Are natural scientists smarter?

by on February 12, 2014 at 7:42 am in Data Source, Economics, Education, Science | Permalink

Social science professors at elite institutions are more likely to be religious and politically extreme than their counterparts in the natural sciences, argues a new paper in the Interdisciplinary Journal on Research and Religion. The reason? Natural scientists are just smarter, it says.

“There is sound evidence of a negative correlation between intelligence and religiosity and between intelligence and political extremism,” reads the paper, which examines existing data on academic scientists’ IQs by field, and on religious beliefs and political extremism among science professors in the U.S. and Britain. (An abstract of the paper is available here.) “Therefore the most probable reason behind elite social scientists being more religious than are elite physical scientists is that social scientists are less intelligent.”

The paper, written by Edward Dutton, adjunct professor of cultural anthropology at the University of Oulu, in Finland, and Richard Lynn, a retired professor of psychology from the University of Ulster, in Northern Ireland, who is known for his work on race and IQ, continues: “Intelligence is also a factor in interdisciplinary differences in political extremism, [with] physicists, who have high IQs, being among the least extreme and lower-IQ scholars being among the most extreme.”

There is more here, though I will note, without wishing to offend anyone in particular, that just about all of us are capable of being spectacularly dense, natural scientists included and these authors too.  I believe these correlations, to the extent they are true, are better explained by sociological factors than by IQ.  In the United States for instance various brands of humanities professors are in fact remarkably secular and I take this to be a stamp of a particular kind of affiliation to (and against) other social groups, not a sign of IQ in either direction.  Note also that political extremism has to select against low IQ at some margins, if only because the extreme doctrine involves a complicated ideological apparatus of some sort rather than just “folk morality.”

By the way, here is Dutton’s earlier 2010 piece “Why did Jesus Go To Oxford University?” (pdf), which suggests the smarter and more creative students are more likely to have evangelical religious experience.

albert magnus February 12, 2014 at 8:04 am

Are the social scientists as internationally mixed as the natural scientists? If you are foreigner you might be more willing to keep your weird ideas to yourself and there are an awful lot of foreign professors in physics.

Steve Sailer February 12, 2014 at 7:20 pm

Here are GRE scores by intended field of graduate study:

http://isteve.blogspot.com/2007/08/graduate-record-exam-scores-by-graduate.html

8 February 12, 2014 at 8:05 am

Where do high IQ people in the physical sciences land on the autism scale? Faith isn’t reason, but if your brain is highly wired for reason, it won’t understand faith, and vice versa.

The correlation only holds for high IQ. The largest population of atheists are low IQ and they live in jail.

Fallibilist February 12, 2014 at 9:17 am

The largest population of atheists are low IQ and they live in jail.

[citation needed]

8 February 12, 2014 at 10:14 am

Citation: Mailvox: the distribution of atheist intelligence
As you can see, the two most common types of atheists are the High Church atheists with +2SD IQs (128+) and Low Church atheists with -2SD IQs (65-72). Note that the Low Church atheists actually outnumber the High Church atheists, 22.9 to 17.2 percent.

Re: prison specifically The explosive growth of atheism… in prison
In the seven years between 2002 and 2009, the number of imprisoned High Church Atheists rose 475%, from 0.17% of the England and Wales prison population to 0.84%. That’s still fairly small, of course, but it’s worth noting that it is a larger percentage of the prison population than is represented by any of the following religions and denominations:

Baptist, Congregational, Methodist, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Quaker, United Reformed Church, Hindu, Jewish, Sikh, Christian Scientist, Coptic Christian, Greek/Russian Orthodox, Mormon, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seven Day Adventist, BaHai, Jain, Pagan, Rastafarian, Scientologist, Zoroastrian.

That’s only a partial list, as I left out about an equal number of more obscure denominations and religions. It was also the second-fastest rate of growth, surpassed only by the agnostic population, which increased 812% to 0.64% of the total prison population.That is for those who identify as atheist. For those who say no God exists, (low Church atheists), the percentage of the prison population is 33%.

libert February 12, 2014 at 10:55 am

The citation does not support your assertion that the largest population of atheists are in jail.

