Clever Sillies / High IQ people lack common sense Aye, yai, yai!

Aye, yai, yai! I think that there are more prejudicial and unscientific proclamations, and scientifically unprovable assertions, in this “intellectual demonstration” than I’ve encountered in reading hundreds of papers, studies, or reviews.

This is a disappointment in light of BC Charlton’s profile, which sounds quite promising. (Not really) He denies that western society is hierarchical – and by pronouncing it “modular” (magic word syndrome again) “proves it’s modular” Abracadabra!

Could Bruce Carlton be one of the “clever sillies” conjured in his editorial?

The Modernization Imperative by Bruce Charlton and Peter Andras

This book argues that contemporary society in Western democracies is generally misunderstood. Commentators typically assume that we still live in a ‘pyramidal’ hierarchical state that is dominated either directly by the government, or indirectly by capitalist economics. It is assumed that social cohesion is imposed on the population by a combination of force and propaganda. Such widespread views contribute to a pessimistic attitude to the present and a fearful attitude to the future, yet neither view is correct. The reality is that we live in a fundamentally pluralistic society divided into numerous ‘modular’ social systems each performing different functions; these include politics, public administration, the armed forces, law, economics, religion, education, health and the mass media. Because each is specialized, none of these systems are dominant and there is no overall hierarchy of power between them. Modernizing societies are therefore structured more like a mosaic than a pyramid. The Modernization Imperative explains the importance of modernisation to all societies and analyses anti-modernisation in the UK.

“Clever Sillies” – wasn’t that a recurring skit in Monty Python? Oh! I’m sorry, that was “Social Module” of Silly Walks.



Med Hypotheses. 2009 Dec;73(6):867-70. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2009.08.016. Epub 2009 Sep 4.

Clever sillies: why high IQ people tend to be deficient in common sense.


In previous editorials I have written about the absent-minded and socially-inept ‘nutty professor’ stereotype in science, and the phenomenon of ‘psychological neoteny’ whereby intelligent modern people (including scientists) decline to grow-up and instead remain in a state of perpetual novelty-seeking adolescence. These can be seen as specific examples of the general phenomenon of ‘clever sillies’ whereby intelligent people with high levels of technical ability are seen (by the majority of the rest of the population) as having foolish ideas and behaviours outside the realm of their professional expertise. In short, it has often been observed that high IQ types are lacking in ‘common sense’–and especially when it comes to dealing with other human beings. (Could he be unaware that Asperger people exist?) General intelligence is not just a cognitive ability; it is also a cognitive disposition. So, the greater cognitive abilities of higher IQ tend also to be accompanied by a distinctive high IQ personality type including the trait of ‘Openness to experience’, ‘enlightened’ or progressive left-wing political values, and atheism. (WOW!)

Drawing on the ideas of Kanazawa, my suggested explanation for this association between intelligence and personality is that an increasing relative level of IQ brings with it a tendency differentially to over-use general intelligence in problem-solving, and to over-ride those instinctive and spontaneous forms of evolved behaviour which could be termed common sense. (WOW!) Preferential use of abstract analysis is often useful when dealing with the many evolutionary novelties to be found in modernizing societies; but is not usually useful for dealing with social and psychological problems for which humans have evolved ‘domain-specific’ adaptive behaviours. And since evolved common sense usually produces the right answers in the social domain; (WOW! – common sense, whatever that is, is an evolutionary product that coincides with the demands of socialization. If you aren’t “social” you can’t practice common sense. And what happened to differences in culture and environment? 

This implies that, when it comes to solving social problems, the most intelligent people are more likely than those of average intelligence to have novel but silly ideas, and therefore to believe and behave maladaptively. I further suggest that this random silliness of the most intelligent people may be amplified to generate systematic wrongness when intellectuals are in addition ‘advertising’ their own high intelligence in the evolutionarily novel context of a modern IQ meritocracy. The cognitively-stratified context of communicating almost-exclusively with others of similar intelligence, generates opinions and behaviours among the highest IQ people which are not just lacking in common sense but perversely wrong. Hence the phenomenon of ‘political correctness’ (PC); whereby false and foolish ideas have come to dominate, and moralistically be enforced upon, the ruling elites of whole nations. (WOW!)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s