Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Anti-Evolutionary Liberalism

Here is a study that's sure to sure to ruffle some feathers:

More intelligent people are statistically significantly more likely to exhibit social values and religious and political preferences that are novel to the human species in evolutionary history. Specifically, liberalism and atheism, and for men (but not women), preference for sexual exclusivity correlate with higher intelligence, a new study finds. ...

The theory suggests that more intelligent people are more likely than less intelligent people to adopt evolutionarily novel preferences and values, but intelligence does not correlate with preferences and values that are old enough to have been shaped by evolution over millions of years."

"Evolutionarily novel" preferences and values are those that humans are not biologically designed to have and our ancestors probably did not possess. In contrast, those that our ancestors had for millions of years are "evolutionarily familiar." ...

[Satoshi Kanazawa, an evolutionary psychologist at the London School of Economics and Political Science] argues that humans are evolutionarily designed to be conservative, caring mostly about their family and friends, and being liberal, caring about an indefinite number of genetically unrelated strangers they never meet or interact with, is evolutionarily novel. So more intelligent children may be more likely to grow up to be liberals.

Data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) support Kanazawa's hypothesis. Young adults who subjectively identify themselves as "very liberal" have an average IQ of 106 during adolescence while those who identify themselves as "very conservative" have an average IQ of 95 during adolescence.

Similarly, religion is a byproduct of humans' tendency to perceive agency and intention as causes of events, to see "the hands of God" at work behind otherwise natural phenomena. "Humans are evolutionarily designed to be paranoid, and they believe in God because they are paranoid," says Kanazawa. This innate bias toward paranoia served humans well when self-preservation and protection of their families and clans depended on extreme vigilance to all potential dangers. "So, more intelligent children are more likely to grow up to go against their natural evolutionary tendency to believe in God, and they become atheists."

Young adults who identify themselves as "not at all religious" have an average IQ of 103 during adolescence, while those who identify themselves as "very religious" have an average IQ of 97 during adolescence.

Excuse me while I get a couple of tons of salt grains.

I could be horribly misinformed, but I think that atheism and the ideas that led to modern liberalism as we know it have existed for thousands of years, and there is ancient literature to back that up.
Of course, the author will say that anything in human history is "evolutionarily novel." In the past, however, evolutionary psychologists have argued that aspects of human culture were evolutionarily derived. Those sorts of ad hoc categories is one of the reasons many people find evolutionary psychology so questionable.
In cases like this always ask myself two questions:

What if this data were actually true?

What if the inverse of this data were actually true.

This little game helps me review my predjudices. Quite often I decide that there is little to choose between the two outcomes, so I don't worry any more.
I go for salt blocks, meself. They stack better.
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