Also, your cite for IQ shows that theists are disproportionately below-average IQ.

john personna February 12, 2014 at 11:06 am

It looks like “population” was the wrong word. “share” would have been better:

“The reason this matters is that is the Low Church atheists of the No Religion variety who make up 33.1% of the prison population, more than twice the 15% of the general population.”

tt February 12, 2014 at 12:33 pm

where is the actual data ?

tt February 12, 2014 at 12:39 pm

i cant find anything but conspiracies on that blog.
who is the author ?

Isaac February 12, 2014 at 2:11 pm

Those citations are baloney.

How do the increases in agnostic and atheists prison populations compare to the increase in agnostic and atheist populations in general? (Hint: atheist populations in general are also increasing: http://metro.co.uk/2012/12/11/census-2011-christian-numbers-fall-with-atheism-on-the-rise-3311594/
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2012/12/11/2011-census-shows-that-a-quarter-of-england-and-wales-residents-are-nones-despite-poorly-worded-question/)

And with no reference to the constitution of these groups in general populations, it’s actually not at all worth noting that atheists make up a greater percentage of prison populations than various religious sects. For example, considering that the Rastafarian population in England and Wales is vastly smaller than atheist populations, to suggest that the greater population of atheists than Rastafarians in jail shows anything about atheists’ or Rastafarians’ propensity to commit crimes is incorrect.

It’s also suspect that various religious sects are treated uniquely, while atheism is lumped together as a homogeneous group (or two homogeneous groups, defined by IQ (which is actually derived from WORDSUM scores), which begs the question on the relevance of IQ). But the relevant contrast is between those who believe in god and those who don’t, or those who practice religion or don’t. The nominal lumping together of people who don’t believe in god to stand in contrast to all sorts of esoteric and vaguely followed religious sects inherently creates a situation in which atheists are over-valued.

The percentage of people in England and Wales with no religion is 25% (and those with no stated religion, another 7%). The prison population of those with with no religion is apparently 34.5%. Not as disproportionate as implied. On that note, the author of that post uses two different data sets with no bearing on each other to make his case, one from England and Wales, and another from the US.

Also, that blog post treats all “no religion” individuals as atheists. Unfortunately, the data that that post was actually based on is no longer available, but that’s a very problematic assumption, as there are certainly those who believe in some conception of god but affiliate with no religion.

And the original assumption of that post, that people with IQs of 65-72 make up the second largest group of atheists is simply incorrect (the claimant also states in a related post “that most atheists have sub-100 IQs”, which, is also false) based on a sketchy rendering of data on a blog, which doesn’t match peer-reviewed research. But if blogs with graphs based on WORDSUM data convince you: http://www.danielmiessler.com/blog/10-interesting-data-points-on-iq-and-demographics.

And what about all the many atheist sects and denominations? (Most atheists would probably not subscribe to the definition of atheism provided in that blog post).

Dividing population sub-groups by nominal religious sect affiliation is also problematic. I’m more interested in prison populations divided by people who believe in the holy trinity or not, or who believe in transubstantiation or not, or who believe in the virgin birth of Jesus or not, or who believe in the second-coming or not, or who can cite the ten commandments as they appear in the bible, or who recognize the ecumenical decisions of the council of Nicaea or not.

So, in sum, the largest population of atheists are not low IQ, and the majority of low IQ atheists are not in jail.

Z February 12, 2014 at 9:30 am

I think if you very narrowly define “faith” to just the invisible man in the sky stuff, sure, but that leaves out large swaths of the population. Loads of very high IQ people believe all sorts of nutty things like Marxism and Fascism, which are secular religions. Given the history of the West since 1789, the facts seem to show that the higher the IQ, the more willing to believe nutty things.

brad February 12, 2014 at 9:35 am

There’s a trade-off between type II and type I errors. Much of what we call intelligence is pattern recognition, but if you are really good at identifying faint or convoluted patterns you probably are going to see some where they don’t exist.

