In a new study, Satoshi Kanazawa from the London School of Economics found a significant correlation between Intelligence and socialistic political viewpoints as well as atheism. The more intelligent a person is, the more likely it is that he is leftwing and an atheist. Knowing some results of brain science, this result actually does not surprise me very much. But what does that mean? In our society the word â€œintelligenceâ€ has a very good connotation. Intelligence is a good thing, something that no one can have enough of. However, if it was a significant advantage to be intelligent than why did human kind not develop a higher average intelligence throughout evolution? The answer is probably that, while intelligence can be a very helpful thing in many situations, it also might have some disadvantages.
The reason why intelligence is seen to be such a good thing has probably a lot to do with the perception that more intelligent people somehow are able to use their brains better than less intelligent people. But is this perception right? The science of intelligence is not really very advanced. We do not have a clear theory that could explain what intelligence is in a satisfying way. Nevertheless, in recent years more and more facts point to the idea that more intelligent people actually do not use their brains better but less good. Scientists were able to make people smarter by temporarily switching off certain areas of the brain using a strong electrical field. So it looks like everyone has the potential of being extremely smart, but our brain has developed a mechanism to actively suppress intelligence. If this is true, if we really have a part in the brain that actively makes us dumber, there needs to be something wrong with intelligence. To find out what this something is, it might be interesting to find out how this dumbing down mechanism works.
An important part of the work that our brain is doing is to filter out information. Every second an enormous amount of information is arriving in our brains from our senses. If we were to deal with all these information consciously, we would probably immediately go mad. That is why our brain has developed filters that let us only focus on the important information. These filters are not very intelligent, meaning they are not very flexible. They have been developed throughout our whole live. But once set up, it is hard to change them. How we perceive reality has a lot to do with the way these filters have been set up, which has a lot to do with how we have been broad up. The more filters there are the less flexible we are able to think. With this theory it becomes apparent why young people in general are seen to be more open minded and flexible. Their brains just have not developed enough filters yet. The older we get the less we are able to think outside the box. Our view of the world is basically set up and it needs a very strong input to change this worldview. This is why I think it is useless to try to persuade statist above a certain age of libertarianism. It is not possible to do that!
But intelligent people, in a way always remain children. Their ability of developing filters is reduced. Therefore, they are more open minded. They consider more information in their thinking and therefore come to new conclusions. This can be an advantage in certain areas. For example, there certainly is a place for intelligent people in our modern, very complex and quickly changing society. But there also is a big disadvantage in this. Filters help us to do routinely tasks more efficiently. We do not need to waste a lot of energy rethinking them over and over again. In other words it may not always be good to question everything. Very often it is much better to just except things without questioning them because these things have an inner wisdom that is hart to see consciously. This is a very conservative approach. It is the heart of conservatism to except certain things in the way society is structured and to conserve them. And it is not necessarily a right assumption that there is not historical wisdom in the way things are in our society. At least one has to acknowledge that a lot of the alternative society models of intellectuals have failed miserable. This may have something to do with the idea that they were smart enough to question society, but not smart enough to really understand it.
March 12, 2010 at 11:42 pm
Most people are conservatives!
Take an class of five-year olds & already we will have a majority of conservatives & as that class gets older they will all tend to get even more conservative.
However, most just assume that there can be a choice in economic systems. There were a few forerunners but Ludwig Von Mises in a 1920 essay, & then later in his book _Socialism (1922), put forward the economic calculation argument [eca], showing that none of the Marxists, in the USSR, or anywhere else, were even giving any serious consideration to the new, or a new, society. They all only knew of the money economy for the mass urban society.
But when one comes to think of it, it seems to be utterly insane that people should ever want to change the whole of society every few years [i.e. the democratic ideal, on the face of it] unless all that immense effort was worth it for some very good reason.
Anyway, the option does not seem to be there!
But we do drift into folly, & there is no open mind nor any closed mind but instead the biased erring mind that leads bright people to err. But ideas are superficial so we can all re-think. As was said, the man who is not a socialist at 20 has no heart but the man who is still one at 40 has no head.
