Human Intelligence, Part I (Sexual Exclusivity and Intelligence)

I think the only thing one could possibly take from this study is that people who tend toward marching to their own drummer, charting their own path, preferring contrarianism when possible, going against the grain — and any other metaphorical descriptions you can think of — tend to be more intelligent. Does running your life that way make you more intelligent or, does innate intelligence just make it more likely that you tell the rest of the world to go get stuffed? Ah, mere observation can be confounding!

Liberalism, atheism, male sexual exclusivity linked to IQ

Evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa at the the London School of Economics and Political Science correlated data on these behaviors with IQ from a large national U.S. sample and found that, on average, people who identified as liberal and atheist had higher IQs. This applied also to sexual exclusivity in men, but not in women. The findings will be published in the March 2010 issue of Social Psychology Quarterly.

The IQ differences, while statistically significant, are not stunning — on the order of 6 to 11 points — and the data should not be used to stereotype or make assumptions about people, experts say. But they show how certain patterns of identifying with particular ideologies develop, and how some people’s behaviors come to be.

So, just to get this out of the way, I’m a sexually exclusive (married 9 yrs), anarchist atheist. IQ tests pretty high, but that was a long time ago. And I really can’t get over the fact that IQ tests are designed by smart people to test things they’re probably interested in. I don’t really trust them. I just have to wonder if they are designed more to test for non-ignorance. Ignorant people can be highly intelligent. It’s just that the right software has yet to be installed and executed. Perhaps knowledgeable commenters (Aaron?) can enlighten me.

I’ve always far preferred being around "hands on" people to intellectuals, except perhaps at fancy, exclusive cocktails and/or dinner parties. Intellectuals are really, really good at that shit. Auto mechanics? Not so much. I draw from people I’ve known and learned from in my own family & surroundings since I was a kid. I learned mostly hands on stuff like hunting, fishing, gardening, woodworking, auto working, painting, construction and a host of other things. Me and my family: we can beat ourselves out of concrete paper bags. Always have. Perhaps this is why I was the top rated junior officer by wide margin on my first ship in the Navy as a missile maintenance officer, then deck officer, and then electrical officer, obliterating guys with engineering degrees from top schools (I was a lazy business major) — even an MIT honors grad with a photographic memory who got 100% on every single test at Surface Warfare Officers School. I barely scraped by in that school with him, ’cause so much of it was bullshit and I figured I’d kick ass when we got down to practicalities: hands on, driving ships at all hours, and leading a division of men, some of which have 20 years and more of experience. So I sized ’em up and had no fear. For once, things went exactly as planned.

So that’s a lot of boorish self-indulgence in one paragraph. Kinda nauseating, but there you have it. I don’t really know of a better way of explaining where I’m coming from and this sentence is being written five days after I started this uncomfortable post. Let’s move on then, and take the variables one by one in hopefully an evolutionary context.

Sexual exclusivity. Well there’s hardly any doubt in my mind that a big part of our success as a genus, over other Homo, is reproductive success. Fecundity (the Nova series Becoming Human makes this point). But if you look at most of the animal kingdom, males are pretty much dogs. They’ll fuck anything they can stick it in, often by brute force. But don’t discount females in the human species, the tamers of males and the root of human success in my opinion. This is a tough one to work out for me. The animal is always there, but it’s easy to resist for all that a good female offers. Getting by with your teeth & claws (or human brain) is possible but it’s a hard life if that’s all that gets you by (or you’re too fucking stupid to get it). Females balance things out. For my money, we wouldn’t even exist but for the innate female-to-male taming…the frustratingly obvious, annoyingly practiced, devastatingly effective ability of females.

Fuck them! [with a grin]

But could you chalk it up to shame…and where does that come from on the evolutionary scale? I bet shame is old. Hell, you can even seemingly make a dog feel shame. Shame, whenever it came from, was but another arrow in the female quiver of lots of arrows. Or, perhaps it was the first…

Given that males could physically wipe out females in almost any species easily, combined with the fact they don’t, and never will, makes for a most interesting existence and I think the best, smartest and most practiced females are those who realize this implicitly. Is it that we hate to love them, or love to hate them, or a bit of both? Passion; love & hate, are two sides of the same coin and indifference is not indifferent. Questions…

…I just think that men who screw around on their wives or committed relationships are weak pussies unless all is out in the open and everyone is game, which is rare and probably irrational, which’ll come home to roost eventually.

Nothing I’m more motivated to avoid than shame.

Liberalism. Part II, maybe tomorrow. Or maybe I’ll do Atheism first. And I have a related article on cultural evolution to integrate. We’ll see.

