Monday, 30 November 2009

Conscience in science

First and second things, and the operations of conscience in science

Bruce G. Charlton

Medical Hypotheses. 2010; Volume 74: Pages 1-3



Why is modern science less efficient than it used to be, why has revolutionary science declined, and why has science become so dishonest? One plausible explanation behind these observations comes from an essay First and second things published by CS Lewis. First Things are the goals that are given priority as the primary and ultimate aim in life. Second Things are subordinate goals or aims – which are justified in terms of the extent to which they assist in pursuing First Things. The classic First Thing in human society is some kind of religious or philosophical world view. Lewis regarded it as a ‘universal law’ that the pursuit of a Second Thing as if it was a First Thing led inevitably to the loss of that Second Thing: ‘You can’t get second things by putting them first; you can get second things only by putting first things first’. I would argue that the pursuit of science as a primary value will lead to the loss of science, because science is properly a Second Thing. Because when science is conceptualized as a First Thing the bottom-line or operational definition of ‘correct behaviour’ is approval and high status within the scientific community. However, this does nothing whatsoever to prevent science drifting-away from its proper function; and once science has drifted then the prevailing peer consensus will tend to maintain this state of corruption. I am saying that science is a Second Thing, and ought to be subordinate to the First Thing of transcendental truth. Truth impinges on scientific practice in the form of individual conscience (noting that, of course, the strength and validity of conscience varies between scientists). When the senior scientists, whose role is to uphold standards, fail to posses or respond-to informed conscience, science will inevitably go rotten from the head downwards. What, then, motivates a scientist to act upon conscience? I believe it requires a fundamental conviction of the reality and importance of truth as an essential part of the basic purpose and meaning of life. Without some such bedrock moral underpinning, there is little possibility that individual scientific conscience would ever have a chance of holding-out against an insidious drift toward corruption enforced by peer consensus.


"You can’t get second things by putting them first; you can get second things only by putting first things first." C.S. Lewis. First and second things.

Why is modern science less efficient than it used to be [1], why has revolutionary science declined [2], and why has science become so dishonest? [3] One plausible explanation behind these observations comes from an essay published by CS Lewis in 1942: First and second things [4].

First Things are the goals that are given priority, by a person or a group, as the primary and ultimate aim in life. They are the bottom line in which terms other things are justified. Second Things are subordinate goals or aims – which are justified in terms of the extent to which they assist in pursuing First Things.

The classic First Thing in human society is some kind of transcendental world view – whether religious (such as Judaism or Christianity) or philosophical (such as Platonism or Stoicism). As examples of First Things, Lewis states about earlier societies ‘they cared at different times for all sorts of things, the will of God, for glory, for personal honour, for doctrinal purity, for justice.’

If these are examples of ‘First Things’ then in such a society science would be regarded as a Second Thing: science would ultimately be justified in terms of its assisting in the pursuit of the First Thing. So in a society where the will of God was primary for almost everyone, science would be pursued insofar as it was seen (overall and on average) to further the will of God. But in a society where science was the First Thing, then science would be pursued without further justification, and other societal pursuits would need to justify themselves in term of enhancing the goals of science.

Superficially, it sounds as though science would work better if it was a First Thing – freed from external constraints such as religion – and that such a ‘science first’ world would be a marvellous place to work as a scientist! And, for a while, it was...

But the essential nature of the most developed societies (e.g. of the USA, UK, Europe, East Asia) is that there is no single First Thing: not science, and not anything else [5]. Instead there are now only Second Things, pursued independently of each other. So the social systems – such as science, the arts, politics, public administration, law, the military, education, the mass media – are substantially independent and lack a common language. This is the idea of modernity, of a society based upon increasing autonomy of increasingly-specialized social systems.

The driving force behind modernity is increasing efficiency by means of functional differentiation, a general version of the principle that complexity is necessary to increased efficiency [5]. In its first formulation, in economics, it was noticed by Adam Smith that division of labour can lead to greater productivity [6]. At a societal level modern societies were conceptualized by Niklas Luhmann in terms that their continual functional differentiation enables all social systems to grow by increase in productivity but that no social system has priority over the others [7]. In Lewis’s terms there is no overall First Thing, but instead each social system is a First Thing for itself.