As there is only the market economy, attempts at production off the market tend to be wasteful
March 12, 2010 at 11:57 pm
Well I actually only wanted to put the category intelligence into a new perspective. Just because something is intelligent does not mean it is better. Therefore, this category is useless when it comes to politics.
But I donâ€™t think that â€œweâ€ can rethink ideas, if â€œweâ€ means the people who are living today. We can only rethink ideas and hope that the next generation will grow up with them. Most people are not driven by ideas, but by their filters. And there is only a very limited possibility to change these anymore. There are only a very few people, people who have a disability in developing filters, meaning very intelligent people who are driven by ideas. But of course that does not mean that they are driven by the right ideas. That would assume that they would have a complete knowledge, which no one has, no one can have as Mises argued. We are all biased as you rightfully said.
March 15, 2010 at 12:50 pm
I’m not sure you are right when you challenge that the more intelligent is not better. It is an interesting thought but can it be right?
We can have too much of many things but does that apply to things like wealth, intelligence or knowledge? I tend to think not, but be my host & put your case!
Politics is a mistake in any case but it will take a great liberal reform to get rid of it.
You seem to say that we can & yet we also cannot re-think ideas, Nico. I think the first half of the contradiction is the true half; & that whenever we get a contradiction the truth is on one half [as Descartes rightly said]. So I agree that we can re-think & we can hope that others will agree, especially in the future.
We are all affected by ideas but it is true that action is not determined by ideas alone. Unknown things affect us too. The eca shows the unknown reasons that Marxism failed that the Marxists overlooked, for example.
Even dim people can re-think, but arguments are like judo tricks in that they work best on the strong. Note that a person who cannot lose a debate is a bit dim [unless he has the truth, of course] for to reason is to weed out false ideas, as Popper rightly said. Debate is mutual aid in weeding out error, in attempted refutation. It is more like trade than like war, but the romantic idea is to see it as a sort of fighting. Even Popper falls for that claptrap. However, the force of reason is a force without proactive coercion; it is the liberal force. This force will aid us to correct a lot of error in the world & to get rid of big problems, like mass unemployment & war.
DRS wrote the LA’s policy statement to stop liberals becoming disillusioned on short run failure but the quest to get rid of politics is a long one & every little bit less we have of, say, taxation or proactive coercion, the better. But it was not to ignore the masses. They need to be won over too, but they will move slower.
We will remain ignorant but there is a limit to ignorance as well as to knowledge. No matter how dim a person is, everyone knows something! And what a big brain even the most stupid of humans have. So we have many reasons to hope for progress; more than six milliard now.
March 18, 2010 at 12:03 am
I donâ€™t think there is a contradiction. In one case we are talking about individuals in the other we are talking about human kind. Human kind as a system can re-think ideas. But the re-thinking will only become effective when the generation who holds the old ideas dies out. That is because the huge majority of individuals are not able to change their minds radically above a certain age. Certainly they can change their minds to a degree. Someone that is a radical socialist with 30 may become a little bit softer on his views over time. But he will always remain sympathetic for socialist ideas. There are only a very small number of people, whose brains do not work right, that is they are very intelligent and therefore are able to preserve their ability to re-think ideas.
That is at least the thesis of modern brain science as I understand it. And there is a lot of evidence for that. On the other hand I do not see a lot of evidence for the opposite thesis that people can re-think ideas. I donâ€™t know of any example that a society has ever quickly changed its basic ideas without going through a very devastating event. Do you have an example for that?
And yes I do believe that there can be too much intelligence. Of course that depends on the result you want to produce. If you want to solve a complicated mathematical problem, maybe you cannot have enough intelligence. But for living your life and become happy, intelligence is very often not helpful. A lot of very intelligent people fail on very simple tasks in live. An extreme example for that is Kurt GÃ¶del who starved on the campus of Princeton, because he was too intelligent. A lot of highly intelligent people go mad during their life. And modern brain science better and better understands why that is. It is because intelligent people use their brains not better than the average Joe but less good. An important part does not work right. Of course that is a little bit simplistic. The truth is much more complex. As I said we do not understand much of the brain and intelligence yet. But what we know is enough to say that intelligence is not a priori a good thing.