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  1. Don Wiss on March 13, 2010 at 17:15

    The is an evolutionary reason why males are larger than females in most species. It has to do with which gender puts the most into raising the young. That gender is the gender that gets to pick the mate. The other gender vies for being picked. Maybe they fight it out and the largest wins. Or maybe the picking gender picks the healthiest. There are a few species where the male does most of the raising of the young. And then they are smaller. The one I know of is seahorses. The males have a pouch were the female deposits the eggs. And they are smaller than the females.

  2. Aaron Blaisdell on March 13, 2010 at 17:20

    Richard, you are a wise man. I think certain IQ tests have been shown to have quite good validity at tapping into some important core aspects of what we think about when we hear the term “intelligence”. Something about flexible, nimble reasoning (or at least responding) mixed with a proclivity to see analogies between disparate systems across wide domains. That is what the Ravens Progressive Matricies tap into. My lab has actually designed a version of the RPM to test in non-human animals. We tried it on my pigeons but they did miserably (no surprise there). I’m now collaborating with a colleague who has various primates in his lab (chimps, macaque monkeys, etc.) and we plan to test them soon.

    But, you are spot on, Richard, when you say that there are many people who are as far from an intellectual as you can imagine, and yet have a burning intelligence. While intellectuals tend to be intelligent, not all intelligent people are intellectuals. Far from it. Intellectuals also like to cultivate an air of intelligence and scholarship, in particular in erudite domains of knowledge. Some of the smartest scientists (and people) I know are blokes who would rather plop down and have a beer with you at the pub than hang out in a stogy upscale restaurant blabbing about sophisticated and expensive wine. Of course, I also have some good intellectual friends who are quite fun, too, and don’t take their intellectualism too seriously.

    • joe on March 14, 2010 at 10:42

      I agree. There’s a ton of research out there on IQ. Tested IQ has a strong correlation with a large number of common measures of success. It’s also strongly heritable.

  3. Aaron Blaisdell on March 13, 2010 at 17:24

    Btw, I think the readers of this blog would find much to resonate with in Owen Lovejoy’s Science paper from 1981 called The Origin of Man. (By “Man”, he means the human species.)

  4. Katelyn on March 13, 2010 at 18:05

    I live in liberal land in Massachusetts, but I feel pretty lucky to have met some great atheist, libertarian, paleo-eating people around here!

  5. tammy on March 13, 2010 at 18:27

    Richard….the f bombs, you said you were gonna work on this :(

    • Richard Nikoley on March 13, 2010 at 18:57

      Tammy, you are super and astoundingly behind the power curve on that one.

      Can’t help.

      Find someplace else if that’s the only poor input you have to a substantive post, with f-boms.

  6. Dave C. on March 13, 2010 at 19:51

    I think the case for sexual exclusivity in humans can be tied to the amount of effort required to raise a healthy and well adjusted Homo sapien.

    Many of the animals in the world must be able to perform the majority of their life functions within hours of being born. All that remains is to grow bigger and become sexually active. The parents’ job tapers off quickly, and they need little help from a mate.

    Humans however, are basically helpless for years after birth. A mother that has a mate she can expect to stick around, and not have to devote extra resources to another family unit that he fathered, is probably more likely to raise a child to healthy adulthood.

  7. Chaohinon on March 13, 2010 at 23:28

    I’ve found that intelligence tends to split into a couple different pathways. There are plenty of very intelligent people who are overly concerned with rules, social norms, and obedience to authority, and those tend to be much better with stiff subjects like mathematics, physics, chemistry, etc.

    Inversely, I’ve always done really well with broader subjects like psychology, literature, sociology, and whatnot, meanwhile I can barely do two-digit subtraction in my head without resorting to counting fingers. The same goes for a lot of other anarchists I’ve talked to, and I can’t remember ever meeting a seriously anti-authoritarian thinker who kicks ass at calculus.

    And interestingly enough, the two autistic people I’ve gotten to know have sickeningly authoritarian political beliefs (one a technocratic stalinist, and the other a so-called “libertarian” who is virulently pro-war, anti-gay, etc.).

    This is all conjecture, though, take with many heaping spoonfuls of salt.

  8. scott miller on March 14, 2010 at 14:56

    Richard, I think we are pretty much on the same page with a LOT of our views — especially if you’ve seen some of my facebook posts the last few weeks! haha

    I have just finished a new book that I cannot recommend highly enough: The Faith Instinct. This is a purely scientific look at the evolution of religion. In effect, humans are hardwired for religion is the same way we’re hardwired for language, because it imparts a significant survival advantage for hunter-gatherer groups. In effect, humans outgrew the alpha male group leadership system of our primate ancestors, and needed a higher socialistic moral glue. Religion to the rescue, which is merely a higher evolved state of moralistic genetic coding. (Moral coding is easy to spot by primatologists.)

