Robin Hanson links to another gated academic publication, all the more frustrating due to its eye-catching title: “Why Liberals and Atheists are More Intelligent.” In a study conducted by evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa, it is asserted that the more intelligent are better able to grasp the counter-intuitive appeal of both an expanding role for sympathy for non-kin and a universe without an intentional agent – God – at the helm. Evolutionarily novel ideas like atheism are more difficult to grasp, and thus positively correlated with higher intelligence (unless you’re merely signaling, something the study mentions). This explanation is itself fairly intuitive, to me at least, making me wonder if someone more intelligent than myself might run circles around my inferior intelligence with an explanation that either coincidentally coincides with the claims of those stupider than myself, or is entirely novel.

Some argue that liberals seem unable to grasp the lack of agency in economic matters, i.e. that they are believers in “economic creationism.” But economist Stephen Miller, writing in Critical Review (sorry, also gated, but ask me if you’d like it), shows that conservatives are more free-market oriented only relative to liberals.  With data drawn from the GSS over nearly a 20 year period, a majority of conservatives agreed positively with the idea of government subsidies for job creation (including “jobs programs”); the notion that business managers care not for what workers want or need (so much for incentives); and that government should control electricity prices, among other things.  I believe it was Edward Glaeser who claimed that opposition to the welfare state among conservatives was rooted in a sense of the state’s opposition (crowding out) of religious institutions.  Being for a free market is bound up in being anti-state in the American political discussion, and thus being pro-religion is a happenstance compliment to being pro-market.  It doesn’t come from conservatives being uniquely resistant to economic creationism, as the survey data suggests.

It’s understandable that economic creationism would stem from a similar mental space as creationism proper, but that for (more intelligent?) liberals the idea of substituting a body of regulators for God is fallacious because God is supposedly omnipresent and omnipotent, whereas regulators can glean from a body of social science the proper path to piecemeal engineering ala Karl Popper.  So no, economic creationism is not on par with the creationism, even if the impulse to believe in either is erroneous.

Hanson notes that the study shows increased intelligence correlated with both atheism and male sexual exclusivity. But the Inductivist gives survey evidence to the contrary, showing religious skeptics to be less faithful. Any dishonesty on the part of survey respondents presumably holds across both the study and the survey. If either group of researchers were to employ the use of lie detectors it’d be Kanazawa’s, but that didn’t happen.

Addendum: I’m editing an audio interview I did with Slavisa Tasic, contributor to the newest issue of Critical Review entitled “The Age of Uncertainty,” which I hope to have online soon. See the link for a description of his article.