The Intelligence Paradox: Why the Intelligent Choice Isn’t Always the Smart One, by Satoshi Kanazawa


The Intelligence Paradox: Why the Intelligent Choice Isn’t Always the Smart One
by Satoshi Kanazawa
272 pages, Wiley, $17

Many of you may be familiar with Satoshi Kanazawa from his column The Scientific Fundamentalist, which attempted to use the prestige of a mainstream science magazine to explore the parts of science that aren’t cuddly and polite conversation.

Over the course of several years, Kanazawa’s topics on the blog poked into every dangerous corner where science collided with the sorts of pleasant notions of “truth” that we tell ourselves in modern society to reinforce the notion that our society is making some kind of progress. In other words, the blog was a sacrificial altar to sacred cows.

Then one fateful day, Kanazawa went too far for his hosts with an article called “Why Are Black Women Rated Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women, But Black Men Are Rated Better Looking Than Other Men?”. While this post was, like others posted before it, an analysis of statistics from dating sites and surveys and the often startling results they produce, the outcry was immediate. He had attacked a sacred cow the crowd could not resist white knighting for.

Since then, he has regrouped by writing The Intelligence Paradox: Why the Intelligent Choice Isn’t Always the Smart One, which will be published by Wiley. He describes it as a continuation of his work:

The book is a summary of my current academic work for the general audience, and focuses on the effect of general intelligence on individual preferences and values. It visits many of the same topics that I have covered in The Scientific Fundamentalist blog, and includes contributions from some of you as readers of and commentators on my blog. If you liked my Psychology Today blog, I’m sure you will also find the book of interest to you.

It will be interesting to see whether he resumes the blog. Perhaps the answer depends in part on the reception that The Intelligence Paradox: Why the Intelligent Choice Isn’t Always the Smart One finds, so if you’re looking for summer reading, this should be a good and ethical choice. You’re not only supporting a book on scientifically fearless topics, but also, keeping a word in that thought should not be enslaved to the dogma of the crowd.

As Kanazawa said in an email to his supporters, “I had always known that political persecution was the price one must pay for telling uncomfortable truths, but this time it nearly cost me my job. I want to thank you all for standing by me and voicing support when it seemed the whole world was against me.” By job, we assume he means his position in the Department of Management of the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Luckily this dovetails with the topic of his book, which like some of Rupert Sheldrake’s work before it, suggests that a Goedelian split exists between “human rationality” and what is rational on the scale and level of the universe itself. Perhaps our logical brains have led us astray after all. We’ll have to read on to find out.

14 Comments

  1. A. Realist says:

    Kanaziwa seems a highly intelligent man.

    I think while it may seem that publishing the article about why people don’t find black women as attractive as black men was an error, that’s short-term thinking.

    In the long term he won over a new audience of people who are tired of having busybodies do our thinking for us “in case someone gets offended.”

    People should be offended. If you don’t offend them, all the nitwits and do-nuthins gather up together and start forcing their zombie groupthink on the rest of us.

    1. crow says:

      As Canadians would say: “A Realist, Eh?”
      I’ve never gone for gratuitous offensiveness, but, as you say, offense is good for you. Puts hair on your chest.

      1. A. Realist says:

        From another angle, if we don’t fight actual enemies, we make up enemies (like a lack of equality). Being offended by life helps us know what is actually bad, as opposed to the false targets that the busybodies invent.

        1. crow says:

          It might be good, too, to not be deemed a criminal, for being able to identify who those actual enemies are.

          1. A. Realist says:

            Thought codes are very destructive along these lines. However, the society which has no thought codes will end up being absorbed by other ideologies or tribes. Thus thought codes of some kind are necessary.

    2. I don’t see how reporting on already gathered statistics can be offensive. That people think that way, might be offensive. But it’s like our society says “you can have any opinion you want” and then is shocked that we don’t all think alike. I don’t want us to all think alike or for us to all not think alike, because what is important is whether that thinking is realistic or not. The problem with that is that if we are all realistic we will all think similar things. Well I guess how that’s how society was centuries ago.

      1. crow says:

        There’s an error in logic, there…
        If everyone is realistic, how does that lead to everyone thinking similar things?
        Reality is the baseline from where thinking starts.
        A box of paints doesn’t mean every artist creates similar images.

        1. ferret says:

          If these realistic artists use oil paints, each paint will be labeled something like “Unique_Name, oil on canvas, 18’x24′, private collection”. This ‘oil’ makes similarity.

          Perhaps a non-realistic artist will use something else which will be discovered immediately by its smell.

          1. crow says:

            Any similarity will be reality-based, though.
            And reality, being limitless, will give rise to limitless possibilities, all based upon reality.
            As opposed to the very limited possibilities available to the socially-based artist, who must work within the merely social.

  2. Meow Mix says:

    I remember he did a fascinating article on how conservatives were statistically less intelligent than liberals but then theorized that intelligence was connected to mating habits. He stated that since liberals are more intelligent, they are more prone to go to college. Since college students are constantly taxed by study and trying to pay bills, they have no time to settle down in a stable relationship. This is the reason that liberals are more sexually promiscuous and support access to birth control, abortion, etc. In contrast, since most conservatives go straight into the workforce they opt for a stable family life and choose partners that are not as likely to be cheating whores. He also suggested that while liberals were more intelligent they were also far more inclined to make stupid decisions based on overanalysis (the old book smart vs common sense debate).

    1. crow says:

      Interesting comment, and food for further consideration.
      I wonder if the notion that conservatives seem (to anyone inclined to compare) less intelligent, stems from their not wearing it like an identity, but habitually rely upon another skill-set that has less to do with what we usually understand as ‘intellect’?

  3. crow says:

    The title of the book is a study in itself.
    I can personally attest to the paradoxical nature of ‘intelligence’.
    It is vastly overrated and made out to be far more important than it really is.

    Intelligence is one tool, among many, that humans have, allowing them to face reality and come out ahead.
    It is certainly not always the right tool for the job at hand.
    It seems to be, and will continue to seem to be, for as long as the one that sees it that way, discovers something more useful, and more effective.

    Intelligence works best at low-heat, on the back burner.
    When you let it take center stage, it becomes a prima-donna.
    All the parts a human has, are designed to work as one.
    Elevate a single part to the status of God, and…

    What you see, is what you get.

    1. crow says:

      Damn, there’s a serious problem with the grammar of that reply :(
      Apologies.

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