    The irony, of course, is that while evolution is responsible for religion, most religions dispute evolution. (That’s like disputing the Earth is a sphere, but that’s another topic.)

    Check it out:

  9. Nigel on March 14, 2010 at 01:01

    I often wish that humans behaved more like Bonobos than Chimpanzees. We’d be too shagged-out to get aggro, fight over stupid shit and start wars. Mind you, we’d probably be too shagged-out to invent anything as well!

  10. Jeffrey Quick on March 14, 2010 at 03:48

    “men who screw around on their wives or committed relationships are weak pussies unless all is out in the open and everyone is game, which is rare and probably irrational, which’ll come home to roost eventually.”

    I’ve had a certain amount of experience with open marriage, including a wife (not the current one) with connections to Family Synergy, an organization dedicated to doing polyamory right. My conclusion is the same as yours: we aren’t built for it. “We”Americans (sorry for the collective) have spent about 50 years trying to figure sex out for ourselves instead of relying on the Word of God (or wisdom of the ancestors, if you must), and the result, combined with government-subsidized reproduction, has been an absolute disaster. Folks who try to be rational about sex will end up rationalizing with their little head, and doing bogus crap like shagging their married acolytes for a decade or so.

  11. Manveer Claire on March 14, 2010 at 17:04

    Marriage is really no different then prostitution. The man providing the meat, is the one getting laid. With condoms, and women being able to fend for themselves by shopping at a grocery store, I don’t think sexual exclusivity is necessary anymore. The reason it did exist in ancient times, was to aid in the raising of a baby. Love was a pretty good guarantee that the man would stick around to help care for the baby.

    Sexual exclusivity did exist for the purposes of raising children, but once the child was able to take care of itself, not sure if the couple would have stayed together or not…Probably not.

  12. JLB on March 14, 2010 at 21:48

    I consider the marriage relationship unique in it’s intimacy, sophistication, interdependence, and vulnerability [both emotional and actual].

    Imo, the ability to navigate those waters successfully might be a better test of intelligence than any rule of measure I could contrive.

    • Dave C. on March 15, 2010 at 05:55

      That is very insightful JLB.

  13. Chris on March 15, 2010 at 01:22

    IQ seems to test one very specific form of intelligence. I think there are other types of intelligence that are perhaps less well understood and testable. I have some carpenter and plumber friends whose academics are terrible, yet they are very engaging in conversation and well-versed on the world, how things work, current affairs, etc. And they can explain these things to you in short, practical terms. I also know people who probably also have low IQs, yet can ‘read’ and understand people and people issues to an amazing standard.

    On the flipside, I bet everyone reading this blog knows at least one person who is academically brilliant, yet when faced with a practical scenario, offers an idiotic, impractical solution.

  14. Alex Garrett on March 15, 2010 at 12:48


    Are you familiar with the cultural phenomenon called ‘Game’. It was popularized by Neil Straus in his best seller ‘The Game’ and by the pick-up guru “Mystery” on his VH-1 show. Game is supposedly entirely based on evolutionary psychology and some of its premises are that women have been wired by evolution to be hypergamous and polygamous – i.e. to seek out the best alpha males that they can get with their youth and beauty while they have it. Its view of women is that they are not “the better half” or the half that “tames men” but that it is men who tame women. Essentially these EvPsych influenced people are saying that women are biologically influenced to be somewhat soulless and very promiscuous. The whole point of Game is to push men away from the pedestal they have placed women on; to “flip the script” and play mind games to trigger female attraction for those ruthless, hardened alpha males that they love so much.

    A big Game blogger is Roissy in DC. Here is a typical post of his on this subject:

    So this evolutionary based community (a paleo-type community focused on using evolution to score with women) would reach a conclusion different than yours. I’m curious as to your opinion on that.

    • Richard Nikoley on March 17, 2010 at 09:59

      Interesting stuff. I was not familiar with it.

      I dunno. It all strikes me as a bit immature; something young, unserious, good looking people might be attracted to. I was pretty promiscuous in my 20s, including a few affairs with women who had steady, committed relationships with other guys.

      But I gradually became more serious about life and relationships and grew in understanding about building something meaningful over time.

      While I believe women can be every bit as “sleazy” as men, I reject the notion that it applies generally.

