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Sounds Like A Pretty Big Design Flaw

February 28, 2010

This could quickly spiral out of control, so I’m going to give my spiel on it before the storm hits:

Political, religious and sexual behaviors may be reflections of intelligence, a new study finds.

Evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa at the the London School of Economics and Political Science correlated data on these behaviors with IQ from a large national U.S. sample and found that, on average, people who identified as liberal and atheist had higher IQs. This applied also to sexual exclusivity in men, but not in women.

This may not be much of a prediction because it’s so obvious, but I bet what will happen here is A) conservatives will get really riled up about it and proceed to give a whole slew of “I’m just wondering, if liberals are so superior and smart, why could they not pass a bill on health insurance when they had 60 votes in the Senate?” jokes, and B) liberals will lightly gloat with quiet satisfaction because the notion that they’re smarter has been reinforced even though they’re in a jam politically.  I’m not going to delve into an argument on evolutionary psychology because, well, I just don’t care, but there is an interesting paragraph towards the end of the article (I bet most people who read it don’t get past the fifth sentence):

The study takes the American view of liberal vs. conservative. It defines “liberal” in terms of concern for genetically nonrelated people and support for private resources that help those people. It does not look at other factors that play into American political beliefs, such as abortion, gun control and gay rights.

Um, what?  There are clearly some issues that will need to be resolved once the study actually comes out, such as self-identification issues and the fact that the participants were all in their twenties, but that’s a pretty big kicker.  Liberals are people who care about people they don’t know and want private funds to help them?  Leaving aside the weird assumption that conservatives don’t care about strangers (um, okay, Roger Cohen), that’s not right a’tall.  Any sentient being who’s been alive for at least ten years knows that liberals want public funds to help people—especially people they don’t know.  Maybe that’s a typo or something, and I’m not ready to toss the study out with the rubbish, but I find the whole thing pretty hard to take seriously if that’s the definition with which we’re starting out.

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