Friday, February 26, 2010

Here We Go Again . . .

Oh, the funny things people think they believe.

Take this, for example. This is a study done by someone somewhere -- at the London School of Economics and Political Science -- claims that individuals who identify themselves as liberal or atheist have higher IQs than those who identify themselves as conservative or religious.

The study comes with a big caveat, however, that most people are sure to ignore.

Caveat: 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, they're smarter, on average. But not incredibly so.

Funny thing is, as soon as the "experts" say this, the expert conducting the study makes some pretty stupid assumptions and pushes forth some rather stupid stereotypes of folks who believe.

First, this:

Religion, the current theory goes, did not help people survive or reproduce necessarily, but goes along the lines of helping people to be paranoid, Kanazawa said. Assuming that, for example, a noise in the distance is a signal of a threat helped early humans to prepare in case of danger.

"It helps life to be paranoid, and because humans are paranoid, they become more religious, and they see the hands of God everywhere," Kanazawa said

So religion stems from paranoia? Really? That's a rather shaky assumption, and is a stereotype of religious people. I know a lot of religious people and while there are paranoids among the religious, I think it's a fair bet to say that there are plenty of paranoids amongst those who do not believe.

Then there are the stereotypes and assumptions being tossed around on those who are liberal and atheist:

"The adoption of some evolutionarily novel ideas makes some sense in terms of moving the species forward," said George Washington University leadership professor James Bailey, who was not involved in the study. "It also makes perfect sense that more intelligent people -- people with, sort of, more intellectual firepower -- are likely to be the ones to do that."

Bailey also said that these preferences may stem from a desire to show superiority or elitism, which also has to do with IQ. In fact, aligning oneself with "unconventional" philosophies such as liberalism or atheism may be "ways to communicate to everyone that you're pretty smart," he said.

So liberals are the only ones pushing progress forward, and they do so because they want to demonstrate their superiority and elitism? Well, there may be those in this category who display these traits. The same can be said about the religious and the conservative. Unless, of course, you're a paranoid liberal atheist who sees conservatism and religion destroying everything you hold dear. Maybe there are a few folks like that out there. But not all conservatives nor are all believers the Bible-thumping, freedom-barring people maybe the writer of this piece wants us to believe.

There's too much seeking for absolutes, too much pigeonholing, too much looking for the black and white in a world that is rainbow-hued.

Take me, for example. I'm a believer. For the area in which I live, I'm liberal. Whenever those "test your political leanings" tests come out, I take them and consistently score more on the liberal side than I do the conservative side. But I'm not paranoid. I'm not trying to prove myself superior, or to thump the Bible or anything else like that.

It's too bad, then, that the liberals will use this study to show off their poorer evolutionary traits: elitism, snobism, putting down those who don't believe as they do. I can say all that as long as we're tossing around the stereotypes, can't I?

It also doesn't help that folks who are good with numbers can make them say whatever they want. We've seen that in Climategate. (Yes, heap on the stereotypes, then consider that I think we still need to be doing things now to stop carbon emissions, but I sure wish the scientists pushing this agenda had done so in a much more ethical and scientifically-sound manner than it appears they have.)

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