The problem with this conceptualization is to understand how all these First Things are integrated and coordinated. My earlier answer to this was to assume a kind of mutual regulation of a mosaic type, so that each social system is regulated by some others but none has overall control [5]. For instance, science depends on the educational system for expert manpower, the political system for peace, the economic system for resources etc. Then, in turn, the economic system depends on science for technological innovations and on the political system for international treaties and so on – with each system acting as a pressure group for some of the others, exerting influence to ensure that the other systems holds to their necessary functions and do not become too inefficient; thereby (I hoped!) this mosaic of mutual power and response acts to hold the whole society together [5].

I now find this proposed mechanism insufficient to ensure a stable society. It seems more likely that self-beneficial, even parasitic, change and growth within specific social systems has the potential to be much more rapid and parasitic than the evolution of mutual accommodation and symbiosis between autonomous systems that might ensure overall societal growth. Therefore, I would now expect a society of highly autonomous and rapidly-growing social systems that is lacking an overall First Thing to be much less cohesive and much more prone to collapse than I used to believe.

Another way of framing this issue is to ask what maintains the integrity of science. In other words, what keeps science pointing in the right direction, pursuing properly scientific goals as its main aim; and within the pursuit of these goals what keeps science honest in its internal dealings? In short, we need to understand the mechanism(s) that prevent science from becoming corrupt in the face of a continual tendency for short-termist and selfish behaviour to undermine cooperation and functionality. (This is the core problem which must be solved to enable the evolution of complex systems [5].)

My old idea [5] was that science would be kept honest and efficient by pressure from the main users of science – for example, engineers would keep physicists honest, agriculturalists would keep botanists honest, doctors would keep medical scientists honest, and so on. Yet science has, I now realize, become corrupted anyway [2], [3], [8] and [9] – which means that either these corrective mechanisms are non-existent, too slow or too weak.

In general, when people notice corruption of science they appeal to the idea that science ought to be a First Thing – the ‘Humboldtian’ ideal of disinterested pursuit of knowledge ‘for its own sake’. However, this is a mistake if in reality science ought to be a Second Thing, and not a First Thing; if it is only by remaining a Second Thing that science can avoid being corrupted. Indeed, Lewis regarded it as a ‘universal law’ that the pursuit of a Second Thing as if it was a First Thing led inevitably to the loss of that Second Thing: ‘You can’t get second things by putting them first; you can get second things only by putting first things first’ [4].

Lewis’s example (writing during World War Two) was that the Western Civilization had been putting the value of ‘civilization’ first for the last thirty years. He regarded civilization as including ‘Peace, a high standard of life, hygiene, transport, science and amusement’ – and as a result Western civilization had come very close to losing all these things. So, pursuit of civilization as a First Thing very nearly led to the loss of civilization. In particular Lewis focused on how pacifism, or pursuit of peace as a First Thing, had been a major contributor to the occurrence and destructiveness of World War Two: ‘I think many would now agree that a foreign policy dominated by desire for peace is one of the many roads that lead to war’ [4].

The idea, then, is that the pursuit of science as a primary value will lead to the loss of science, because science is properly a Second Thing.

This may happen because when science is conceptualized as a First Thing the bottom-line or operational definition of ‘correct behaviour’ is achieving approval and high status within the scientific community. Science as a First Thing is judged by scientists only – so success is winning the esteem of colleagues. And this amounts to the scientist seeking conformity with the prevailing peer consensus – either immediately, or over the longer time span of their career.

However, by this First Thing conceptualization of science, there is nothing whatsoever to prevent science drifting-away from its original function, from its proper mission. Real science is replaced by the infinite varieties of self-seeking among scientists. And once science has drifted, and a sufficient proportion of scientists are no longer seeking-truth nor speaking-truth, then the prevailing peer consensus will tend maintain this corrupt situation. So that a scientist seeking the esteem of his colleagues will himself need to abandon truth-seeking and truth-speaking.

The alternative conceptualization is for each scientist to regard science as a Second Thing, and for the individual scientist to evaluate his work and its context in terms of their contribution to transcendental truth [3]. When he regards the prevailing peer consensus as having diverged from truth in this transcendental sense, then the scientist may feel duty-bound to seek his own personal understanding of truth, and communicating what he personally regards as the truth, even when this conflicts with prevailing consensus and leads to lowered esteem among scientific colleagues and harms his career.

