March 14, 2010
'Are Liberals, Atheists More Evolved than Conservatives?'By James Lewis
National Geographic asks this profound question in a first screen headline on its website. By "evolved," they say they mean "biologically evolved," although, curiously, the original researcher used the wrong kind of IQ measure for the biological component of intelligence.
Actually, liberals and conservatives are members of the same species, which makes the word "evolved" rather curious. One might think that homo sapiens might even be capable of turning into either a liberal or conservative, depending upon one's life experience.
But what about IQ differences between liberals and conservatives? It's an odd question, in a way, since almost all educated people before the 20th century in Western countries were conservatives. Today's conservatives revere such intelligent people as Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Edmund Burke, Thomas Jefferson, Confucius, Abraham Lincoln, Adam Smith, Nobelist Milton Friedman, William Buckley, and thousands of others. Patrick O'Brian's novels of the Royal Navy in the Napoleonic wars are filled with supremely intelligent people, with nary a Leftist among them. Nor any atheists, for that matter. So National Geographic's vast, unfathomable ignorance is showing, as it does so often these days.
IQ is basically a test of the ability to be schooled. That's how it started out in France with Alfred Binet -- as a way of assessing French schoolchildren who were selected by their teachers as being "très intelligents." That's also how it's ended up after a hundred years of research: as a good correlate of educational capacity. IQ doesn't predict street smarts or (obviously) political success on Capitol Hill. It's a useful measure sometimes, but pop journalists should stay away from it. Or they should at least listen to people who actually know something about it. IQ can't even discriminate among the smartest folks because it loses accuracy at the top of the curve. And there are kinds of intelligence that it doesn't ever measure.
The National Geographic headline is therefore characteristically absurd, but it's also typical of the cultural Left today -- and of its hopeless cravings to validate itself as being smarter, better-educated, and of course, more compassionate than those conservative throwbacks to a brute past. Somehow the Left always needs to boast, and like any other compulsive boaster, it is compensating for its own feelings of inferiority. I suspect that that's the real inner nature of the Left: Most of its followers worry about their personal adequacy in life.
And somehow liberals never get to the most obvious question, which is: Why has the Left ended up killing 100 million people in the 20th century, according to French Marxist historian Courtois and his team? That's the real question the Left must always be made to answer: Why does its blind "idealism" and its unquenchable power-craving lead to such disastrous results, over and over again? Why does the British medical system have patients parked on gurneys in dirty hallways? Why are their waiting times for life-saving operations so much longer than ours? Why does Prime Minister Gordon Brown advocate using your organs after you die without your permission?
Genuinely educated people are appalled by Obama's Medi-Grab program, which is utterly nonsensical medically, scientifically, and fiscally. It's the mind-locked members of the Left who love this thing. It could kill the best medical system in the world.
But let's get back to IQ for liberals and conservatives. The National Geographic claim is typically childish, obviously written by a pop journalist who hasn't ever studied IQ. But so, it seems, was the original "research" she cites. Look at her little article if you like, where other, better researchers are quoted frankly expressing their doubts about the bizarre claim she chose to headline. The original "research" should never have been published, given the errors that are laid out right in the National Geo article. This piece of bizarre pseudoscience therefore goes right along with the politicization of a formerly respectable magazine.
Even their justly famous animal photos now look photoshopped -- they're faked to look a lot more colorful and spectacular than the animals and plants they show. Their current photos all have large swatches of primary colors, which rarely appear in nature. Nature uses bright colors in bird feathers, for example, but usually sparingly, not all over the place. Red-breasted robins are not red all over. (That changes somewhat in tropical birds, but even there, bright colors are rarely uniform across large parts of the body.) To me, it looks like National Geo makes up its own colors, just as it makes up its own facts.
National Geographic has simply joined the P.C. media mob, and its credibility is paying a price. I would not believe a word in it today -- not without running it through the wonderful real-science database PubMed. There you can find truthful science still. Conservatives should always use PubMed (free, online, more than 15 million abstracts from real science journals). Never, never use the corrupt and ignorant media for any scientific evidence. They are worse than useless, specializing, as they do, in disinformation.
As for IQ -- as a lifelong teacher, I don't ever complain if my students have good IQs. Smart students can be a joy to have in classes. But there's a certain kind of student who scores well on IQ who drives me up the wall. It's the mentally fixated student, the one who's made up his/her mind about most of the world, which he or she may know nothing about. Such a student can no longer learn anything that doesn't fit the locked-in template. He or she eventually may make a dreadful and even destructive bureaucrat or politician. He or she can no longer think with an open mind. In the old liberal arts colleges, such a student would have flunked his or her classes for mental fixedness.
Mental fixedness (especially in a false ideology) has nothing to do with IQ. But it can coexist with a respectable IQ. Want examples? How about Karl Marx? Friedrich Engels? Richard Wagner? V.I. Lenin? Pol Pot? Philosophers like Paul de Man and Martin Heidegger?
And yes, the President of These United States.
High-IQ people can do astonishingly evil things for ostensibly benevolent reasons. FDR was a piker compared to the really bad characters of history, but it is now believed by economic historians that his good intentions ended up extending the Great Depression, not shortening it. That means that more Americans living years longer in penury and misery. Jean-Paul Sartre was famous as a philosopher, but he ended up being a hugely influential supporter of both Stalin and Mao during their worst years. Mao Zedong killed some 40 million of his fellow Chinese. Stalin lectured on the topic of linguistics (which he knew nothing about), but that's not what's important. It's his murderous reign of terror that's important. Genghis Khan may have been a genius. Alexander the Great and Napoleon were smart enough. They left the world after millions of innocent died to satisfy their grandiose narcissism.
Popular satirists have known this for centuries. The first satires about "intelligent" but idiotic scholars and their oddities go back to the Greeks and Romans. Socrates himself was the subject of a comedy by Aristophanes. The very first philosopher in Western history, Thales of Miletos, was laughed at in Greek folklore for wandering around on a pitch-dark night to observe the stars and falling into a ditch. Some Greek peasants are probably laughing at that old joke right now. That's 6th century BCE.
Churchill's famous "bloody-minded professors," who used the Western media to defend murderous tyrants in the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, were some of the brightest in Britain. British intelligence services were deeply penetrated by them. They were indeed bloody-minded, and knowingly colluding with mass murderers. It's pretty disgusting, but it's true, as Paul Johnson explains in great detail in his classic history, Modern Times.
Today we see exactly the same dreadful pattern of misbehavior among the same type of professors. I know a scholar who carries a picture of Che Guevara in his briefcase, like a small devotional shrine. He is totally mind-locked. I wouldn't trust him to run a hot dog stand, much less a university. But there he is.
William F. Buckley, no slouch himself in the verbosity department, famously observed that he would rather be governed by the first hundred names in the Boston phone book than by the faculty of Harvard University. Me, too.
High-IQ dummies are all over the place, and people who are totally mind-fixed after graduating from the most famous schools have their fingerprints all over great disasters of history. Alexander the mass-murderer brought Aristotle along on his murderous campaign to India. Plato traveled to counsel the Tyrant of Syracuse (in ancient Sicily) and ended up -- suprise, surprise! -- making a mess of things. Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a truly evil human being in his personal life -- having babies with his mistresses to be thrown away or left at orphanages -- and inspired two centuries of destructive Leftist myth-making.
High IQ is no guarantee of goodness. It's not even a guarantee of common sense, or of genuine intelligence outside a few limited parts of life. It's no protection against evil.
And it certainly doesn't guarantee intelligent or honest articles in the National Geographic.