December 5th, 2010



At three months of age, infant Moses was adopted into a royal family at the peak of artifical cranial deformation "fashion" among the Egyptian royalty. E.g., pharaoh Akhenaten and his family all had their heads elongated. Perhaps Moses looked like this:

It is said that this procedure increases the cranial capacity over 3000 cm3.

There will be no other prophet like Moses. Moses made certain of that.

Inca skulls

Why smart people are lacking in common sense. In two acts.

Three wise men of Gotham,
They went to sea in a bowl,
And if the bowl had been stronger
My song had been longer.

Act 1. High IQ as a medical condition.

...intelligent people with high levels of technical ability are seen (by the majority of the rest of the population) as having foolish ideas and behaviours outside the realm of their professional expertise. It has often been observed that high IQ types are lacking in 'common sense'--and especially when it comes to dealing with other human beings. 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.
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Act 2. Social idiocy as a costly signal of altruism.

...A controversial hypothesis has recently been proposed to account for why individuals of high-IQ and high social status tend to hold counter-intuitive views on social phenomena. It is claimed that these ‘clever sillies’ use their high general intelligence and Openness to Experience to overanalyze social problems for which socially intelligent/common sense responses would seemingly be more appropriate. The first three sections of this review will consider i) the relationship between general and social intelligence; ii) the role of situational effects on the direction of the correlation between IQ and political attitudes; iii) the behavioral ecology of competitive altruism. Sophisticated although ultimately non-rational subjective analyses of social phenomena (i.e. ones that are disconfirmed by data, or reject empiricism) do seem to be favored by individuals in certain high-IQ knowledge work sectors. It is suggested that these function as costly signals of altruism, and that their popularity can best be understood in light of the theory that social attitudes are fundamentally influenced by perceptions of dominance and counter-dominance, with the latter playing an especially significant role in influencing the values systems of contemporary societies where the degree of conspicuous inequality is significantly evolutionarily novel. doi:10.1016/j.intell.2010.06.002

First, a smart theory that smart people are deficient in common sense that is lacking in common sense. Then smart criticism of this smart theory lacking in common sense even more but in this way brilliantly proving the first theory. Then...