Smart Beliefs

Adult intelligence predicts adult espousal of liberalism, atheism, and sexual exclusivity for men (but not for women), while intelligence is not associated with the adult espousal of evolutionarily familiar values on children, marriage, family, and friends. … Childhood intelligence at age 10 significantly increases the probability that individuals become vegetarian as adults.

More here.  The author interprets these findings:

More intelligent individuals should be better able to comprehend and deal with evolutionarily novel (but not evolutionarily familiar) entities and situations. …. There has been accumulating evidence for this. …

  1. Individuals’ tendency to respond to TV characters as if they were real friends … appears to be limited to those with below-median intelligence. …
  2. Net of age, race, sex, education, marital history, and religion, less intelligent individuals have more children than more intelligent individuals, even though they do not want to do so. …
  3. More intelligent individuals stay healthier and live longer … [but] general intelligence does not appear to affect health and longevity in sub-Saharan Africa, where many of the health threats and dangers are more evolutionarily familiar. …
  4. Criminals on average have lower intelligence than the general population … Much of what we call interpersonal crime today, such as murder, assault, robbery, and theft, were probably routine means of intrasexual male competition in the ancestral environment, … [and] the institutions that control, detect, and punish criminal behavior in society today—the police, the courts, and the prisons—are all evolutionarily novel. …

Liberalism … [is] the genuine concern for the welfare of genetically unrelated others and the willingness to contribute larger proportions of private resources for the welfare of such others.  Defined as such, liberalism is evolutionarily novel. Humans … are not designed to be altruistic toward an indefinite number of complete strangers whom they are not likely ever to meet or exchange with. … There is no evidence that people in contemporary hunter-gatherer bands freely share resources with members of other tribes. …

Our ancestors … could have attributed [an ambiguous situation] to intentional forces when they are in fact caused by unintentional forces … or they could have attributed them to unintentional forces when they were in fact caused by intentional forces. … [The] evolutionary origin of religious beliefs in supernatural forces may stem from such an innate bias to commit Type I errors rather than Type II errors. … Out of more than 1,500 distinct cultures … only 19 contain any references to atheism. …

A species-typical degree of polygyny correlates with the extent of sexual dimorphism in size. … On this scale, humans are mildly polygynous, not as polygynous as gorillas, but not strictly monogamous like gibbons. Consistent with this comparative evidence, … an overwhelming majority of traditional cultures in the world (83.39 percent) practice polygyny with only 16.14 percent practicing monogamy and 0.47 percent practicing polyandry.

The results are interesting and worth pondering, but it is still far from clear to me why the modern world should push smart folks in these directions.  Is it that smart folks are more open minded and willing to adopt new beliefs?  If so, why do they differ only on some topics but not on others?  Is it that some beliefs are newly rewarded in the modern world, and smart folks are faster on the uptake?  This makes some sense of monogamy values, since the farming revolution has preferred that institution (longer term investments, easier to hold women).  But how does this story make sense of smart folks being more liberal, atheist, or vegetarian?

HT Ajay Menon

Added 11a: Folks, these beliefs cannot credibly signal smarts if dumb folks can hold them as easily.  Perhaps dumb folks cannot defend these beliefs as ably, but dumb folks cannot defend any belief as ably.  So credibly signal smarts via defending such beliefs, it would have to be that one’s smarts shone more clearly when defending these beliefs, vs. when defending other beliefs on the same topic.

Could these be more far-mode beliefs, and smarties tend to think more far?

Added 28Feb: Apparently this source has questionable reliability.  So I won’t try so hard to explain his odd results.

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