Are liberals more intelligent than conservatives? Perhaps - although you can't prove it from the dubious evidence provided by evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa of the London School of Economics and Political Science, who rose to some prominence for a day or two after he appeared to have suggested that he had.
For some liberals, the mere suggestion made it a newsworthy event. "In new research bound to irk conservative geniuses," the Toronto Star reported, "people with high IQs are deemed more likely to be liberal than those who are less intelligent." Actually, this assertion was what the controversial Dr. Kanazawa wanted to prove. What he did prove was something quite different: that liberals and conservatives are both approximately as intelligent as everyone else.
Using data from IQ tests given to U.S. high-school students, Dr. Kanazawa asked the same students, a decade later, to rate their religious and political beliefs. The individuals who described themselves as "not at all religious" had, as students, an average IQ of 103. The individuals who described themselves as "very religious" had, as students, an average IQ of 97. In the same way, the "very liberal" cohort had an average IQ of 106; the "very conservative" cohort an average IQ of 95.
Now it is quite correct to say that 103 is a higher number than 96 and that 106 is a higher number than 95. But it is not correct to say that any of these numbers implies "high IQs," as the Star reported. By definition, IQ scores between 90 and 109 indicate average intelligence. You would need a group average above 120 to suggest significant intellectual superiority. Since 50 per cent of the population has an average IQ score, Dr. Kanazawa has proven only that young people with average IQs grow up to be liberals and conservatives with average IQs.
This does not prove that liberals - especially young ones - are more intelligent than conservatives. As variously expressed by George Bernard Shaw, Benjamin Disraeli, Otto von Bismarck and Sir Winston Churchill, liberalism is the default ideology of smart young people. If you're not a liberal when you're young, you have no heart, one or more of these famous gentlemen reportedly said - and if you're not a conservative when you're older, you have no brain. Churchill himself matured erratically: a conservative at 15, a liberal at 35, and a conservative again at 50, in time to save Western civilization from the Nazis.
In his other research, Dr. Kanazawa has used a consistent approach. He analyzes modern behaviour in three ways: (1) by assessing the evolutionary status of the human brain 10,000 years ago; (2) by assessing it 100,000 years ago; and (3) by assessing it one million years ago. He believes one of these options explains everything. As he puts it: "Our thoughts, feelings and behaviour are produced not only by our individual experiences and environment in our own lifetime, but by what happened to our ancestors millions of years ago." If Stone Age brain won't explain it, Pleistocene brain will.
By Dr. Kanazawa's analysis, it was 10,000 years ago that humans divided into two groups - one that favoured foreign aid, one that didn't. The generous trait produced the superior intelligence that has characterized liberals to the present day.
From this perspective, conservatives were the brutes whose limited brains restricted them to hunting and procreation. Liberals were the intellectual elite, the thinkers who understood complex security risks - such as lightning. These proto-liberals alone could deal with such "evolutionarily novel" circumstances. You might have thought that even conservatives would have known enough to get out of a storm.
You have to concede one thing. Conservatives do a good imitation of liberals. Copious American research indicates that conservatives donate more of their incomes to strangers than liberals. Perhaps conservatives are narrowing the gap. Perhaps, alternatively, "caring" is no longer necessary an evolutionary objective.
Dr. Kanazawa explains every mystery - why most suicide bombers are Muslim, why blondes have more fun, why sexual harassment at work isn't sexist - by asserting as fact things that could have been known only by cave men and cave women: Martyrdom really is about the 72 virgins, Barbie is the perfect Neolithic 10 and men have always treated each other equally crudely.
The real question isn't what humanoids knew a million years ago. It's what they have learned since.