    • anand srivastava on March 18, 2010 at 03:20

      I don’t think it really makes that much sense. Women invest a lot more into a child than a man, so they need to look out for a man who will be willing to invest a lot in her, to leave her before the child grows. So they have every reason to look for a male that are not just healthy, but have a tendency to stay with one woman for long.

      This must get coded in the genes. We also observe in our society that women are the ones looking for men who will marry, and men are mostly looking for fun. Ofcourse there are always exceptions.

  15. Timothy on March 15, 2010 at 15:21

    This is a fascinating study, and to me it suggests a correlation between intelligence and low time preference.

    Animals have high time preference: they eat the tasty food in front of them, shag the available mate, live in the moment because tomorrow they may die (if they can even conceive of a tomorrow). Humans have the option of low time preference: we can choose to forego a perceived benefit now in exchange for a greater perceived benefit in the uncertain future.

    Atheism, monogamy, and liberalism strike me as examples of foregoing a near-term benefit for the sake of something longer-term. Atheists exchange a comforting and popular set of fables for a lonely search for the truth which may not pay off for many years, if ever. Monogamists sublimate their sexual urges in favor of a stronger relationship with their mate, the better to survive future trials to come. Liberals sacrifice their short-term self-interest in pursuit of a more just social order that may be many lifetimes away (if it even exists — depends on whether we’re talking about the 20th century or 19th century definition of “liberal”).

    The man who reaches for the marshmallow, then realizes that he’d be better off in an hour if he didn’t eat it and takes his hand away, is an intelligent man. He understands his long-term interest and has the cognitive prowess to override his instincts when they are contrary.

  16. Dr. Bob on March 15, 2010 at 17:57

    As someone who gives IQ tests for a living (and is a far-left, married anarchist myself!), I figured I should chime in. Is everyone familiar with the concept of reification? It is a fancy cocktail party word that means making a thing by believing in it. The value of money, God, the success of homeopathic remedies all depend on a group of people believing in them; stop the belief, and the thing disappears. Intelligence with a capital I is pretty much in this same category, as we all have our own ideas (influenced by experience, culture, gender, political affiliation, etc.) what it is, but we use the word as if we all “get” it in the same way. More to the point, IQ tests are called Intelligence tests because the people who make them want to call them that. They are designed for – and are pretty good at – predicting a person’s success in a typical American middle class classroom. THAT’S IT. As you can imagine, if a company called their test the Matthew’s Test of Predicting School Achievement, that company would probably sell fewer tests than the ones called Anderson’s Measure of Intelligence. Some companies call their instruments tests of cognitive ability, but they are way less popular. No measure of physical coordination, survival skills, musical ability, sense of humor, people skills, introspection, connection to the natural world, etc. Just school stuff, which the makers and givers of these tests (as well as the primary consumers of teachers and other school employees) are good at, and thus value. I myself value them as tools to modify academic instruction to help a child succeed, but I wish I didn’t have to provide a numerical score to do that, especially since people think a person with a score of 120 is SMARTER than a person with a score of 100, which is simply wrong. (Incidentally, one response to the whole Bell Curve crowd is that, yes, Black people actually DO have lower IQ scores than Whites, who score lower than Asians; either the tests are biased in the same way our schools are, or the tests need improving.) Keep in mind that 100 years ago, people were filling skulls with buckshot to measure this crap. You can bet your ass that 100 years from now people will look at our methods as pretty lame, unless the film Idiocracy comes true. Sorry to go on for so long, but I could create a test called Bob’s Intelligence Test, and just flip a coin and yell, “Call it!” That could be an intelligence test; a terrible, useless one, but I made it, so I get to name it. Hope this helps.

  17. Barbara on March 15, 2010 at 21:09

    Yes, “Dr.” Bob is a leftist, that self-descriptor is true, I’m persuaded. The remainder of his long post is feckless and not-remotely-accurate rambling, alas. Perhaps we loyal followers of this website should limit ourselves to our experiences with nutrition and diet and avoid the pitfalls (and annoyances) of other arguments that are beyond the expertise of most of us. There are thousands of political and cultural websites to argue about atheism vs. theism, IQ differences between races and political segments, sexual exclusivity and other matters. I come here — and have sent many others — to be inspired and motivated to improve my health and appearance via the food I consume and the physical activity I practice. Please don’t wreck my enthusiasm for Free the Animal. (BTW, Satoshi Kanazawa’s study conclusions may be flawed too, due to methodological lapses being pointed out by others in the field. It perhaps should not yet be considered the last word.)

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