Liberals, Atheists Are More Highly Evolved?

By | March 5, 2010

http://xenophilia.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/get_a_brain_morans.jpgYour apelike ancestors probably aren’t top of mind when you enter the polling booth. But a new study suggests that human evolution may have a big influence on whether you’re liberal or conservative—not to mention how smart you are, whether you believe in God, or whether you’ve got a cheatin’ heart.

It’s all linked to the evolution of intelligence, says author Satoshi Kanazawa, an evolutionary psychologist at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

(Also see “Future Humans: Four Ways We May, or May Not, Evolve.”)

Kanazawa’s theory is that intelligence—particularly our ability for on-the-spot problem solving and reasoning—arose as an adaptation to deal with the unusual and unexpected, such as a sudden forest fire.

Since disasters like that are rare in daily life, responding to them wouldn’t likely be something our ancestors were hard-wired to “know” how to do. Surviving the fire required both the ability to think up a new behavior, and the willingness to try it out.

Passed down via genetics, those two traits are still the calling cards of an intelligent brain—expressed as a tendency toward adopting nontraditional social values and preferences, Kanazawa says in his new study, published in the March 2010 issue of Social Psychology Quarterly.

As a result of their iconoclastic ancestry, he suggests, people with higher levels of intelligence are more likely to adopt social values and behaviors that are relatively new to human life—liberalism, atheism, staying up late, and (for men) monogamy, for example.

This tendency toward iconoclasm stems from smart people’s brains being better adapted to dealing with new situations, according to Kanazawa.

(Related: “Did Discrimination Enhance Intelligence of Jews?”)

Liberals Are Smarter Than Conservatives?

Kanazawa’s evidence is in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, or Add Health, which has been tracking the same group since 1994.

The study used a picture-based vocabulary test to estimate the IQ of participating teenagers. Seven years later, the same people were asked about their religious and political beliefs.

People who later admitted to being “not at all religious,” and who classified themselves as “very liberal” politically had higher IQ scores as teenagers than those who were “very religious” and “very conservative.”

The difference isn’t huge. Only 11 points, on average, separate the liberal from the conservative, for instance. But Kanazawa believes it’s significant.

“Liberalism”—which Kanazawa defines, in part, as caring about the well-being of vast numbers of people you’ll never meet—”is a very new thing for humans,” he said.

“Historically, humans cared about the welfare of immediate family and friends but not complete strangers.”

via Liberals, Atheists Are More Highly Evolved?.

5 thoughts on “Liberals, Atheists Are More Highly Evolved?

  1. Cole

    Ridiculous. The difference in IQ scores could be related to each’s priorities in life based on their beliefs. In my opinion, and I’ve felt this way for a while, the IQ system needs to be rethought. Something tells me this could also be some sort of cop-out, but whatever.

  2. Xeno Post author

    “11 points, on average, separate the liberal from the conservative”

    Definitely an interesting finding. Are IQ tests fair across these beliefs? Those who design the measuring system do own the outcome.

    The highly conservative religious individuals I’ve known seem to have a “faith based” world view that, while admirably optimistic, does not have an openness to rapid modification of views based on new data. Personally, I think mental flexibility, logical reasoning and even healthy skepticism should be considered when rating intelligence.

    1. Cole

      Yeah. Right now, the IQ tests are based on noticing small details and knowing advanced math techniques. But intelligence is different from being “book smart”. Intelligence is a combination of deduction, learning, and many other things, too many to list. So I think we need to remake our current system.

      Plus, when Kanazawa says “People with higher levels of intelligence are more likely to adopt social values and behaviors that are relatively new to human life—liberalism, atheism, staying up late, and (for men) monogamy, for example.”, that doesn’t make sense. Look it up, liberalism has its roots in the middle ages, but conservatism started in the 1700’s.

  3. Danny

    “Liberalism”—which Kanazawa defines, in part, as caring about the well-being of vast numbers of people you’ll never meet

    So being conservative with the spending of tax dollars means that you don’t care about the well-being of a vast number of people? Since when does being a liberal spender of tax dollars make you compassionate? How about the idea of trusting people to make their own way in life and nurturing their individual strength by allowing them to keep more of their hard-earned money? Isn’t that even more compassionate? Teach a man to fish… right? I really feel like I’m missing something here. Seriously.

    Don’t get me wrong, I understand there are people who are helpless and need a hand. Being conservative with tax dollars doesn’t mean there are no programs in place for that. It is not a radical ideology. Logic to me says opening opportunities for people to make it on their own is far more compassionate then giving them short-term handouts. The federal budget is not a bottomless pit. People know these things, right? Right?

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