April 9, 2010 at 3:52 pm
Well, that we can & yet cannot rethink is a contradiction. You say it is not such as it is about the race on the one hand & the individual on the other. That might save things but note that the race as such cannot think, only persons can do that. To say the race can think is to personify the race.
This idea, held by the jackass Thomas Kuhn no less, that people dying out is the way to change has been anathema to me since about 1968. I do not like any version of the crass idea of irrationality but least of all Kuhn’s. I prefer, for all his faults, Karl Popper.
It is false, I think, to say that a living person cannot re-think. One has to do so to act in the world. So anyone who does move around does think in order to move around at all.
No man who comprehends the eca can value socialism. Debate & see! Any socialist, whether he is nine or ninety, will be subject to refutation by the informed liberal ideologue. He has to face the eca & he has no escape from it. See From Marx To Mises (1992) D.R. Steele.
What I have seen in brain science looks thin; very thin. But do give an exposition from it.
Daily life shows up the need to re-think.
A society cannot have ideas.
There are many examples of the masses changing their ideas en mass as it were. Ireland 1916 went from anti to pro IRA as they executed the fools who fought in the Easter rising, 1660 saw a big rejection of the puritan idea in England, 1945 saw a big rejection of Churchill. So that is three examples to go on with. Do try to refute them.
Intelligence does not aid happiness? It is far from clear why anyone might think that! T9o be pessimistic is a failure to think clearly.
It is true that very bright people fail to think clearly. GÃ¶del was one, Einstein another. This is not too much intelligence but also crass foolishness too & the colleges are full of fools who do not want to use what intelligence they have.
Do give an exposition of that brain science, what I have read of it inspires sheer contempt. There is a jackass called Damasio who has Descartes in the title of one of his silly books but has not even read that author. For brains to work we need to apply them.
I will attempt the idea that we cannot have too much intelligence. I see no strong attack on it so far. But I hope we can debate on for months, if not for years yet. I rather hope that we have only just begun.
I hope this finds you happy & well.
April 9, 2010 at 3:55 pm
Some of the pargraphs of the above seem to have emerged! Sorry for that.
April 9, 2010 at 4:02 pm
Should have been
I will attempt to defend the idea that we cannot have too much intelligence. I see no strong attack on it here so far. But I hope we can debate on with this topic for months, if not for years yet. I rather hope that we have only just begun.
April 16, 2010 at 1:34 pm
Alright one by one. I think we need to get a little bit more precisely. My thesis is that people can get too intelligence. I am not sure if something, like a machine can be too intelligent. But individual human beings can. Walking is a good example. If we were to think about every step were making, we would probably very easily fall on our face, just like babies do who actively try to control the process of walking. It is much better to recall a stored program in our brain to walk. This program already contains all the wisdom it needs to walk without us consciously understanding what it is all about. Intelligence is not helpful, it is counterproductive in this case.
The part in our brain that makes us intelligent is questioning the parts that are just reproducing stored programs. And if too many of these stored programs were to be questioned it would become very dangerous, because the wisdom that is stored in them would get lost and could not be reproduced by intelligence. Therefore, we have developed a part in our brain that keeps the intelligent part under its control, so that it canâ€™t become too powerful.
The downside of this is that the more of these programmes are stored the lesser we are able to question them. It becomes harder and harder to change your mind about things. I am not saying that you cannot change your mind at all. Of course, to a certain degree you can. But the more radical the ideas are the more motivation it needs to persuade adults of them, and from a certain degree on it becomes impossible.
The changes you have mentioned are not very radical changes, in the sense that people had to re-think their basic system of believes. But if you are a statist, becoming a libertarian is a very radical change. This change would need you to re-think your basic perception of human beings and the ways society works. And that is too much for the fast majority of adults.
