A Very Confused National Geographic Article
Posted by Michael Dickens on March 5, 2010
Whoever wrote this article apparently wants to feel smart, and wants the readership to feel smart, but is doing some serious muddling of ideas.
It would seem that liberals and atheists are “more highly evolved.” Why? Because some doctor says so. The same guy who wrote that Africans are stupid (as explained by genius science blogger PZ Myers).
What does the article say?
[P]eople 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.
Says an hypothesis. Is there actually any evidence for this? Let’s read on.
The study used a picture-based vocabulary test to estimate the IQ of participating teenagers.
What? Really? As narrowly-focused as IQ tests already are, a vocabulary test is even narrower.
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.
How useless. IQ, an artificial measure of very specific types of intelligence, is very slightly higher among certain political groups. And besides, I question the motives of this study. Dr. Kanazawa, the man who conducted the study, seems awfully interested in presenting biased views.
But it is not all Kanazawa’s fault. Whoever wrote the National Geographic article has some confused ideas as well. In the title he states that atheists and liberals are “more highly evolved”, but all the study claims is that they are more intelligence. Intelligence is not indicative of evolvedness. In a sense, all non-extinct beings are equally evolved: they’ve been around for the same length of time. But that’s not quite true. Cockroaches, for instance, have been around for millions of years, while we have only been around for a few hundred thousand. In that sense, cockroaches are much more evolved. Ants make up a huge portion of the world’s biomass; they are extremely successful, and so in that sense are more evolved. Biologically, intelligence is rather young and unsuccessful. So I can hardly see how “more intelligent” is the same as “more highly evolved”.
Such confusion is being spread by the writers at National Geographic.