So, I am saying that science is a Second Thing, and the First Thing ought to be transcendental truth. A formulation of transcendental truth would be an attempted description of the nature of ultimate reality. But it may seem unclear how such a remote and abstract concept could affect scientific practice in real life situations. One answer would be that transcendental truth impinges on scientific practice in the form of conscience. In other words, transcendental truth in science could be ‘operationally-defined’ as the subjective workings of conscience in a scientist.

Conscience seems to be indicative of the First Thing as understood and appreciated in practice by an individual – and when science is a Second Thing, conscience is located outside of science, and science is judged by standards outside of science [3]. Conscience about First Things makes itself felt in science as an inner sense of the nature of reality; such as the nagging doubts and persistent suspicions which afflict a scrupulous scientist when he feels that the consensus of his scientific colleagues is wrong. He has reservations about the validity of prevailing idea of truth, and hunches that he personally has a better idea of the truth than the majority of his powerful scientific peers.

In saying that conscience is the operational definition of transcendental truth, it is important to note that the strength and validity of conscience varies between scientists. Some scientists are unscrupulous and have no conscience to speak of; while other scientists are so inexperienced – or lacking in requisite knowledge or skill – that their conscience with regard to truth is unreliable. And while all scientists need to listen to their conscience, the main consciences of relevance to science are those of the scientific leadership; those whose own behaviour serves as a model for more junior scientists; and those scientists who are themselves responsible for choosing, educating, employing and promoting scientific personnel. It is primarily the senior scientists whose job is to uphold ethical standards, to enforce incentives and sanctions. If (and when) scientific leaders are lacking in informed conscience, or ignore the promptings of conscience, then science will inevitably go rotten from the head downwards [3,10].

Having a conscience about truth is the first step – but what motivates a scientist to listen to his conscience and act upon it? Firstly, if science is regarded as being in service to truth, then ideals of truth might enforce conscience. But then, what is so important about ‘truth’? And the final answer to all that, would be a fundamental conviction that truth is an essential part of what we conceive to be ‘the good’ – in other words the basic purpose and meaning of life. This has the corollary that if a person does not actually have a concept of the basic purpose and meaning of life – then their world view will intrinsically be lacking any firm ground on which they can stand in a situation where the pursuit of truth causes here-and-now disadvantage.

In this respect, science is paradoxically stronger when a Second Thing than as a First Thing. Because science is stronger when science is embedded in the larger value of truth, and when truth is embedded in the still-larger value of a concept of the good life. Of course, not all concepts of the good life will be equally supportive of good science; indeed some transcendental concepts are anti-scientific.

However, without an ultimate, bedrock moral underpinning of some kind, then there seems no possibility that individual scientific conscience would ever have a chance of holding-out against the insidious drift toward corruption enforced by peer consensus.

[1] J. Ziman, Real science, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK (2000).

[2] Smolin L. The trouble with physics. London: Allen Lane Penguin; 2006.

[3] B.G. Charlton, The vital role of transcendental truth in science, Med Hypotheses 72 (2009), pp. 373–376.

[4] C.S. Lewis, First and second things. In: W. Hooper, Editor, First and second things: essays on theology and ethics, Collins, Fount, London (1985), pp. 19–24.

[5] Charlton B, Andras P. The modernization imperative. Imprint Academic: Exeter 2003.

[6] A. Smith, The wealth of nations, London, Dent (1910) [originally published 1776–7].

[7] N. Luhmann, Social systems, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, USA (1995).

[8] B.G. Charlton and A. Miles, The rise and fall of EBM, QJM 91 (1998), pp. 371–374.

[9] Healy D. Let them eat Prozac. New York University Press: NY, USA; 2004.

[10] B.G. Charlton and Figureheads, ghost-writers and pseudonymous quant bloggers: the recent evolution of authorship in science publishing, Med Hypotheses 71 (2008), pp. 475–480.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Clever Sillies - Why the high IQ lack common sense

Clever sillies: Why high IQ people tend to be deficient in common sense
Bruce G. Charlton

Medical Hypotheses. 2009;73: 867-870.


