Saturday, February 27, 2010
Evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa at the the London School of Economics and Political Science correlated data on these behaviors with IQ from a large national U.S. sample and found that, on average, people who identified as liberal and atheist had higher IQs. This applied also to sexual exclusivity in men, but not in women. The findings will be published in the March 2010 issue of Social Psychology Quarterly.
The IQ differences, while statistically significant, are not stunning -- on the order of 6 to 11 points -- and the data should not be used to stereotype or make assumptions about people, experts say. But they show how certain patterns of identifying with particular ideologies develop, and how some people's behaviors come to be.
The reasoning is that sexual exclusivity in men, liberalism and atheism all go against what would be expected given humans' evolutionary past. In other words, none of these traits would have benefited our early human ancestors, but higher intelligence may be associated with them.
"The adoption of some evolutionarily novel ideas makes some sense in terms of moving the species forward," said George Washington University leadership professor James Bailey, who was not involved in the study. "It also makes perfect sense that more intelligent people -- people with, sort of, more intellectual firepower -- are likely to be the ones to do that."
Bailey also said that these preferences may stem from a desire to show superiority or elitism, which also has to do with IQ. In fact, aligning oneself with "unconventional" philosophies such as liberalism or atheism may be "ways to communicate to everyone that you're pretty smart," he said.
The study looked at a large sample from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), which began with adolescents in grades 7-12 in the United States during the 1994-95 school year. The participants were interviewed as 18- to 28-year-olds from 2001 to 2002. The study also looked at the General Social Survey, another cross-national data collection source.
Kanazawa did not find that higher or lower intelligence predicted sexual exclusivity in women. This makes sense, because having one partner has always been advantageous to women, even thousands of years ago, meaning exclusivity is not a "new" preference.
For men, on the other hand, sexual exclusivity goes against the grain evolutionarily. With a goal of spreading genes, early men had multiple mates. Since women had to spend nine months being pregnant, and additional years caring for very young children, it made sense for them to want a steady mate to provide them resources.
Religion, the current theory goes, did not help people survive or reproduce necessarily, but goes along the lines of helping people to be paranoid, Kanazawa said. Assuming that, for example, a noise in the distance is a signal of a threat helped early humans to prepare in case of danger.
"It helps life to be paranoid, and because humans are paranoid, they become more religious, and they see the hands of God everywhere," Kanazawa said.
Participants who said they were atheists had an average IQ of 103 in adolescence, while adults who said they were religious averaged 97, the study found. Atheism "allows someone to move forward and speculate on life without any concern for the dogmatic structure of a religion," Bailey said.
"Historically, anything that's new and different can be seen as a threat in terms of the religious beliefs; almost all religious systems are about permanence," he noted.
The study takes the American view of liberal vs. conservative. It defines "liberal" in terms of concern for genetically nonrelated people and support for private resources that help those people. It does not look at other factors that play into American political beliefs, such as abortion, gun control and gay rights.
"Liberals are more likely to be concerned about total strangers; conservatives are likely to be concerned with people they associate with," he said.
Given that human ancestors had a keen interest in the survival of their offspring and nearest kin, the conservative approach -- looking out for the people around you first -- fits with the evolutionary picture more than liberalism, Kanazawa said. "It's unnatural for humans to be concerned about total strangers." he said.
The study found that young adults who said they were "very conservative" had an average adolescent IQ of 95, whereas those who said they were "very liberal" averaged 106.
It also makes sense that "conservatism" as a worldview of keeping things stable would be a safer approach than venturing toward the unfamiliar, Bailey said.
Neither Bailey nor Kanazawa identify themselves as liberal; Bailey is conservative and Kanazawa is "a strong libertarian."
Vegetarianism, while not strongly associated with IQ in this study, has been shown to be related to intelligence in previous research, Kanazawa said. This also fits into Bailey's idea that unconventional preferences appeal to people with higher intelligence, and can also be a means of showing superiority.
None of this means that the human species is evolving toward a future where these traits are the default, Kanazawa said.
"More intelligent people don't have more children, so moving away from the trajectory is not going to happen," he said.
Friday, February 26, 2010
Also, Rep. Weiner KICKS ASS!
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Go 'head, say it. Fecund. Sounds dirty and intellectual at the same time - two characteristics more things should be. But since most people won't know what it means when you use it tomorrow they'll just assume it's dirty. And then they'll give you that look. That look that says, "I approve of your dirty comment and my approval of your dirty comment might change the way you think of me, but that's cool."
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
*A response to the Guardian's collection of writing rules by Molly Young, one of my favorite bloggers.