If you disagree on this, than please tell me what in theory could falsify your thesis that there cannot be enough intelligence? At the moment it appears to me to be a very closed up thought.
And to your system remarks:
I do believe that systems can be more intelligent than its constituent parts. Evolution is a good example, the market another. The market is more intelligent than any of the single persons that anticipate in it. If that was not true we would be able to create a socialist system with a smart person at the top. But Mises showed clearly that this is not possible. And I think his argumentation in a way is that the market is more intelligent than people.
July 16, 2010 at 7:48 pm
Thank you very much for your reply, Nico.
I still feel that your thesis is paradoxical in the absurd, or impossiblist, sense. So it still seems to me that we cannot have too much intelligence.
To think well is to think aptly. It is clearly not intelligent to mess up walking by thought, if this could be done. It is true that we are neurotic, very often, when we do something new that we think highly of, or greatly value, like walking or swimming or even meeting an important new girlfriend. We might call the necrosis â€œshynessâ€ in the latter case. Soon this becomes habitual, or second nature, but there is no sign that twice or even ten times our current intelligence would prolong such a neurosis. Indeed, it would seem that the brighter we are, the quicker we will move onto the habitual; stage. We will all the sooner learn what we need to learn to get to that stage the more intelligence that we have. So intelligence is not one whit counter-productive.
It is not true that we do not monitor walking. It is never completely automatic. Our brain sets, and then revises to reset all our habits. It is never like clockwork. We do reproduce it.
No habit fits the fresh reality we meet everyday exactly, so some thought is needed. To live at all we need to change our mind and our five senses aid us in that daily, indeed, continuous revision. No one would go around with their eyes shut as they do need this fresh input; even within our own homes.
Thought is automatic thus motivation is not germane. Motivation comes in on what we value rather than what we think is the case. We understand whatever we understand independently of our will and what we want, or how we are motivated, simply is not germane, nor is any bias that we may have. What we want never matters to what we think is the case i.e. to what we believe. We can say whatever we like, but not ever can we believe as we like.
Learning does get slower as we get older and we forget more often too but we are still open to seeing what we do not like to be the case. Our bias never protects us for sure. But reasoning is more like sowing seeds that mustering in a harvest. We debate today and get the results a few months later. New ideas can look silly as they are sowed. They are always caught rather than adopted; that is why memes is an idea with merit but Richard Dawkins errs on his own idea. Irrationality is fond myth, alien to human nature. Ideas infect us but we are free to evict them if they do not stand up to reason. Dawkins is very silly to try to deny this latter fact with his memes meme.
The move from being a statist to being a liberal is one of values rather than of beliefs. But the insight that sinks statism may well be automatic and to do with realising what is the case.
It is not at all too much for the majority to become liberals but it might be for them to become socialists! This is because socialism is purely imaginary whilst liberalism is how we all live most of the rime. Socialism has never existed and it has exactly no chance in the future. Liberalism is just free interaction with others. Most of our interaction is free. The state is on the periphery of society. It has not the capacity, ever, of being central. See the celebrated economic calculation problem, best explained in _From Marx To Mises (1992) D.R. Steele.
What would refute my theory? If you could push home your case on habit you might refute it but it is a long shot as the criticism is not up to much. There are many other ways to refute it too but that one will do for now. However, while it is good to have scientific theories, metaphysics also has it place. However, there are many other ways of refuting my theory of rationality as well as on habits, so it is not really metaphysical.
I do not think that the market is intelligent at all, it is not even a person, but it does carry way more knowledge than any person. So does the local library. But knowledge is one thing and intelligence another. The very bright are often exceedingly ignorant. I will leave that idea for your criticism.
July 21, 2010 at 8:18 am
The walking or swimming examples [above] referred to when we first learn to walk or swim.
July 22, 2010 at 12:37 pm
You just define intelligence as good thinking. Therefore, it is always good. But this is not a thesis, it is just a definition. A Definition is not knowledge it is just a convention. As a thesis it would be bogus, for it cannot be tested. Whenever there will be a bad outcome you will simply say that this is stupid and not intelligent.
