Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Clever Sillies

Udolpho is back. Sort of.

He's got a little forum thing going, and posts under the name Pleasureman. Here's a pretty awesome thread wherein he and a couple of guys rap about this essay by Bruce G. Charlton.

Some excerpts (from the essay):
General intelligence is not just a cognitive ability; it is also a cognitive disposition. So, the greater cognitive abilities of higher IQ tend also to be accompanied by a distinctive high IQ personality type including the trait of ‘Openness to experience’, ‘enlightened’ or progressive left-wing political values, and atheism. Drawing on the ideas of Kanazawa, my suggested explanation for this association between intelligence and personality is that an increasing relative level of IQ brings with it a tendency differentially to over-use general intelligence in problem-solving, and to over-ride those instinctive and spontaneous forms of evolved behaviour which could be termed common sense. Preferential use of abstract analysis is often useful when dealing with the many evolutionary novelties to be found in modernizing societies; but is not usually useful for dealing with social and psychological problems for which humans have evolved ‘domain-specific’ adaptive behaviours. And since evolved common sense usually produces the right answers in the social domain; this implies that, when it comes to solving social problems, the most intelligent people are more likely than those of average intelligence to have novel but silly ideas, and therefore to believe and behave maladaptively. I further suggest that this random silliness of the most intelligent people may be amplified to generate systematic wrongness when intellectuals are in addition ‘advertising’ their own high intelligence in the evolutionarily novel context of a modern IQ meritocracy. The cognitively-stratified context of communicating almost-exclusively with others of similar intelligence, generates opinions and behaviours among the highest IQ people which are not just lacking in common sense but perversely wrong. Hence the phenomenon of ‘political correctness’ (PC); whereby false and foolish ideas have come to dominate, and moralistically be enforced upon, the ruling elites of whole nations.


The over-use of abstract reasoning may be most obvious in the social domain, where normal humans are richly equipped with evolved psychological mechanisms both for here-and-now interactions (e.g. rapidly reading emotions from facial expression, gesture and posture, and speech intonation) and for ‘strategic’ modelling of social interactions to understand predict and manipulate the behaviour of others. Social strategies deploy inferred knowledge about the dispositions, motivations and intentions of others. When the most intelligent people over-ride the social intelligence systems and apply generic, abstract and systematic reasoning of the kind which is enhanced among higher IQ people, they are ignoring an ‘expert system’ in favour of a non-expert system.


Indeed, I suggest that higher levels of the personality trait of Openness in higher IQ people may be the flip-side of this over-use of abstraction. I regard Openness as the result of deploying abstract analysis for social problems to yield unstable and unpredictable results, when innate social intelligence would tend to yield predictable and stable results. This might plausibly underlie the tendency of the most intelligent people in modernizing societies to hold ‘left-wing’ political views.

I would argue that neophilia (or novelty-seeking) is a driving attribute of the personality trait of Openness; and a disposition common in adolescents and immature adults who display what I have termed ‘psychological neoteny’.


My hunch is that it is this kind of IQ-advertisement which has led to the most intelligent people in modern societies having ideas about social phenomena that are not just randomly incorrect (due to inappropriately misapplying abstract analysis) but are systematically wrong. I am talking of the phenomenon known as political correctness (PC) in which foolish and false ideas have become moralistically-enforced among the ruling intellectual elite. And these ideas have invaded academic, political and social discourse. Because while the stereotypical nutty professor in the hard sciences is a brilliant scientist but silly about everything else; the stereotypical nutty professor social scientist or humanities professor is not just silly about ‘everything else’, but also silly in their professional work.


I infer that the motivation behind the moralizing venom of political correctness is the fact that spontaneous human instincts are universal and more powerfully-felt than the absurd abstractions of PC; plus the fact that common sense is basically correct while PC is perversely wrong. Hence, at all costs a fair debate must be prevented if the PC consensus is to be protected. Common sense requires to be stigmatized in order that it is neutralized.

Udolpho comments:

Little wonder at their entire array of emotional crutches, from art devoid of beauty (novelty must ultimately extinguish beauty) to personal lives devoid of humility or altruism (that is, the deliberate relinquishment of one's claims for the happiness of another--not the vanity of announcing one's virtue by means of contrived charities or causes).

This argument is, of course, an argument for traditionalism, for which there is currently no compelling voice in the political realm because the cognitive elite has stigmatized it--so effectively that even the putatively "conservative" parties have been shamed into dropping these questions. It is left to a fearsome mixture of populists and fringe personalities to even broach such topics as the unhealthy nature of homosexuality, the stupefyingly obvious differences between men and women which negate much of feminism, and the need for social and ethnic cohesion (which touches on so many policies). How to reduce the influence of the clever-silly cognitive elite and restore genuine conservatism is the question of the age.