"Using adverbs is a mortal sin," declares Elmore Leonard. "Prayer might work," offers Margaret Atwood. Does any of this help? Molly Young weighs in ...
Special to MORE INTELLIGENT LIFE
Deep down, we know the rules of writing. Or the rule, rather, which is that there are no rules. That's it. That's the takeaway point from any collection of advice, any Paris Review interview and any book on writing, whether it be Stephen King's "On Writing" or Joyce Carol Oates's "The Faith of a Writer" (both excellent, by the way, but only as useful as a reader chooses to make them).
Despite this fact, writers continue to write about writing and readers continue to read them. In honour of Elmore Leonard's contribution to the genre, "Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing", the Guardian recently compiled a massive list of writing rules from Margaret Atwood, Zadie Smith, Annie Proulx, Jeanette Winterson, Colm Tóibín and many other authors generous enough to add their voices to the chorus.
Among the most common bits of advice: write every day, rewrite often, read your work out loud, read a lot of books and don't write for posterity. Standards aside, the advice generally breaks down into three categories: the practical, the idiosyncratic and the contradictory. From Margaret Atwood we learn to use pencils on airplanes because pens leak. From Elmore Leonard we learn that adverbs stink, prologues are annoying and the weather is boring. Jonathan Franzen advises us to write in the third person, usually.
The "idiosyncratic" category of advice, because the most specific, is naturally the most interesting. "Do not place a photograph of your favourite author on your desk, especially if the author is one of the famous ones who committed suicide," says Roddy Doyle. Neil Gaiman advises readers to laugh at their own jokes. Read you work as an enemy would, offers Zadie Smith. And from Geoff Dyer: don't try to imitate Nabokov. Just don't.
It's a funny thing, this list. Assembling so many rules from so many authors serves to highlight the essential hopelessness of giving advice on how to write. Not only do rules proliferate, it seems, but they coexist without any agreement. Roddy Doyle, for instance, advises avoiding distraction ("Restrict your browsing to a few websites a day") as well as being distracted ("Do, occasionally, give in to temptation. Wash the kitchen floor, hang out the washing.") Anne Enright suggests whiskey as a lubricant, but Richard Ford and Colm Tóibín warn away from mixing booze and work. Predictably, the comments following the Guardian's list are themselves a jumble of caveats, modifications and dissent. "If Thomas Hardy had followed Leonard's rules," writes a commenter named 'billcostley', "he would never have written The Return of the Native...or anything else."
No kidding. But can anyone doubt, after scrolling through all 7,000 words of the Guardian's advice, that an author's rules are as specific (and exclusive) to her as her DNA? And yet, if we can't learn anything new from such lists, why do we find them fascinating? Their value, I think, is mainly an affirmative one. At their best, writing rules remind us of the things we already know about ourselves. The advice that rings true, in other words, is the advice we already follow.
(Molly Young is a writer living in New York.)
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
From the A.V. Club
Someday I am going to die, and when I do, at least 30 percent of what I’ll see flashing before my eyes will be taken from road trips I went on between the ages of 21 and 26. I know this is true, even if it seems faintly ridiculous, considering all the things I should be thinking about as I draw my final breaths. It’s not as if these trips were particularly important in shaping my life. I don’t think I’m a different person because I once stayed up for 32 hours straight while driving from Eau Claire, Wisconsin to Memphis, then up through northern Arkansas to Branson, Missouri. (My buddy Joe and I mistakenly thought Branson was the Las Vegas of the Midwest. This is only the third dumbest assumption I’ve ever made in my life.)
A young man piling into a car with other young men and hitting the open road with only a vague destination in mind—which, in my case, meant places like Graceland or “that crappy sports bar in Indianapolis where Guided By Voices is playing on Saturday night”—is not necessarily an act of spiritual exploration rife with heavy significance. I definitely don’t think I learned anything about myself from doing this, nor did I gain any insight into the meaning of existence.
And yet these road trips—even the shitty ones, or maybe especially the shitty ones—are some of the most cherished times of my life, in part because they allowed me to step outside of my life for a while. I was far from home and seeing places I’d never visited or even imagined visiting, with no plan for where I’d be eating my next meal or sleeping that night. I was still “me,” but I had become a tourist in my own life. The automatic-pilot routine of regular everyday experience had been shut off, and I was left to wander aimlessly on the fringes.
So I guess you could say I had absorbed the essence of Jack Kerouac’s On The Road years before I finally got around to reading it. On my trips, as Kerouac describes, “I was just somebody else, some stranger, and my whole life was a haunted life, like a ghost.” You could even say I was “at the dividing line between the East of my youth and the West of my future,” though I’d rather you didn’t, because, really, you’re starting to embarrass yourself.