Z February 12, 2014 at 10:25 am

That’s not a bad way to frame it. Another way is to place empiricism at one end and faith on the other. Marxists and Mormons will be clustered at one end while physicists and engineers will be at the other. The IQ distribution along that scale probably tells us very little.

john personna February 12, 2014 at 10:28 am

I don’t think that Tyler’s alternate mechanisms were that strong, let alone tested. Similarly the idea that “loads” of high IQ folk believe nutty things might be true, but it isn’t a significant claim.

While we are throwing ideas out there, from our own experiences, I think a grounding in the scientific method matters. Full stop.

T. Shaw February 12, 2014 at 10:46 am

And ET, Obama, sasquatch, “free lunch” . . .

I think the most counter-intuitive (if they ever gave it any thought) is atheism’s wild idea that all things physical always were (they evolved and developed by some whatever means) and always will be. That concept is called the “eternal. having no beginning and no end. Then there is one “eternal” that is God.

Shrodinger’s cat: the only way they will know there is a God is when they open the box, i.e., die.

libert February 12, 2014 at 10:59 am

It seems to me that the alternative is much more counter-intuitive. The alternative is that physical things once sprang from nothing, violating the conservation of mass. Given this, it’s perhaps not surprising that physicists are less religious.

john personna February 12, 2014 at 11:11 am

Very few of us (not me!) can understand the theoretical physics of the big bang, and so we probably should step back and limit our beliefs in this area. Yes, some may have a faith overlaid, but imprecise religions claims of origins can fit imprecise understanding very nicely ;-)

dan1111 February 12, 2014 at 8:07 am

Social science encompasses the study of religions and politics, so it would not be surprising if more religious/politically-minded people chose to enter those fields. Much of natural science has an anti-religious bent, partly because some religious people have reacted against their findings, partly also because it can be an alternative area to search for origins for non-religious people. Suggesting it is IQ rather than more direct subject matter-related factors seems dubious to me.

Not that I am saying their finding of higher IQ in the natural sciences is wrong. But that could be true without being the driver of differences in beliefs.

Also, how did they measure “political extremism”? That is always ripe for criticism.

Only the abstract appears to be available, though.

john personna February 12, 2014 at 10:33 am

We could also make the guess that while IQ is not the only kind of intelligence, it is the kind of intelligence useful in formal science. “Scholastic aptitude,” etc.

Related to your other themes though, and mine above, do you suppose that social sciences are more open to entrants with an ideology, even able to reinforce those ideologies with “schools” of thought? (Saltwater and freshwater economics)

In contrast, I think formal sciences school students to come in as blank slates and that you don’t really get to have strong feelings until you learn how to design an experiment.

Rahul February 12, 2014 at 8:09 am

When you don’t have a good product to sell, extremism is always a good product?

Matt February 12, 2014 at 8:20 am

Political extremism because associated with lower intelligence is odd, as moderates tend to be less intelligent according to measures like the General Social Survey. Conventional political opinions or lack of political cognition, that I could see being associated with lower intelligence, which may sometimes be seen as a lack of extremism (e.g. unconventional persons would come out in the middle on a PC1 of a prinicipal component analysis of political views, but not because they’re actually close to the societal average in any way, but rather they just don’t fit what makes most people politically different from one another).

Lack of interest in politics and religion by physical scientists seems more likely to be because a subset of them are, er… “spergy” and “thing orientated” and so less interested in souls and a universe with a caring god and so on (this is rather separate from their disciplines being more IQ demanding than social science). That’s not something “g men” like Lynn tend to think about a lot though.

Matt February 12, 2014 at 8:20 am

“Political extremism because associated” = Political extremism being associated

john personna February 12, 2014 at 10:35 am

That sounds like an unfortunate conflation of “undecideds” with “pragmatics.”