In previous editorials I have written about the absent-minded and socially-inept ‘nutty professor’ stereotype in science, and the phenomenon of ‘psychological neoteny’ whereby intelligent modern people (including scientists) decline to grow-up and instead remain in a state of perpetual novelty-seeking adolescence. These can be seen as specific examples of the general phenomenon of ‘clever sillies’ whereby 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. In short, 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. Hence the phenomenon of ‘political correctness’ (PC); whereby false and foolish ideas have come to dominate, and moralistically be enforced upon, the ruling elites of whole nations.


IQ and evolved problem-solving

On the whole, and all else being equal, in modern societies the higher a person’s general intelligence (as measured by the intelligence quotient or IQ), the better will be life for that person; since higher intelligence leads (among other benefits) to higher social status and salary, longer life expectancy and better health [1], [2], [3], [4] and [5]. However, at the same time, it has been recognized for more than a century that increasing IQ is biologically-maladaptive because there is an inverse relationship between IQ and fertility [6], [7] and [8]. Under modern conditions, therefore, high intelligence is fitness-reducing.

In the course of exploring this modern divergence between social-adaptation and biological-adaptation, Satoshi Kanazawa has made the insightful observation that a high level of general intelligence is mainly useful in dealing with life problems which are an evolutionary novelty. By contrast, performance in solving problems which were a normal part of human life in the ancestral hunter–gatherer era may not be helped (or may indeed be hindered) by higher IQ [9] and [10].

(This statement requires a qualification. When a person has suffered some form of brain damage, or a pathology affecting brain function, then this might well produce generalized impairment of cognition: reducing both general intelligence and other forms of evolved cognitive functioning, depending on the site and extent of the brain pathology. Since a population with low IQ would include some whose IQ had been lowered by brain pathology, the average level of social intelligence or common sense would probably also be lower in this population. This confounding effect of brain pathology would be expected to create a weak and non-causal statistical correlation between IQ and social intelligence/common sense, a correlation that would mainly be apparent at low levels of IQ.)

As examples of how IQ may help with evolutionary novelties, it has been abundantly-demonstrated that increasing measures of IQ are strongly and positively correlated with a wide range of abilities which require abstract reasoning and rapid learning of new knowledge and skills; such as educational outcomes, and abilities at most complex modern jobs [1], [2], [3], [4], [5] and [11]. Science and mathematics are classic examples of problem-solving activities that arose only recently in human evolutionary history and in which differential ability is very strongly predicted by relative general intelligence [12].

However, there are also many human tasks which our human ancestors did encounter repeatedly and over manifold generations, and natural selection has often produced ‘instinctive’, spontaneous ways of dealing with these. Since humans are social primates, one major such category is social problems, which have to do with understanding, predicting and manipulating the behaviours of other human beings [13], [14], [15] and [16]. Being able to behave adaptively in dealing with these basic human situations is what I will term having ‘common sense’.

Kanazawa’s idea is that there is therefore a contrast between recurring, mainly social problems which affected fitness for our ancestors and for which all normal humans have evolved behavioural responses; and problems which are an evolutionary novelty but which have a major impact on individual functioning in the context of modern societies [9] and [10]. When a problem is an evolutionary novelty, individual differences in general intelligence make a big difference to each individual’s abilities to analyze the problem, and learn to how solve it. So, the idea is that having a high IQ would predict a better ability in understanding and dealing with new problems; but higher IQ would not increase the level of a person’s common sense ability to deal with social situations.

IQ not just an ability, but also a disposition

Although general intelligence is usually conceptualized as differences in cognitive ability, IQ is not just about ability but also has personality implications [17].

For example, in some populations there is a positive correlation between IQ and the personality trait of Openness to experience (‘Openness’) [18] and [19]; a positive correlation with ‘enlightened’ or progressive values of a broadly socialist and libertarian type [20]; and a negative correlation with religiousness [21].

So, the greater cognitive ability of higher IQ is also accompanied by a somewhat distinctive high IQ personality type. My suggested explanation for this association is that an increasing level of IQ brings with it an increased tendency to use general intelligence in problem-solving; i.e. to over-ride those instinctive and spontaneous forms of evolved behaviour which could be termed common sense.