Kerouac’s iconic Beat Generation novel has so infiltrated our national consciousness that reading it almost seems unnecessary. Few people who aren’t American history scholars or hermetic anti-government nutjobs have read the Declaration Of Independence from preamble to John Hancock, and yet we all know about (and demand) our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Similarly, you don’t have to read Sal Paradise’s worshipful descriptions of Dean Moriarty’s considerable bad-assitude and unrepentant assholery to understand that the rootless, rambling lifestyle that On The Road personifies is exciting and inherently American. Thomas Jefferson and Kerouac made vitally important contributions to our collective concept of the American Dream; it’s not so much a matter of reading their works as effortlessly pulling them out of the atmosphere and breathing them in.
Still, considering how much trouble we as a society have gotten into because too many people think they know the Bible without actually reading it, I figured it might be a good idea to sit down and immerse myself in the nitty-gritty of the Bible Of Beat. Surely I was depriving myself by not reading about Kerouac’s cross-country sojourns to Denver, San Francisco, Mexico, and numerous points between with the likes of Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, and Neal Cassady—the basis for Dean, and Kerouac’s larger-than-life muse—in the late ’40s.
I’m glad I did read On The Road, if only because it confirmed that what the book signifies is far more important than the book itself, which I found surprisingly dull and inert for a core building block of the counterculture. Kerouac’s self-styled form of “spontaneous prose”—which was rapidly pecked out on a massive scroll of taped-together sheets of paper measuring 12 stories long—is intentionally misshapen and manic, hurriedly describing a rush of events in a way that’s intended to be exhilarating. It clearly was for many readers at the time (and beyond), but for me, it didn’t offer anything particularly interesting or insightful. Take this passage, where Kerouac (as his stand-in Sal) recounts a (probably drug-fueled) conversation between “child of the rainbow” Dean and Carlo Marx, the nom de plume Kerouac gave his friend Ginsberg:
Then they got down to business. They sat on the bed cross-legged and looked straight at each other. I slouched in a nearby chair and saw all of it. They began with an abstract thought, discussed it; reminded each other of an abstract point forgotten in the rush of events; Dean apologized but promised he could get back to it and manage it fine, bringing up illustrations.
Carlo said, “And just as we were crossing Wazee I wanted to tell you about how I felt of your frenzy with the midgets and it was just then, remember, you pointed out that old bum with the baggy pants and said he looked just like your father?”
“Yes, yes, of course I remember; and not only that, but it started a train of my own, something real wild I had to tell you, I’d forgotten it, now you just reminded me of it…” and two new points were born. They hashed these over. Then Carlo asked Dean if he was honest and specifically if he was being honest with him in the bottom of his soul.
“Why do you bring that up again?”
“There’s one thing I want to know—“
I’m going to stop here, even if it is an awkward break, because I think you probably get the point. (Plus, this passage goes on for-fucking-ever.) Much of On The Road consists of loopy conversations that probably seemed profound before they were transcribed on paper and dried out, without all the chemicals; on the page, they made me regret not downing a handful of bennies and chasing it with a bottle of rotgut wine before picking the book up. The rest of On The Road details encounters with hitchhikers, cowboys, hobos, poets, and other free-spirited ne’er-do-wells who never seem as captivating or significant as Kerouac’s easily excitable Sal thinks they are. Whether it’s matter of nothing much happening, or Kerouac’s convoluted, inconsistent prose failing to bring the events to life, reading On The Road was like being stuck in a car with a blowhard with a vast repertoire of rambling anecdotes without punchlines. I appreciated the storyteller’s enthusiasm, and desperately longed for an ejector seat.
Maybe I’m just too old. Surely I would have liked On The Road more had I read it when I was 16 instead of 32. Instead of relating to Sal, I ended up siding with the fuddy-duddies at The Saturday Review, which dismissed On The Road as a “dizzy travelogue” when it came out in 1957.
Even if I am out of touch with the kids and that kooky jazz racket they listen to, I’d like to think even my 16-year-old self would have cringed when Sal wishes “I were a Negro” as he wanders through a black neighborhood in segregated, pre-civil-rights-era Denver. When Kerouac gushes that “the best that the white world offered was not enough ecstasy for me, not enough life, joy, kicks, darkness, music, not enough life,” its feels like his heart is in the right place, but his naïveté about the crushing subjugation of his honorary African-American brothers makes his wide-eyed idealization silly at best, and patronizing at worst.