Rahul February 12, 2014 at 8:23 am

Aren’t conventional IQ tests very heavy on math-like skills & relatively light on analytical reading etc.? That might explain why Physicists do very well?

Matt February 12, 2014 at 9:27 am

“conventional IQ tests very heavy on math-like skills & relatively light on analytical reading etc.”

Not really sure how it could be tested whether an IQ test contains the “right” balance of subtests with a particular focus.

If so, not enough to generally cause male-female IQ divergences anyway, even where though there tend to be M-F differences on math like skills vs reading like skills (although perhaps of smaller scale than between natural vs social science).

In any case though, I think physicists (if not all natural scientists) on average tend to outscore “social scientists” in verbal abilities. Although physicists may vary more in general-specifically math intelligence (some physicists are high functioning autism like, some simply have high across the board ability) and social scientists may vary more in overall intelligence (without much variance in the structure of their abilities).

john personna February 12, 2014 at 10:36 am

‘Most people define intelligence in their own image’ http://bit.ly/1g4sgd0

Finch February 12, 2014 at 9:51 am

I’m not sure how well IQ tests and the negative correlation between IQ and religiosity work when you get out on the far tail of the bell curve.

I completely accept that physicists are smarter than economists who are smarter than art historians, when measured at the professorial level in some aggregate sense. That seems obvious. If nothing else, it would be hard to avoid this given the populations entering these professions.

But I doubt you can take a conclusion that’s reasonably valid for people in the 85-115 IQ range (“More IQ predicts less religion”) and apply it to people in the 145-175 range. Further, it clashes with things I’ve read about Al Qaeda and other extremist organizations being stocked with engineers and physical scientists. Didn’t IEEE Spectrum have a piece about this a few years ago?

Kabal February 12, 2014 at 10:12 am

Rahul, Matt, Finch–

You guys may find the link I posted below interesting.

Finch February 12, 2014 at 10:19 am

Yes, thank you. I have previously heard that natural science majors do better on the verbal component of such tests than humanities majors.

But I still question how well those test measure things at their extremes. Is the 99.6% scorer really better than the 99.2% scorer, or is all you can say with confidence that both are a lot smarter than the 73.2% scorer. And the applicability of correlations based on mainstream-people data to extrema, which I gather is the case for the religiosity thing, is really questionable.

Rahul February 12, 2014 at 10:39 am

What about this dataset which seems to show on both Reading & Writing SAT scores Social Sci. majors do better than Natural Sci.?

http://cdn2.joshuakennon.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/intended-college-major-sat-scores-2010.png

The “intended college major” might screw up things though. Not sure how authoritative this source is too.

GiT February 12, 2014 at 3:23 pm

Seems the GRE would be better here:

http://www.ets.org/s/gre/pdf/gre_guide_table4.pdf

Nothing surprising. Engineers/Phys Sci: 1 std dev better quantitative scores. Humanities/Soc Sci: 1 std dev better verbal scores. Writing – slight edge to the humanities, but not too significant. Life Sciences/Business/Education don’t stand out in anything.

Nathan W February 13, 2014 at 3:30 am

I think it is safe to say that IQ measures particular kinds of intelligence and that any and all works which use IQ as an explanatory variable should be reviewed with extreme caution. Then again, I cannot propose a better alternative measure for the purpose of empirical analysis.

dearieme February 12, 2014 at 9:15 am

2010 piece: “universities which are particularly transitional and prestigious”. What does he mean by “transitional”? Why does he say “which” when he means “that”?

Michael February 12, 2014 at 12:56 pm

Someone will surely correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe both “which” and “that” are OK in British English in that sentence: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/words/that-or-which

Z February 12, 2014 at 9:31 am

Extremism = Things I don’t want you to hear said by people I don’t like.

john personna February 12, 2014 at 10:39 am

Sure, but I think it could also be defined as the inverse of pragmatism. (It wasn’t so long ago, as US political polarization took root, that you’d see articles saying that pragmatism was bad, negotiation was bad, compromise was bad, because (news flash) a compromise was not what either extreme wanted.)