The over-use of abstract reasoning may be most obvious in the social domain, where normal humans are richly equipped with evolved psychological mechanisms both for here-and-now interactions (e.g. rapidly reading emotions from facial expression, gesture and posture, and speech intonation) and for ‘strategic’ modelling of social interactions to understand predict and manipulate the behaviour of others [16]. Social strategies deploy inferred knowledge about the dispositions, motivations and intentions of others. When the most intelligent people over-ride the social intelligence systems and apply generic, abstract and systematic reasoning of the kind which is enhanced among higher IQ people, they are ignoring an ‘expert system’ in favour of a non-expert system.

In suggesting that the most intelligent people tend to use IQ to over-ride common sense I am unsure of the extent to which this is due to a deficit in the social reasoning ability, perhaps due to a trade-off between cognitive abilities – as suggested by Baron-Cohen’s conceptualization of Asperger’s syndrome, including the male- versus female-type of systematizing/empathizing brain [22]. Or alternatively it could be more of an habitual tendency to over-use abstract analysis, that might (in principle) be overcome by effort or with training. Observing the apparent universality of ‘Silly Clevers’ in modernizing societies, I suspect that a higher IQ bias towards over-utilizing abstract reasoning would probably turn-out to be innate and relatively stable.

Indeed, I suggest that higher levels of the personality trait of Openness in higher IQ people may the flip-side of this over-use of abstraction. I regard Openness as the result of deploying abstract analysis for social problems to yield unstable and unpredictable results, when innate social intelligence would tend to yield predictable and stable results. This might plausibly underlie the tendency of the most intelligent people in modernizing societies to hold ‘left-wing’ political views [10] and [20].

I would argue that neophilia (or novelty-seeking) is a driving attribute of the personality trait of Openness; and a disposition common in adolescents and immature adults who display what I have termed ‘psychological neoteny’ [23] and [24]. When problems are analyzed using common sense ‘instincts’ the evaluative process would be expected to lead to the same answers in all normal humans, and these answers are likely to be stable over time. But when higher IQ people ignore or over-ride common sense, they generate a variety of uncommon ideas. Since these ideas are only feebly-, or wholly un-, supported by emotions; they are held more weakly than common sense ideas, and so are more likely to change over time.

For instance, a group of less intelligent people using instinctive social intelligence to analyze a social situation will presumably reach the same traditional conclusion as everyone else and this conclusion will not change with time; while a more intelligent group might by contrast use abstract analysis and generate a wider range of novel and less-compelling solutions. This behaviour appears as if motivated by novelty-seeking.

Applying abstract analysis to social situations might be seen as ‘creative’, and indeed Openness has been put forward as the major personality trait which supports creativity [19] and [25]. This is reasonable in the sense that an intellectual high in Openness would be likely to disregard common sense, and to generate multiple, unpredictable and unfamiliar answers to evolutionarily-familiar problems which would only yield a single ‘obvious’ solution to those who deployed evolved modes of intelligence. However, I would instead argue that a high IQ person applying abstract systemizing intelligence to activities which are more usually done by instinctive intelligence is not a truly ‘creative’ process.

Instead, following Eysenck, I would regard true psychological creativity as primarily an associative activity which Eysenck includes as part of the trait Psychoticism; cognitively akin to the ‘primary process’ thinking of sleep, delirium and psychotic illness [26] and [27]. A major difference between these two concepts of creativity is that while ‘Openness creativity’ is abstract, coolly-impartial and as if driven by novelty-seeking (neophilia); ‘Psychoticism creativity’ is validated by emotions: such that the high-Psychoticism creative person is guided by their emotional responses to their own creative production.

Clever sillies in the IQ meritocracy

It therefore seems plausible that the folklore or stereotypical idea of the eccentric, unworldly, absent-minded or obtuse scientist – who is brilliant at their job while being fatuous and incompetent in terms of their everyday life [28], might be the result of this psychological tendency to over-use abstract intelligence and use it in inappropriate situations.

