My Intelligence Hypothesis (Liberals, Conservatives, and Other)

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.

Stage 2.png

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.



Add yours →

  1. In my more recent years I have began to believe that scripture supports a socialist way of living accompanied with capitalist work ethic. 


    • I think that is one of the most perceptive things I’ve heard you say. I wonder if Michael would agree (I imagine not).


    • Michael, care to chyme in? 


    • Daniel imagines correctly. However, I would agree that we live as “communists” within local institutions – the family, the church, and often within corporations. Ronald Coase is the authority on this topic.


    • Add to that “local communities” and we have ourselves a deal.


    • Jamestown, the original commune community, was a tragic failure – when you have a division of labor towards different profit motives, a price system is quickly needed – did you mean something different?


    • The Jamestown reference seems anecdotal, and I’m not sure how true that “original” comment is. But regardless, I had in mind a church that lives in close proximity to each other–neighborhoods that live communally while interacting capitalistically with the rest of the city and the world. But this has nothing to do with my post… thank you Stephen for misleading us.


    • John Scott Smith January 3, 2017 — 3:07 PM

      Depends on if it’s voluntary or not. If you mean that scripture supports a socialist or communist state…yikes. Economics tells us that, to some extent, a market economy is necessary in order to create a price system so that resources can be allocated in a rational manner. Daniel, you’re right that communes can work on a small scale (the early church is indeed a good example of this), but on the macro level an economy is simply far far too complex to be centrally planned by anyone without significant suffering and death.


  2. 1) I need to better distinguish my definitions of socialism and communism for my own benefit. 2) I was playing off your comment of communism being a bad thing. So maybe I didn’t lead the topic astray, but rather guided us all to an idiotic enlightenment 


  3. John Scott Smith January 3, 2017 — 3:04 PM

    Have you read much of Hegel’s contemporary and critic, Soren Kierkegaard? I’d highly recommend him. I’m not entirely sure from this post if you accept the Hegelian dialectic as true, but I see little to no reason to view history as a purely progressive affair.


    • Very little–a bit of “Practice in Christianity”–but I’ll check him out. And no, I do not necessarily accept his dialectic; it just works out well for explaining my hypothesis. Though I do think there is weight to it, especially in history.


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