Z February 12, 2014 at 11:43 am

It *could* be defined a lot of ways. In America, it is a dog whistle for Progressives to start hooting at the heretic.

john personna February 12, 2014 at 11:53 am

You just followed your rule there, didn’t you? What exactly is a “progressive?” (In my experience it is sometimes a self-identification, but that is less common than when it is used as “everyone left of me is crazy.”)

Z February 12, 2014 at 12:29 pm

“Progressive” is an agreed upon label for the dominant strain of socialism in America. “Extremism” has no agreed upon definition.

john personna February 12, 2014 at 12:43 pm

That sir, was a self-refuting comment. There is no strain of socialism in popular American politics. There is a rhetoric that the whole public side of our mixed economy is “socialist,” which is kind of bizarre, when you think about it.

Z February 12, 2014 at 1:43 pm

You may want to ask the doctors to adjust your meds.

john personna February 12, 2014 at 4:11 pm

Insult does not improve your case. “Socialism is an economic system characterized by social ownership of the means of production …” and pretty much no one in America, much less in popular politics, argues for state ownership of production. Sure, people are generally happy with public schools, but that sort of social service is light years away from government ownership of all auto companies, all airlines, etc.

nl7 February 12, 2014 at 9:37 am

It seems like you’d expect people with expertise in human social interactions (whether that’s history, anthro, economics, or literature) to have stronger opinions about the nature and direction of human social interactions. You’d expect people focusing on things very unlike human social interaction (quantum mechanics, chemical bonds, star formation) to be less likely to have such strong opinions about the same.

GiT February 12, 2014 at 3:31 pm

This seems “the most probable reason” behind what was observed. I guess these two are just dummies. But really, it’s just an example of either willfull trolling or baldfaced incompetence to assert that evidence of a negative correlation between intelligence and religiousity/extremism implies lower iq is “the most probable” explanation of divergence in religiosity and political extremism. How many other things are extremism and religiosity correlated with? I guess Lynn and Dutton are just too stupid to have a clue.

magilson February 12, 2014 at 9:52 am

Imagine the scientific breakthroughs humanity will make once we’ve exhausted all the studies we can think of to tell us how awesome we are compared to those other people that aren’t awesome.

Marie February 12, 2014 at 1:48 pm

I want mine!

Kabal February 12, 2014 at 9:54 am

http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2011/06/human-capital-mongering-m-v-s-profiles.html?m=1

Natural Science majors substantially higher in both SAT M and V than Social Science majors, even among just SAT scorers above the 99.5 percentile in M or V.

Lots more low hanging fruit in social sciences (e.g. anthropology, sociology) due to PC culture and lack of quantitative incisiveness, which is why it seems ex-physicists have such an easy time doing innovative work in them.

john personna February 12, 2014 at 10:51 am

I scored fairly well on the SAT, but I look back more at my 97% on the Armed Forces Aptitude Test. They called me a few times after that, trying to get me to go to an academy. Paths not taken. General John. (I have amused myself that the armed force test was finding something stoic in my nature, but I think instead it emphasized spacial thinking.)

zz February 12, 2014 at 11:37 am

This paper is bosh. There is an easy way to do this comparison: aggregate GRE scores by intended graduate school major. Economics comes out very near the top, below physics and engineering but above other natural sciences:

http://www.ncsu.edu/chass/philo/GRE%20Scores%20by%20Intended%20Graduate%20Major.htm

john personna February 12, 2014 at 12:04 pm

That one was very interesting. I think I was pretty close to the average outcome for a chemistry student, for whatever that’s worth.

Yoshua Frum February 12, 2014 at 12:33 pm

The scales have differential variability, so you need to standardize them before saying anything meaningful.