However, there is a further aspect of this phenomenon. Modern societies are characterized by large population, extensive division of labour, and a ‘meritocratic’ form of social organization in which social roles (jobs, occupations) tend to be filled on the basis of educational credentials and job performance rather than on an hereditary basis (as was the case in most societies of the past). This means that in modern societies there is an unprecedented degree of cognitive stratification [29]. Cognitive stratification is the layering of social organization by IQ; such that residence, schooling and occupations are characterized by narrow bands of intelligence. Large modern countries are therefore ruled by concentrations of highly intelligent people in the major social systems such as politics, civil administration, law, science and technology, the mass media and education. Communication in these elites is almost-exclusively among the highly intelligent.

In such an evolutionarily-unprecedented, artificial ‘hothouse’ environment, it is plausible that any IQ-related behaviours are amplified: partly because there is little counter-pressure from the less intelligent people with less neophiliac personalities, and perhaps mainly because there is a great deal of IQ-advertisement. Indeed, it looks very much as if the elites of modern societies are characterized by considerable IQ-signalling [19]. Sometimes this is direct advertisement (e.g. when boasting about intellectual attainments or attendance at highly-selective colleges) and more often the signalling is subtly-indirect when people display the attitudes, beliefs, fashions, manners and hobbies associated with high intelligence. This advertising is probably based on sexual selection [30], if IQ has been a measure of general fitness during human evolutionary history, and was associated with a wide range of adaptive traits [31].

My hunch is that it is this kind of IQ-advertisement which has led to the most intelligent people in modern societies having ideas about social phenomena that are not just randomly incorrect (due to inappropriately misapplying abstract analysis) but are systematically wrong. I am talking of the phenomenon known as political correctness (PC) in which foolish and false ideas have become moralistically-enforced among the ruling intellectual elite. And these ideas have invaded academic, political and social discourse. Because while the stereotypical nutty professor in the hard sciences is a brilliant scientist but silly about everything else; the stereotypical nutty professor social scientist or humanities professor is not just silly about ‘everything else’, but also silly in their professional work.

Getting answers to problems relating to hard science is extremely intellectually-difficult and (because the subject is an evolutionary novelty) necessarily requires abstract reasoning [12] and [26]. Therefore the hard scientist is invariably vastly more competent at their science than the average member of the public, and he has no need to be novelty-seeking in order to advertise his intelligence.

But getting answers to problems in science involving human social behaviour is something which is already done very well by evolved human psychological mechanisms [13], [14], [15] and [16]. In this situation it is difficult to improve on common sense, and – even without being taught – normal people already have a pretty good understanding of human motivations, incentives and deterrents, and the basic cause and effect processes of society. Because psychological and social intelligence expertise is so widespread and adaptive; in order to advertise his intelligence the social scientist must produce something systematically-different from common sense, something novel and (necessarily) counter-intuitive. And because it goes against evolved psychology, in this instance something different is likely to be something wrong. So, the social scientist professional deploying abstract reasoning on social problems is often less likely to generate a correct answer than the average member of the public who is using the common sense of evolved, spontaneous social intelligence.

In the human and social sciences there is therefore a professional incentive to be perversely wrong – to be silly, in other words. And this is indeed what we see. The more that the subject matter of an academic field requires, or depends on, common sense; the sillier it will be.

The results of cognitive stratification and IQ-advertising are therefore bad enough to have destroyed the value of whole domains of the arts and academia, and in the domain of public policy the results have been simply disastrous. Over the past four decades the dishonest fantasy-world discourse of non-biological political correctness has evolved to dominate the intellectual arena of whole nations – perhaps the whole developed world – such that wrong and ridiculous ideas have become not just mainstream, but compulsory.

Because clever silliness is not just one of several competing ideas in the elite arena – it is both intellectually- and moralistically-enforced with such zeal as utterly to exclude alternatives [32]. The first level of defence is that denying a PC assertion is taken as proof of dumbness or derangement; such that flat-denial without refutation is regarded as sufficient response. But the toughest enforcement is moral: anyone smart and sane who disbelieves the silly clever falsehoods and asserts something different is not just denounced as dumb but actually pilloried as evil [33].

I infer that the motivation behind the moralizing venom of political correctness is the fact that spontaneous human instincts are universal and more powerfully-felt than the absurd abstractions of PC; plus the fact that common sense is basically correct while PC is perversely wrong. Hence, at all costs a fair debate must be prevented if the PC consensus is to be protected. Common sense requires to be stigmatized in order that it is neutralized.

