I am sure that with this provocative title, that many of you are foaming at the mouth and ready to break something, but calm down, I am in this essay going to argue the antithesis of the title, which is something that two "evolutionary psychologists", Satoshi Kanazawa and Jody Kovar are arguing.
First, a word about science: When we think about intransigent disdain and disregard for science, often the first thing that comes to mind is the democratic influence that religious people can have over the government. But there is another force that can try to silence or even stop scientific inquiry. This force is the force of political correctness and secularism. Psychologists who claim to have found patterns that emerge in the childhoods of gay people or that they have found a type of therapy that can cure the condition are often belittled, slandered, and intimidated into silence. Scientists who question global warming, macroevolution, and abiogenesis will often face the same kind of persecution. Scientists who corroborate and point out differences in brain architecture between men and women and suggest that men or women may be better at certain kinds of tasks or certain kinds of thinking are often branded as "sexists".
Every group – creationists, atheists, pro and anti gay rights groups, the pro life, the pro choice, the modern feminists and the men and women who are appalled at them – is guilty of becoming somewhat testy and irrational when scientific evidence makes a case against their world view. The important thing to remember is to not get overly emotional over such things and calmly think through evidence that is being given to you.
A good example of this is the book "The Bell Curve". The Bell Curve was a book dealing with how IQ differences among people can influence social classes and structures. In one part of the book, the authors insinuate that the gene pools of certain races contained more intelligence and they claim that numbers on intelligence tests prove it. While the authors did face a lot of animosity and ad hominems from some critics, other critics who had doubts about the validity of the studies that were cited in the bell curve and knew that showing anger would just demonstrate to the authors that they were simply in denial and cannot face the truth began to attack it via their own experiments and studies, and showing the inadequacy of the logic of the authors. Although academia, particularly those in the fields of psychology that specialize in things such as intelligence tests, does have a partiality to left-of-center politics, (which can mean they have instinctive indignation of anything that questions their view of the role of race in society or anything that they could consider "racially insensitive") it is safe to say that the section of The Bell Curve that deals with race and IQ (and many other sections of the book for that matter) have not only been rejected by a very large majority of specialists, but have been thoroughly discredited via experiments.
My first reaction to reading this study was anger, not just at the insinuation that people that have more money are smarter but that more attractive people tend to be more intelligent, and of course to be true to what I have been preaching here, I have to try and eliminate that anger from my system, and form an opinion on it based on facts and logic, not based on a need to believe that everyone is in one way or another better than someone else, and that nature is fair and that talents, favorable personality characteristics, and ultimately frivolous but still sociologically useful assets like physical beauty are distributed evenly among the population. Although I do not have the time, resources, and expertise to conduct studies and experiments to try and back up my doubts about the conclusion of the authors, I can instead try to dwell on my personal experiences and some logic of my own to scrutinize this periodical that has a provocative scientific conclusion but has not gotten much attention. While it can be argued that using personal experiences and observations and not actually collecting data is a hasty generalization, I'm confident that many people have made the same observations in their communities. (It should be noted also, that all proven correlations start out as observations. For instance, before it was shown how smoking can cause cancer, it was observed that smokers tend to have cancer.)
The argument of the article is centered around four statements, and I condensed them to three paraphrased statements of my own:Intelligent men are more likely to obtain wealth. Beautiful Women are more likely to marry men with wealth. Both intelligence and beauty is genetically inheritable.
First, it's important to point out that beauty does in fact does exist, that it is not as subjective as once thought, and that it is not the abstruse mystery that we sometimes think of it as. Scientists have not only been able to explain what makes beauty, but have found a way to effectively quantify it. The attractiveness of a person is determined partially by the structure of the skull and the jawbone, and by the combination of certain facial features. The most important factor of all, however, is facial symmetry, and not the sort that can be measured with the naked eye. In numerous experiments, researchers have created special topographical images of different people's faces, and used a computer program to measure the level of symmetry. They also had a group of people rate the attractiveness of these people. There was a pretty strong correlation between the level of symmetry in the face and the subjective rankings of the judges. In other words, if the computer were to assign a rating on a scale of one to ten on how symmetrical a person's face is, the average one-to-ten scale rating provided by human judges would be close to the same value.
The first of the three above statements is something that looks fairly reasonable, and was even something that was argued in The Bell Curve. Of course, many academics in the field of sociology and psychology are strong proponents of the notion that most societies, America included, are socially unjust and that high societal status is achieved primarily through privileges. One can see why they would take umbrage at an assertion that the rich are more intelligent than the poor. Of course, there are effective arguments to be made on both sides about whether or not America is a "meritocracy", so simply repeating the most common clichéd arguments on the "social justice" side of this debate is inadequate.