The most problematic part of On The Road for me is the portrayal of Dean, the book’s hero. Dean represents everything men want to be as they enter adulthood—he’s strong-willed, self-assured, impervious to the downsides of excessive drug and alcohol consumption, and always out to have a good time. Oh, and he also has an “enormous dangle,” as Sal dreamily reports. In real life, Cassady was no less mesmerizing; he was a Zelig figure and drifter who palled around with Kerouac and Ginsberg in the early days of the Beat movement, then ingratiated himself with Ken Kesey and the Grateful Dead in the ’60s, driving the “Furthur” bus across the United States as the Merry Pranksters played Johnny Appleseed with LSD. Seemingly everybody who ever met Cassady worshipped the ground he walked on, imbuing him with mystical powers that are not of this Earth. “He seemed to live in another dimension,” Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir once said of Cassady, “and in that dimension time as we know it was transparent.”
Apparently living in a different dimension can turn you into sort of a prick. At least that’s how Dean came off to me as I was reading On The Road. In spite of Sal’s protestations to the contrary, Dean seems less like an all-powerful oracle for the coming age than a selfish, self-absorbed misogynist who equated getting his joint worked with spiritual fulfillment. For Dean, nirvana is a brothel in Mexico stocked with underaged whores. When he’s finally called out for abandoning one of his many wives, Sal gives him an appropriately childish defense:
I longed to put my arm around Dean and say, Now look here, all of you, remember just one thing: this guy has his troubles too, and another thing, he never complains and he’s given all of you a damned good time just being himself, and if that isn’t enough for you then send him to the firing squad, that’s apparently what you’re itching to do anyway…
There was a time in my life when I have gladly let a guy like Dean sleep on my couch; now, I’d just shut off the light and pretend I wasn’t home. But even if On The Road as a book is rife with hokey, misguided romanticism, as an idea it remains potent, timeless, and quantifiably great. Amid the passages that made my eyes roll were lines that have appeared in Tom Waits and Hold Steady songs, reminding me that Kerouac’s restless spirit inspired legions of artists to follow their own idiosyncratic paths. On The Road is clearly much bigger than my relatively insignificant feelings about it; it might even be bigger than Neal Cassady’s dangle, which is praise Kerouac himself surely would have appreciated.
Monday, February 22, 2010
"Get an accountant, abstain from sex and similes, cut, rewrite, then cut and rewrite again – if all else fails, pray. Inspired by Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing, we asked authors for their personal dos and don'ts." (From Guardian.co.uk)LINK
These lists are genius. I'll be studying them for a very long time. Also, it's a great read even if you're not a writer.
Saturday, February 20, 2010
Friday, February 19, 2010
And then if I become HUGE in the literary world maybe they'll display my spiral notebooks next to Kerouac's reams of typewriter paper...
Pens are important, too...
2. Yesterday I was walking through the Metro station headed for the turnstile when I heard a woman yelling from the row of fare card dispensers, "Anyone got a dollar? I need a dollar!" but I kept walking ignoring her pleas like everyone else. It wasn't until minutes later when I was standing on the platform that I thought to myself, "I have a dollar. I could've given her one." Why didn't I just stop and give her a dollar? A dollar means nothing to me. Why did I keep walking with the rest of the people? And why didn't I go back?
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Pull plastic bag from pocket
and wave it like a flag
or diploma. Make sure many people
congratulate your care
for the community.
Check bag for holes.
Inspect stool for odd hues.
Greens, blues, blood.
You don't want to leave smears
on the sidewalk or grass—no prints.
Getaway must be clean.
Prepare to go in for all of it.
Grab, clamp, reverse bag, twist, knot, cinch.
Hold loaded bag high in the air,
assure onlookers that Everything is Okay.
If a cop should cruise by,
his crew cut bristling
in the sun,
hold that bag higher,
so he, too, can salute
The bomb diffused,
the world a little safer, a little cleaner,
will not offend the deep treads
of someone's shoes.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Saturday, February 13, 2010
At first I thought redoing We are the World was a terrible idea. But I have to admit I liked it. A lot. Lionel and Q hit it out of the park. And this video was directed by legendary director Paul Haggis.
Speaking of the Olympics, I dare you to throw a rock in the Olympic Village and not hit an attractive Olympian. Cheese and crackers, did you see those hotties!
