Apparently "Intelligence" is Overrated


Get comfortable. I feel an essay coming on.

Actually, this one has been germinating for a couple of weeks . . . ever since I saw a flurry of discussion last week about a study published in the journal of the National Institute of Education titled, “Conservatism and Cognitive Ability.”

I know you will be astonished to learn that some liberal academics decided to study the intelligence of conservatives and found us inferior to liberals in the smarts department. This research is of a time-honored tradition in academia–a previous shining example being a 2003 study funded by the NIH which posited that conservatism is actually a form of mental illness.

This is nonsense only a tenured Ph.D. can excrete and it has been ably given the thrashing it so richly deserves by other conservatives elsewhere.  (conservatives who miraculously summoned the mental capacity and grip on reality to read the research and respond.) See here, here and here for example.

Let’s set aside questions about the intellectual honesty of liberal academics and the unexamined presuppositions and agendas they bring to their research. Let’s just stipulate for a moment that liberals really are more intelligent than conservatives. If that is the case, then IQ is of little value in evaluating existing conditions and determining the wisest course of action.

Why is this so? Because history has shown liberals to have been wrong on virtually every important policy question of the last 100 years, with the qualified exception of the civil rights movement.

  • In the 1920s, liberals were wrong about the Russian revolution and the nature of the nascent Soviet Union.
  • In the 1930s liberals were wrong about the New Deal.
  • In the 1940s through the 1980s, they were wrong about the Cold War.
  • In the 1960s liberals were wrong about the “war on poverty” and put in place policies that destroyed the urban family and destined two entire generations of young black men to prison.
  • In the 1970s they were wrong about forced busing, the Shah of Iran, unions, and the sexual revolution.
  • And in the 1980s they vilified Reagan on a myriad of issues on which he has since been vindicated.

There is a great research paper waiting to be written about why it is intelligent liberals are consistently dead wrong in their publicl policy prescriptions. But don’t hold your breath. Conservatives in academia stay stealthed

Famous “intellectuals” like Noam Chomsky and Susan Sontag are inarguably brilliant in their fields. They are also comically wrong about most things political.

Just today, Slate’s Camille Paglia, a very, very smart liberal wrote this paragraph (emphasis mine):

Barack Obama was elected to do exactly what he did last week at Cairo University — to open a dialogue with the Muslim world. Or at least that was why I, for one, voted for him, contributed to his campaign, and continue to support him. There is no more crucial issue for the future of the West, whose material prosperity masks an increasing uncertainty about its own principles and values. Religion, abandoned by the secular professional class, will continue to be a major marker of cultural identity for most people — even more so during periods of economic or political instability. But the now widespread stereotyping of Islam as medieval and inherently violent and intolerant ensures eternal war. Visionary leaders are vitally needed on both sides to call for mutual understanding and rational coexistence. Yet, post-9/11, troublingly few voices of Muslim moderation have emerged.

There are two real howlers packed into that highlighted sentence. First, Ms. Paglia confidently asserts that viewing Islam as “medieval and inherently violent and intolerant” is “stereotyping.” Seriously. This is sort of like decrying the stereotype of professional basketball players as athletic and inherently tall.

Then she asserts that it is this stereotyping that “ensures eternal war.” Again, this is a serious liberal intellect at work here.

As I suggested in my headline . . . apparently intelligence is overrated.