The way our brain works there can be too much intelligence. In our brains intelligence is mostly not more of something, but less of something. You have less filters. Knowing that we can rephrase the thesis that â€œwe can have too much intelligenceâ€ into â€œwe can have too little filters in our brainâ€. That is all I am saying.
I am not saying that with growing age you do not have any flexibility at all. But you only have flexibility within the filters you already have. And therefore the more filters the less flexibility. It is like a street. You certainly have the freedom to choose on which lane you are driving or even which route you take. But your journey will be dependent on the streets you have. And the older you get the more streets you lose. Take for example my English. I grew up in Germany so I do not have an English accent. You got your English accent as a little child. At that age children learn accents automatically. There is a certain time window in which you can learn to pronounce language. And in that age you even learn very subtle small regional differences in accents. But once that window closes it becomes harder and harder and very soon impossible to learn this accent. Also I have learnt English from relatively early on and I always listened to English rock music, I will never get a real English accent anymore.
We learn certain things in certain windows of time. Once these windows close it becomes hard to impossible to learn these things. And we learn our basic values of live and political opinions during our adolescence. After that, it becomes very hard to impossible to change these persuasions.
As for intelligence in general: The market itself is intelligent. And I am not talking about knowledge. That is indeed something different. What is intelligence? It is in effect the ability to solve problems. And that is what the market does. And it does that on a higher level than the individuals within the market. The process of work sharing is creating solutions that an individual alone could never come up with. No one plans the production of a Laptop for example from start to beginning. The materials are organized at one point, the knowledge of dealing with these materials at another and so on. They are communication over prices and creating together a solution that is more intelligent than any of the people taking part in this.
Take evolution as another example. Let us say the climate in a region changes from warm to cold. Obviously the species living in that region need to adapt to this change. But not the individual animals will find a solution, the species as a whole will adapt to this change. This adaptation to a new situation is more than knowledge you can find in a book. It is an intelligent solution to a problem, a solution that is independent of a concrete individuals coming up with it. The system itself is intelligent.
July 22, 2010 at 2:44 pm
Thanks for your reply, Nico.
No, I do not bother to define my terms at all; on the Popperian idea that to do so is futile and quite unnecessary.
I am not putting forward a thesis here so much as finding fault with your thesis, but I admit that the idea of there ever being too much intelligence looks like a paradox of the most absurd type.
Not all ideas can be tested and that does not at all mean they are, in any way, bogus. There is no escaping metaphysics, and only fools fear it. Metaphysics is not only necessary to everyday life but also quite harmless. Ironically, as Karl Popper pointed out in 1934, logical positivism, that sought to completely shed metaphysics, was itself metaphysical. It was thereby quite absurd.
We can know conventions, of course.
Such knowledge might be classified as Sociology.
There are many very intelligent errors. Isaac Newton’s theories in physics are a clear example of error that is still very useful.
I remain sceptical about your filters idea. Thought tends to home in on something more apt and so does greater intellect. We cannot do this too quickly.
The reality seems to be the exact opposite to what you say. The older we get, the more dendrites are cut in the brain; and the dendrites cut seem to match your street analogy quite well. We do ebb with age, but hardly ever enough to be too weak for creeds like liberalism, or any of its rivals, to convert us. Only the very seriously demented would be too old for conversion to such creeds.
Language is best learnt in our first three years, and we then have five extra years where it can still be done with some effort, but after that it needs a very big effort for quite a small return. I attempted to learn German in the 1970s, as I wanted to read Marx in German, but I did not put the effort in and it was 20 years too late to do it with any ease. But I could haply drop my current accent if I wanted to do so. There seems to be no time limit there. The senile tend to lose their accent in any case.
We agree that some things do get harder to pick up as adults. Piano playing, ballet dancing, new languages acquisition are three things that we might agree on; but not accents, or creeds. You simply seem to get this false, as far as I can see.
