Intellect as a trap

A fascinating read:

He found that liberals and conservatives scored roughly equally on average, but the highest scoring individuals in both groups were the most likely to display political bias when assessing the truth of various political statements.

In a further study (replicated here), Kahan and a team of researchers found that test subjects who scored highest in numeracy were better able to objectively evaluate statistical data when told it related to a skin rash treatment, but when the same data was presented as data regarding a polarizing subject—gun control—those who scored highest on numeracy actually exhibited the greatest bias.

As a case in point, human intelligence evolved less as a tool for pursuing objective truth than as a tool for pursuing personal well-being, tribal belonging, social status, and sex, and this often required the adoption of what I call “Fashionably Irrational Beliefs” (FIBs), which the brain has come to excel at.

Since we’re a social species, it is intelligent for us to convince ourselves of irrational beliefs if holding those beliefs increases our status and well-being. Dan Kahan calls this behavior “identity-protective cognition” (IPC).

By engaging in IPC, people bind their intelligence to the service of evolutionary impulses, leveraging their logic and learning not to correct delusions but to justify them. Or as the novelist Saul Bellow put it, “a great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep.”

This reminds me of how artistic excellence is correlated with schizophrenia - and how engineering correlates with autism.


The big problem is that if you use the same data for different alleged topics, people have different knowledge of factors relating to the correlation-causation fallacy. The more numerate likely have greater exposure to those facts.


(Emphasis mine)

If engineering correlates with autism, why is the U.S. not experiencing an epidemic of engineering?



External pressures of wokeism destroying engineering. If the US graduated only five engineers next year and one of them was autistic, there would technically be a correlation.

And, of course, there are issues of the expansion of the definition of autism and of overdiagnosis.


And there is always the deeper issue of defining what engineering is. However you decide that, the US is sinking fast in that community. Engineering builds stuff, and we have quit building stuff.


Another autism factor could be that assortative within-profession breeding between engineers has grown significantly in the past two generations.

Some genes are like salt: a little bit is great, too much just ruins the dish and eliminates otherwise worthwhile genes from the population.