Roy February 12, 2014 at 2:59 pm

One thing that needs to be considered there is how many students in a field go to grad school. In a lot of natural sciences you need an MS to work as anything more than a low paid technician or a school teacher. You can make a fair amount if money with just a bs in economics. That is going to radically effect who takes the GRE. In my field, geosciences, anyone with a 2.5 goes to grad school eventually, though a lot take a couple years off to make money in the oil fields or mines. But in other fields very few go on to grad school, take ag for example, and those are the exceptional students.

Now this only applies to grad students and not academics, I have met a lot of masters students in the sciences significantly dumber than their equipment, I don’t encounter doctoral candidates like that very often.

john personna February 12, 2014 at 4:13 pm

I took the GRE with GRE-Chem because I “intended” study in chemistry. In practice I became a computer programmer.

derek February 12, 2014 at 9:56 am

Is there a correlation between low iq and the desire to slot people into tidy little boxes? In my experience people who are not very smart but who get an education tend to do it.

CBBB February 12, 2014 at 10:06 am

In my experience people who are not very smart but who get an education tend to do it.

That’s where HR professionals come from.

Roy February 12, 2014 at 3:31 pm

And they are often well payed, so maybe they aren’t so dumb.

Has it ever occurred to anyone that this trait is a very good way to get ahead. I can think if no more underrated group than the class of successful hacks.

Peter Schaeffer February 12, 2014 at 10:43 am

Folks,

You are over thinking this. The natural sciences (notably physics) tend to attract really smart people who are intensely interested in science and virtually nothing else. Hence they show up as brilliant and apolitical.

Quite typically, as a student, Richard Feynman got some of the highest scores ever in math and science and some of the lowest scores ever in other courses. His autobiographies don’t reveal any great interest in politics (he was however, distinctly non-PC). His major interest other than science appears to have been women.

The social sciences attract (relatively speaking) less intelligent folks with broader interests. Broader interests translate into a greater focus on religion and politics.

Marie February 12, 2014 at 10:54 am

I was thinking that physics keeps you pretty busy if you’re going to keep up, think that’s related to your point.

Peter Schaeffer February 12, 2014 at 11:26 am

Marie,

+1

john personna February 12, 2014 at 1:23 pm

Possibly, but again there is this blending of the apolitical with the pragmatic. There should be a difference recognized between “whatever” and “whatever works.” If I don’t have time to closely follow or understand an issue, I’d hope “they’d work it out” rather than trusting an ideologue as proxy.

Do low attention, low intelligence, voters trust ideologues more?

Rahul February 12, 2014 at 11:06 am

I think social scientists often thrive on controversy. The most popular ones are often the most controversial. A boring moderate is hardly who you want on a talk show, debate or interview. Flamboyance & perhaps extremism might get you more mileage.

OTOH, a physicist who talks cold fusion or how quantum mechanics is wrong gets very quickly assigned to the crackpot bin.

GiT February 12, 2014 at 3:39 pm

Most social scientists do not go on talk shows. A search for controversy may drive some research. That certainly seems to be typical of IQ researchers, evolutionary psychologists, and sociobiologists.

chuck martel February 12, 2014 at 11:08 am

“The natural sciences (notably physics) tend to attract really smart people….”

Yeah, they do. Then there’s people that think they’re smart. After a short experience with the natural sciences that imposes some ego destruction, they slide down to the glorious subjectivity of the humanities, or even further to education. They can still feel good about themselves after getting a degree in social work.

edmeasure February 12, 2014 at 1:27 pm

Peter,

Feynman was also an accomplished painter, a musician, and a student of the Mayan calendar – not to mention safecracker, radio and calculator repairman, and master of a other miscellaneous skills. Where did you get the info that he did poorly in other classes, since it does not match this: http://zinser.no-ip.info/wsz/gifted/feynmanbio.html

Peter Schaeffer February 12, 2014 at 6:59 pm

e,

“Where did you get the info that he did poorly in other classes”

From Feynman. Quote

“When I was a student at MIT I was interested only in science; I was no good at anything else. But at MIT there was a rule: You have to take some humanities courses to get more “culture.” Besides the English classes required were two electives, so I looked through the list, and right away I found astronomy–as a humanities course! So that year I escaped with astronomy. Then next year I looked further down the list, past French literature and courses like that, and found philosophy. It was the closest thing to science I could find.”

