Survival Skills

Guess what I learned today by looking around on line! There’s some new research out that shows that liberalism and atheism are related to a high IQ.* Conservatives aren’t as smart. Are you surprised? Did it take research to learn that George Bush (either one, actually) and Dan Quayle weren’t the brightest bulbs in the room? But the research tells us that being smart and liberal and open to new ideas is a survival skill. Like, realizing that without health care reform fewer and fewer Americans will have health care and our life expectancy (already lower than that of most countries with good health care systems) will decline even further.

OK so far, but then we come to religion where somehow Thomas Aquinas and Augustine and Rowan Williams aren’t quite bright? Aquinas and Augustine could out-think most people in their day or now and the present Archbishop of Canterbury is certainly brighter than any of the current political leaders in Britain. But the research was looking for the evolutionary effect of being liberal (open to new ideas) or religious – which they saw as closed to new ideas.

Well, which church do you go to? There are certainly religious leaders out there whose only new ideas are about video screens and rock groups. On the other hand, the Episcopal Church’s evolutionary survival seems to be threatened by its openness to new ideas. Something wrong here.

Let me quote the article because otherwise you’ll think I’m making this up:

“Religion, the current theory goes, did not help people survive or reproduce necessarily, but goes along the lines of helping people to be paranoid, Kanazawa said. Assuming that, for example, a noise in the distance is a signal of a threat helped early humans to prepare in case of danger. It helps life to be paranoid, and because humans are paranoid, they become more religious, and they see the hands of God everywhere.”

Excuse me? Maybe I’m just not smart enough to figure out where to begin untangling the post hocs and non sequiturs and non causa pro causas in all that. Paranoia is a survival trait? But if religious people aren’t as smart, wouldn’t they would be less likely to survive?

And as for liberals and conservatives, hear this:

“Liberals are more likely to be concerned about total strangers; conservatives are likely to be concerned with people they associate with,” he [Kanazawa] said. “Given that human ancestors had a keen interest in the survival of their offspring and nearest kin, the conservative approach — looking out for the people around you first — fits with the evolutionary picture more than liberalism. It’s unnatural for humans to be concerned about total strangers.”

I’m reminded here of the Parable of the Good Samaritan and wondering whether Jesus was not sufficiently paranoid. That would explain the Crucifixion pretty well but not the rapid spread of Christianity thereafter.

Seems to me the researchers need to correlate a few more statistics. But I can’t work on this anymore right now because I hear a noise in the distance and need to check it out.


CNN: 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.

1 Comment

Joanne WojtusiakMarch 12th, 2010 at 7:40 pm

As usual, your insights and comments are a delight to read – whether I agree with them or not!

But PLEASE stop with the reference to George 43 or 45 as "conservatives". George W may have had some so-called conservative views on social issues, but neither he nor his father were fiscal conservatives – something that many of us feel is a far more appropriate arbiter of political persuasion than one's feelings about abortion or sexual preference.

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