind of language. This Hub is very properly under the category "Religion and Philosophy".

VonShriek on November 23, 2014:

That's quite fascinating, I've never thought of it that way.

Andrew Petrou (author) from Brisbane on November 22, 2014:


in essence homo sapiens learned ethics from nature like they learned most things. For example pottery from observing wasps etc.

The order and generosity of nature was observed and built into early philosophy and still is in existing indigenous beliefs: hence respecting mother earth as a literal mother.

VonShriek on November 22, 2014:

Your article was very interesting and you made some well thought out points. I don't agree with all of them or that this proves the existence of god, but I respect that you gave your opinion without attacking others.

Andrew Petrou (author) from Brisbane on August 27, 2014:

Thanks Sue.

I really appreciate your comments.

If it can be proved by logic/maths that wisdom exists independently from intelligence, then it is another proof of God's existence. I am not a mathematician but I would like to see one on board.

Juliette Kando FI Chor from Andalusia, southern Spain on August 27, 2014:

Wow! You hit it right on the nail Oztinato.

"A highly intelligent person often exhibits greed and destructive forms of competition in order to make money to the detriment of the environment and society."

I call them the "clever crooks".

Here is a wonderful video that would illustrate your paragraph on ANIMAL WISDOM.

I love your style. Shared.

Sue / Juliette

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