Ultimately these manoeuvres serve to defend the power, status and distinctiveness of the intellectual elite [34]. They are socially-adaptive over the short-term, even as they are biologically-maladaptive over the longer-term.


Because evolved ‘common sense’ usually produces the right answers in the social domain, yet the most intelligent people have personalities which over-use abstract analysis in the social domain [9] and [10], this implies that the most intelligent people are predisposed to have silly ideas and to behave maladaptively when it comes to solving social problems.

Ever since the development of cognitive stratification in modernizing societies [29], the clever sillies have been almost monopolistically ‘in charge’. They really are both clever and silly – but the cleverness is abstract while the silliness is focused on the psychological and social domains. Consequently, the fatal flaw of modern ruling elites lies in their lack of common sense – especially the misinterpretations of human psychology and socio-political affairs. My guess is that this lack of common sense is intrinsic and incorrigible – and perhaps biologically-linked with the evolution of high intelligence and the rise of modernity [35].

Stanovich has also described the over-riding of the ‘Darwinian brain’ of autonomous systems by the analytic system, and has identified the phenomenon as underlying modern non-adaptive ethical reasoning [36]. Stanovich has also noted that IQ accounts for much (but not all) of the inter-individual differences in using analytic evaluations; however, Stanovich regards the increased use of abstraction to replace traditional ‘common sense’ very positively, not as ‘silly’ but as a vital aspect of what he interprets as the higher status of modern social morality.

Yet, whatever else, to be a clever silly is a somewhat tragic state; because it entails being cognitively-trapped by compulsive abstraction; unable to engage directly and spontaneously with what most humans have traditionally regarded as psycho-social reality; disbarred from the common experience of humankind and instead cut-adrift on the surface of a glittering but shallow ocean of novelties: none of which can ever truly convince or satisfy. It is to be alienated from the world; and to find no stable meaning of life that is solidly underpinned by emotional conviction [37]. Little wonder, perhaps, that clever sillies usually choose sub-replacement reproduction [6].

To term the Western ruling elite ‘clever sillies’ is of course a broad generalization, but is not merely name-calling. Because, as well as political correctness being systematically dishonest [33] and [34]; in relation to absolute and differential fertility, modern elite behaviour is objectively maladaptive in a strictly biological sense. It remains to be seen whether the genetic self-annihilation of the IQ elite will lead-on towards self-annihilation of the societies over which they rule.

Note: I should in all honesty point-out that I recognize this phenomenon from the inside. In other words, I myself am a prime example of a ‘clever silly’; having spent much of adolescence and early adult life passively absorbing high-IQ-elite-approved, ingenious-but-daft ideas that later needed, painfully, to be dismantled. I have eventually been forced to acknowledge that when it comes to the psycho-social domain, the commonsense verdict of the majority of ordinary people throughout history is much more likely to be accurate than the latest fashionably-brilliant insight of the ruling elite. So, this article has been written on the assumption, eminently-challengeable, that although I have nearly-always been wrong in the past – I now am right….


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[2] N.J. Mackintosh, IQ and human intelligence, Oxford University Press (1998).

[3] A.R. Jensen, The g factor the science of mental ability, Praeger, Westport, CT, USA (1988).

[4] I.J. Deary, Intelligence: a very short introduction, Oxford, Oxford University Press (2001).

[5] G.D. Batty, I.J. Deary and L.S. Gottfredson, Pre-morbid (early life) IQ and later mortality risk: systematic review, Ann Epidemiol 17 (2007), pp. 278–288.

[6] R. Lynn, Dysgenics, Praeger, Westport, CT, USA (1996).

[7] R. Lynn and M. Van Court, New evidence for dysgenic fertility for intelligence in the United States, Intelligence 32 (2004), pp. 193–201.

[8] D. Nettle and T.V. Pollet, Natural selection on male wealth in humans, Am Nat 172 (2008), pp. 658–666.

[9] S. Kanazawa, General Intelligence as a domain-specific adaptation, Psychol Rev 111 (2004), pp. 512–523.

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