Friday, February 12, 2010
Thursday, February 11, 2010
I haven't been to work since last Friday. I've been wearing the same flannel shirt and sweat pants for several days. The days are starting to become a blur. The roads are still hazardous and no one is moving. The bad weather appears to have left us. The skies are clear. The Sun is out. Today the winds will die down. We're being told that things will go back to normal.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
By Henry Rollins
The head spins. This will take days to filter. Days? Weeks, months even. There’s Tom Tancredo’s recent baby’s-up-past-bedtime blather at a Tea Party event about the “cult of multiculturalism”—wow! Mr. T, do you really want to have a literacy test for voters? Think if they had one when you ran for office that you would have been elected? Oliver North’s melding of homosexuality and pedophilia on Fox News when he flexed his mini-mind and ranted paranoid on the topic of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell—righteous! Ollie, you need better makeup to hide the gills on your neck! Don’t Ask Oliver North where he can get one solid fact to back up his bizarre assertions. Don’t Tell the shamed ex-Marine that the military already has thousands of brave homosexual men and women serving their country and defending the Constitution, who would never think of behaving as he did back in the Iran-Contra days. Then again, why bother with Lieutenant Colonel North? He’s an irrelevant relic of the failed Reagan administration.
Then there’s Sarah Palin, who, egged on by other intellectually malnourished “real Americans,” has said so many startlingly stupid things in the last few days, the comedic furnaces won’t be cooling down any time soon! She’s a dynamo of dumbassity! An inferno of idiocy! Yes, Ms. Palin, 2012 is almost in your grasp! Reach for the stars, get a map, find Iran, start another pointless war we can’t afford! Score!
Just when America really needs to get to work and move forward, some of the dimmest bulbs in the country decide it’s time to turn on and lead the race to the bottom. Christian groups freaked out by the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act and its threat to their religious freedom to hate homosexuals—don’t worry, homophobes! The First Amendment protects your right to tell the world that gays are hell-bound! No one’s trying to impose a “homosexual agenda” on you! The rest of us are just trying to impose some much-needed decency and cultural evolution. I know, I know, fear the change, fear the equality, progress, blahblahblah …
You silly grown-ups! The future is hilarious and very problematic, thanks to you. Cheer up! I’ll do my best to track your epic, very public nosedive.
Sunday, February 7, 2010
The sensation I get when I walk through the cavernous paths hollowed out through the snow in my neighborhood is claustrophobia. It feels like I'm living in an ant farm. The icy corridors all branch out from larger paths - I'd love to see an aerial view.
Fortunately, I have plenty of coffee and cereal.
Friday, February 5, 2010
Speaking of pirates, I never dressed up as one as a child. Is that my problem? All these long years and it boils down to my lack of a fake wooden leg and an eye patch?
Life's secrets can sneak up on ya.
Thursday, February 4, 2010
But yesterday Mel Gibson just wiggled his way back up a little on the likability chart. I'm not sure if you saw it or heard about it, but Mel called a TV reporter an asshole during a press junket for his new movie because the reporter asked questions about the "incident" that sent Mr. Gibson into obscurity four years ago.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not against journalism or reporting, and it definitely makes for an uncomfortable, juicy situation when people keep asking about an actor's apparent/supposed anti-Semitic behavior, but rather than answer the question like a rehearsed, choreographed robot with little or no sincerity, Mel actually showed some emotion and disdain for the question, albeit with a little douchiness.
And, prediction, this little moment caught on TV might be the little thing that saves Mel's career. We shall see.
For the record, Apocalypto kicked ass.
Here's yesterday video:
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Monday, February 1, 2010
I was watching the Golden Globes. Must have been one year in the early Aughts. One of my favorite TV shows Deadwood was up for best drama. Assuming that there was no way in Hell a different TV show was going to beat Deadwood, I tuned in. But guess what - Deadwood did not win! Some lame-ass show I barely heard about won. Some stupid show called Lost. "What the heck is Lost?" said me. "How could ANY show be better than Deadwood?" said me.
Skeptical, yet curious, I marched my butt down to the local Blockbuster (it was a store that rented out dvds... google it) and rented DISK ONE of the first season of Lost just to see what all the commotion was about.
When the episode one of Lost ended Lynette and I sat there in our living room mouths agape. It blew us away! (Seriously, I dare you to watch the pilot episode and not get sucked in.) I quickly looked at my watch to see if I still had time to get back to Blockbuster to rent the remaining disks for season one.
Funny thing, Blockbuster did not have the other disks available that night. Determined to watch the entire season in one night I ran over to Best Buy and BOUGHT Lost Season One.
After five years of following along with one of the most delicious mystery/sci-fi television series ever created, tomorrow night the final season of Lost will begin. Although I will be happy to get some answers to some of the weird things that have occurred on the show, I will be sad to say goodbye to the fun of trying to figure it all out. To be fair, seasons 3 and 4 dragged a bit, but it was still fun. Fun is the best word I can give to this wonderful, unique show.
Another funny thing: Here's me barely hanging on as evidenced in a blog post from two years ago. LINK
Here's how the show started: