For a while now, I have been bouncing an idea of mine around with some friends, getting their feedback to refine the hypothesis. The idea deals with the relative intelligence of individuals and how their personal beliefs align with the classical categories of “liberal” and “conservative.” I noticed this article a few weeks back and thought its connection to my hypothesis was interesting. I momentarily forgot about it, but when a friend of mine reposted it on Facebook, I thought it would act as a nice springboard for presenting my idea.
In fact, this article gives great empirical evidence for the first half of my hypothesis—i.e., that liberals are typically smarter than conservatives. And while the article is concerned with liberals as altruistic, the findings hold true for liberals in the more literal sense of the word: people who reject traditional beliefs in favor of new ones. And that makes sense. It makes sense because it is true that the world hates change (certainly, some more than others), and it takes a special push to make most people change. That special push—the push that brings progress—is intelligence, being able to look ahead and see the benefits of any given change. It would make sense that, on average, the more intelligent among us are the ones that bring progress.
However, I think there is more to it. And I think the Hegelian dialectic leads us to that “more.” The Hegelian dialectic, developed Mr. Hegel, understands every system to operate in three stages. There is the thesis—that which is already accepted—and there is the antithesis—that which rejects or contradicts the thesis. The key to the Hegelian dialectic, though, is that the thesis and antithesis can always be resolved, by some means, into a synthesis. The synthesis is often an amalgamation of the previous two stages, but it is also necessarily a step forward—it never moves backward.
So, if we are to understand conservatism as our thesis and liberalism as our antithesis, there must be some tertium quid that is our synthesis. The point of this post, however, is not to spur us on to stop our petty arguments and to move on to this more “unified” way of thinking—no, it is to suggest that there are some that have already done this, and that they represent the most intelligent among us. I have heard the discussions in the article mentioned above, and while I have found them to be mostly true, I have also encountered individuals that I find to be more intelligent and more perceptive, wiser and wittier than those that would fall into the classical categories: liberal and conservative.
Though, I should mention that these individuals do seem closer to “conservative.” They certainly are not—don’t mishear me, but they do overlap more with conservatives. And that makes sense. The beliefs that are typically held by conservatives are passed down and considered conservative for a reason. A big part of that reason is because it has already proven to be right and to work, and was likely proven to be right by the most intelligent of generations past. (Another part of the reason some beliefs are passed down as conservative is because they support our human selfishness, but I do not think that is the case most often.)
It reminds me of communism, as strange as that may sound. I remember knowing from a very young age that communism was a bad thing; I played enough video games with the Russians in red to know that. But whenever I grew up to those “rebellious” middle school years, I learned what communism really was and the logic behind it. It wasn’t the economic system of evil, but a system designed around equality and sharing. I remember at the time thinking that it sounded a lot like Acts 2 and that it might be kinda neat. Yet, only a few years later, I realized that communism was not spurned on account of its sinister intentions but because of how it had practically played out in the 20th century. I don’t say this as an attack on communist structures but as an analogy that I think many of us remember.
Because of the nature of this claim, it is near impossible to prove. The idea is that most people fit in the first two categories, but that there are a few—not enough to make any statistical difference—that are closer to that ultimate truth. The most I can offer is that I have seen these people. I have seen how they reject these broader categories and instead offer a brighter, wiser take on the world and on religion.