Other sources confirm his statements.

“He attained a perfect score on the graduate school entrance exams to Princeton University in mathematics and physics—an unprecedented feat—but did rather poorly on the history and English portions”

“Feynman began to teach himself about elementary calculus with books borrowed from the library to supplement what he learned from Public School 39. He applied to college with his perfect grades in maths and science. However, his poor grades in other subjects and his Jewish background caused problems.”

His math/physics scores may have been the best in the United States.

edmeasure February 12, 2014 at 10:02 pm

It’s a long stretch from “did worse in other subjects” to “got some of the lowest scores ever”.

Peter Schaeffer February 13, 2014 at 12:41 am

e,

I think ‘lowest scores ever’ is from Gleick. However, there is no question that his grades in he humanities were awful.

From http://www-history.mcs.st-and.ac.uk/Biographies/Feynman.html

“Despite the personal recommendation that Harry Smyth at Princeton received from Slater, it was not obvious that Feynman would be accepted. He had the best grades in physics and mathematics that anyone had seen, but on the other hand he was close to the bottom in history, literature and fine arts.”

Blunt Instrument February 12, 2014 at 2:25 pm

As a physicist, I have found the hierarchy of ‘non-science’ interests for most physicists to be as follows:
1. sex
2. alcohol
3. mocking non-physicists

Ian February 13, 2014 at 9:21 pm

Have any of them begun to recognize the negative correlation between #s 2 and 3 and the available opportunities for #1?. What an unfortunate grouping of hobbies.

T. Shaw February 12, 2014 at 10:47 am

Do physical science profs earn more money than social science profs? If not. What difference does it make now?

Ray February 12, 2014 at 10:51 am

Don’t feed the trolls, even if they publish it somewhere :)

Marie February 12, 2014 at 10:55 am

The authors are both social science profs, right? They were smart enough to figure out how to get paid publishing this.

Btone February 12, 2014 at 11:19 am

This is interesting to me because it directly contradicts C.P. Snow’s observations (throughout his Strangers and Brothers series) that the pure physicists of his day were most likely to be far-left and radical in their politics. Conversely he saw engineers (and other scientists more tied to experiment than theory) as more likely to be moderate or conservative.

Roy February 12, 2014 at 3:21 pm

In the 20s and 30s communism promised scientific solutions to societal problems. This was the last stage of the cult of reason. Of course scientists would be drawn to this sort of thing. While this attitude persisted into the 1960s events such as Stalin’s Russia, particularly Lysenkoism, and the failure, or rather still birth, of third world technocracy destroyed a lot of that.

If you combine that with the huge reaction against modernity at the top levels of the humanities in the 20s and 30s (particularly at Oxford, can you imagine CS Lewis or Tolkien with such prominence today?) and you get the world described by Snow. Also remember at that time in England most scientists and engineers came from the most chartist segments of the middle classes through institutions like UCL and workingman’s institutes (which no longer exist in any recognizable form) which created an entire class of science students steeped in socialism and class based hatred of reaction. This world is as dead as the world of Cavendish and Priestly.

Rahul February 12, 2014 at 4:38 pm

I think that’s true even today. Engineers are indeed more moderate & physicists more left. You may have to exclude the computer engineers but maybe that’s fitting.

tjamesjones February 12, 2014 at 11:31 am

Social Scientist professors more likely to be religious? I can’t think of a group less likely to be religious – if you listened to that Jonathan Haidt talk on econtalk (pointer from tyler a few days ago), he bemoans the conformity of social scientists: secular, athiest, liberal.

sam February 12, 2014 at 11:41 am

Of course natural scientists are smarter than social “scientists”.

Smarter students select natural science because the it pays much better. Less intelligent students can’t compete with the more intelligent ones.