The truth is that both sides of this debate can be correct, and both can make effective arguments. Both sides argue that there are considerable factors other than intelligence that will determine how much wealth a person will attain.
People that tend not to believe an equal opportunity America often point out social barriers that can keep people in the working class in the working class. These barriers include not having access to decent primary and secondary schools and the high cost of a four-year college degree. Another social barrier that exists, although the debate about its existence and the degree to which it exists has been plagued with intellectual dishonesty, demagoguery, ignorance, and bitterness by both sides, is job discrimination. Some discrimination allegations are unfair and are made out of fear or misunderstanding, and because of that many people will consider all alleged discrimination case to be like that, even if evidence shows it indeed was blatantly discriminatory. There are, however, blatant cases of discrimination and it creates a significant barrier for non-white citizens. But it isn't just discrimination based upon a person's race. People with highly unusual physical characteristics – such as midgets, giants, the morbidly and even mildly obese, the mildly or very unattractive, or even those that have an unusual sounding voice – can also face discrimination (and studies prove this). In my experience (from attending a socioeconomically diverse high school in a socioeconomically diverse rural southern town) I have met some people who were not college bound and would considered by most to be working class that were very intelligent, and I'm sure that many people will say the same thing.
On the other hand, people on the opposing side, those that say that these barriers are insignificant and do not impede equality of opportunity, also will not argue that those who are the poorest are simply not as intelligent as those who are. One of their primary arguments is that it is hard work that largely determines someone's success in life. Many self-employed people who are in the highest tax bracket are tireless workers. The stereotype that businesspeople always have their cell phones glued to their ears and laptops to their fingers is exaggerated by television and popular culture, but is still a good generalization. I've known many self-employed people who are very successful, and they are not only very dedicated and diligent workers, they are also all vehemently frugal people – the kind of people who will smuggle sack lunches into amusement parks to get around paying the high food prices. Another argument these people will make is that working class families are plagued with social problems that inhibit rising the social ladder. Rates of alcoholism, drug abuse, legal trouble, teenage pregnancy, and an all-around apathy towards education and intellectual development are more prominent in lower class families, and most will agree that these problems aren't caused by a lack of intelligence, but apathy.
There is another thing that statement number one overlooks. The salary of a particular job may not be the only factor that a person considers in taking a job. Many high-paying jobs have a lot of pressures and can be very stressful. An ambitious and energetic person may take the big promotion and move on to a more demanding job, but some people will not. There are varying reasons. Many people with introverted personalities (of whom there are plenty of highly intelligent people, probably even more so than the extroverts) will usually find themselves uncomfortable in the job, and will decline jobs where decisiveness and assertiveness is required. Also, such jobs could involve more travel, relocation, and less time with family. A person's ability to accept such things and deal with such things depends upon their personality, not their intelligence. In my experience, intelligent people are more likely to think that wealth is overrated and the pay of a job is only a minor factor for them.
Statement number two is perhaps even more absurd than the first. It would seem like a reasonable generalization given how society has become increasingly more sexually promiscuous, more beauty conscious, and more aware of marriages between very wealthy men in their 40s or 50s to beautiful women in their 20s. One of the biggest flaws with the argument is that studies have shown that women value an emotional attachment when it comes to a sexual relationship. This is not only corroborated by what women say, but by sexual behavior as well. That having been said, why would a woman who is not overly materialistic be attracted to a man who marries her simply for her beauty, as the authors suggest that they will do often enough to affect the distribution of beauty and intelligence within the gene pool?
Arguments can be made that there is an evolutionary advantage for women having sexual proclivity for men with wealth and for men for women with physical beauty. It is advantageous for a woman to favor a man who has no difficulty acquiring food and other comforts that would make raising offspring less cumbersome and more successful. The advantage for the beautiful women is that supposedly that there is a link between physical attractiveness and health. (Again, these are not supported by research. The authors (to their credit) even cite a study which makes a case against this assertion.) Similarly, an evolutionary argument can be made that emotional attachment is far more important than being provided with ample food, comforts and amenities. It would be advantageous for a woman to choose a man that would care deeply about her welfare and would make her feel comfortable, loved, and appreciated so that child-rearing does not become cumbersome. Even men, thought they may not admit it, would rather be appreciated and by an ordinary looking woman than not loved or appreciated by a gorgeous woman.