Socialism is a creed that one might drop within ten minutes. The actual beliefs will be dropped way faster than that, even if the creed is well loved. It is love, rather than mere belief, that keeps anyone loyal to any creed at all. Belief will always be like a naÃ¯ve falsificationalist with all of us, no matter how strong our love is; as Hobbes made clear in his 1651 book. We can say what we like but we can never believe as we like. No belief can be deep, not in any way [contra seemingly unreflective current common sense]. .
I would expect socialists over a hundred years old to still be fair game for classical liberals. The obstacles to the full general acceptance of anarcho-liberalism are very superficial indeed. Any belief will change in a jiffy. The liberal propagandist only has to be clear.
But though the good news is that ideas are easy to refute, the bad news is that there is a lot of them and that the bias of current common sense holds anarcho-liberalism to be quite mad. Most people have no tolerance for debate, but lots of debate is needed. Debate is seen today as being unfriendly. It is often, indeed usually, rejected as a result. That is the real window that is not open for the liberals today. And tolerance is almost another name for the liberal idea so in this sense people today are most illiberal. They fear mere error! But as Popper rightly says, error is a good way to learn. So while none of us can deliberately err, as Plato so rightly pointed out, error is not a thing that we ever should fear, or ever be ashamed of. We should openly be honest about error. Honesty is the beat policy in debate. So we might get people to open this window to debate, which is mutual aid in the Popperian duty that we all have of attempted refutation of our own ideas. To do so is as easy as opening an actual window that works in the sense that it normally can be opened.
I do not think that the market has any intelligence at all but it does carry lots of knowledge. I note your disagreement here. The market is value free but it nevertheless fosters very civilised values inmost who makes use of it.
The market has no problems. You personify the market. You seem to, thereby, err. It is a mere institution.
We agree that no on e person makes a laptop, but not that the market somehow makes it. Many people make it polycentrically by using the market. Have you read _From Marx To Mises (1992), D.R. Steele, yet? It fully explains the economic calculation problem.
I fear that the example you give from evolution is also inept. The idea that the species, as a whole, adapt to colder weather is to personify a mere academic abstraction.
Well, I hope that you have the tolerance to go on with our debate. The chief thing we need for progress today is tolerance of debate. It would be very ironic if we lacked it amongst ourselves! With that, I hope you are spurred to go on with this debate. I look forward to your next critical reply.
July 26, 2010 at 6:46 pm
I agree that metaphysics are important. We are all relying on some form of metaphysics. However, I do not believe that it makes sense to argue over metaphysics, unless they can be tested. It is simply a system of believes.
But I do not see why human intelligence is metaphysics. And human intelligence is all I am talking about. We can explore this intelligence scientifically. And the research about this intelligence at the moment points to the idea that intelligent people, that is people with a great ability to solve complex problems are not using their brains better than normal intelligent people, but less good. As a result of that they very often have problems in other aspects of their live and there even have been a number of documented cases in which very intelligent people have gone insane.
Science of course can always be mistaken. But I do not see how you can show with metaphysics that a specific scientific result is wrong. You will need to have a scientific test to show that it is wrong. The only alternative would be to show that science itself is not very useful.
Simultaneously, we know a lot about how humans learn today and what is happening in the brain. And this research strongly suggests that the ability to change your mind about things strongly diminished throughout lifetime starting with the age of about 8 years. The input needed to change someoneâ€™s mind becomes bigger and bigger and eventually would need to be so big that it is not really possible anymore. Libertarianism is a very radical different concept to the current mainstream political opinion. It is in fact the opposite of the current political opinion that is dominated by the idea that people cannot have responsibility on their own.
You say that one can easily change a creed. No, that is not true except for the small minority of very intelligent people. And they can do this because they are not blocked by all these filters. Have you ever tried to persuade a true Christian or socialist that his creed is false? It is a waste of time! Arguments do not help. And that is not because our current culture is against debates. People have always been like that. And since we have explored our brains scientifically, we now know why that is.
That species change is of course an intellectual abstract. It is intelligence! Intelligence is always abstract. Pure matter is never intelligent.