For cultural reasons, natural science departments select for high intelligence and are willing to tolerate disagreeable personalities. For cultural reasons, social “science” departments select for the highly agreeable and are willing to tolerate lower intelligence.

Go back one thousand years or so and the culture and pay would be different, and the priests would be smarter than the surgeons.

Bob February 12, 2014 at 12:22 pm

In STEM, smarter students choose to not pursue advanced degrees because not having one pays far better on average. Large science oriented companies are full of people who spent their 20s studying and doing uninteresting research for their professors, and are far behind those that just started working at 22. 8 years of experience pay more than the premium of 8 years getting a PhD and working on a postdoc.

So many of the smart ones just never took the GRE at all.

sam February 12, 2014 at 2:25 pm

That is certainly true of US-born students.

US citizen STEM undergrads tend not to go to STEM grad programs because they can get jobs.

US citizen non-STEM undergrads flood non-STEM grad programs because they cannot get jobs.

However, there is a flood of non-US STEM grad students who are far brighter than US-born non-STEM students.

Timothy February 13, 2014 at 12:36 am

Quite true. I was interested enough in the stuff / avoiding a real job for a while to go to grad school for engineering. I am decently above average for a white guy but as a Chinese foreign student would be rather lackluster. They sometimes seemed to brute force their way through things intellectually, perhaps, rather than go with elegance, but on the whole just operating on a higher level.

Roy February 12, 2014 at 3:27 pm

Oh come off it, the very smartest people go into demanding fields because of interest, they would do so because they would be interested if they weren’t paid. Are Mathematicians paid that well?

To take an extreme example the smartest guy in my University town is a theologian (granted he is known around the world so he is exceptional). But do you think that top academics in any science or engineering field couldn’t make more money in industry? There are historians and artists as smart as any scientist. Same can be said for political types and philosophers.

GiT February 12, 2014 at 3:42 pm

Sorry, didn’t you know? The only accurate measure of intelligence is your paycheck, because the only intelligent thing to do is to maximize your income. Doing anything else is prima facie evidence of stupidity.

Nathan W February 13, 2014 at 3:37 am

The smartest people know that endlessly chasing after more, more and more is a certain pathway to never being satisfied. Based on that, I would argue that those who gives their lives away in exchange for boats and large houses that they do not have the time to enjoy are not so smart after all. Then again, money sure does grease the wheels for a lot of things that make our life easier.

Do what you love.

edmeasure February 12, 2014 at 1:13 pm

Most physicists will admit to being smart. They will also admit that their colleagues tend to score well on mild autism measures. But astronomers are even more autistic.

Full disclosure: retired physicist, never authoritatively diagnosed as autistic.

Frank Somatra February 12, 2014 at 1:23 pm

Richard Lynn – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Lynn
“In 2002 an academic dispute arose after Lynn claimed that some races are inherently more psychopathic than others,”

Yep, I don’t have to take this seriously at all.

Marie February 12, 2014 at 1:56 pm

Thanks.
Next. . .

Tommy February 12, 2014 at 1:40 pm

Interesting to compare the rhetoric employed on this thread to that of past MR posts on IQ and race…

Marathon Man February 13, 2014 at 12:38 am

With the increasing frequency of the publication of genetic studies our knowledge of ourselves in relation to IQ and race broadens and deepens.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140211084051.htm

MPS February 12, 2014 at 2:25 pm

I agree with Cowen and I think a straightforward way to show this is to observe that while social science professors at elite institutions are (it is presumed) on average less intelligent than their natural science counterparts, presumably they are more intelligent than a host of other groups of people, academic or not, who are both less religious and more politically extreme. Find those groups and you will determine that it is not about intelligence but about something else.

blobjectivity February 13, 2014 at 3:23 pm

Given Lynn’s track record of abysmal use of data in his collaborations with Vanhanen, it’s hard to take this seriously.
Regarding religion (and why being religious might be not stupid after all) I found this paper to be interesting:
http://www.hindawi.com/isrn/psychiatry/2012/278730/

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