Another fact that cannot be disputed is that in many cultures, especially developed countries such as the United States, "chemistry" in a relationship is valued by both sexes. Most people want to have a "Best friend" sort of relationship with their mate, and many claim that they do. Wealthy man-beautiful girl relationships are not likely to be common enough to create the genetic drift that Kovar and Kanazawa say that it could because even if there was a female penchant for a wealthy man a male penchant for beautiful women, it would be cancelled out if the other factors people consider important for a relationship are not present. And how often is it, that friendships are usually formed between a middle aged man and a very young woman? One of the main reasons that age differences are usually minimal between two people in a couple is not because of stigmas, but because usually the closest friendships are formed between two people who are close to the same age. Even men to some degree can be sexually aroused in the same way that women are – through emotional connections. In my experience, white men that are in a close relationship with a black woman will often say that at one time in their life they were not at all attracted to black women, and did not think that they could fall in love with one. Men can sometimes be surprised by who they can become sexually attracted to when they experience true connection and chemistry.
Finally, I have several personal observations and experiences. I hate to sound like an elitist snob, but I have noticed that intelligent people seem to value the mental and emotional aspects of a relationship more than the physical ones. They know that happy long-lasting marriages are built on strong interpersonal bonds and not mutual sexual attraction. I've been in the offices of many professors, especially those that teach math and physics, for instance, and they usually have pictures of their wives and families in their office, and many of them were probably never considerable for Victoria's Secret Ads. Many of these men have substantial salaries (six figures). It's for this reason that I would argue that not only is it not true that attractive people tend to be more intelligent, but that the attractive people tend to be less intelligent. If less intelligent people were indeed shallower when it comes to the question of looks, as I believe they are, it would mean that the "smart genes" would shift over to the unattractive portion of the population. Humans have the cognitive ability to reason when it comes to the selection of a mate, and would not instinctively choose the best looking or most wealthy or fit person that they can find. Thus the truth would be just the opposite of what the study suggests: the attractive people are actually less intelligent. But my purpose in this essay though is to refute the study, not prove the opposite, so I will not take this idea any further.
The third statement is correct. It has been shown that in fact beauty and brains are both inheritable characteristics. However, there are still problems in using this fact to prove that beautiful people are more intelligent. Assume that beauty and brains are randomly distributed throughout the gene pool, so the correlation between beauty and brains is absolutely zero. If the type of sexual selection that Kovar and Kanazawa describes is true, and their notion of intelligent men more likely to gain social status is also true, then it does not mean that both the attractiveness and the intelligence could be centralized to one group in the population. If an attractive woman and a smart man were to mate, it does not mean that the sons will be intelligent (because the woman may very well not be intelligent), attain a high social status, and go on to mate with a beautiful female. Likewise the daughters will not necessarily be beautiful (because the father was not) and go on to mate with a wealthy and smart man.
Culture is another problem with this theory. Before the concept of material wealth even existed and every family and man was completely self-sufficient, what criteria would be used for mate selection? If you go by the model that I used above about women favoring men that can provide for them and men favoring women who are sexually attractive, how could there be any discrimination when acquired skills make men effective hunters and physical strength and certainly intelligence is less important? Also, even in many old European civilizations, marriages are arranged and there is little if any sexual selection. In those times social classes were far more rigid, upward mobility and rags to riches stories were exceedingly less common and thus the correlation between wealth and intelligence would be even weaker than it is in America today, if not completely nonexistent. And because of this, the theory that the intelligent men will be more likely to obtain wealth and status would not be true. This seems reasonable, given that most of the best artists, writers, philosophers, and scientists do not come from the highest classes. In fact, many of them would be in the socioeconomic level comparable to the doctors, lawyers, and engineers of America, and not the very wealthiest of the population.
Finally, the biases inherent in IQ tests must be discussed. IQ tests have proven that they can be biased towards certain people, and proving this was probably the most damning blow to the credibility of the racial chapter of the Bell Curve. A classic study that was mentioned both in the bell curve and in the periodical by Kovar and Kanazawa is one where a group of soldiers from World War I took a military administered IQ test as tests for competence. The researchers traced the career paths and found that the ones who scored higher on the test were more likely to end up with prestigious careers that paid more money (which is supposed to be evidence that backs up the first statement). IQ tests can be biased in that they have a tendency to measure skills instead of things like work ethic, reasoning ability, intelligence, and other factors important to getting high-paying careers. A person who values his education and intellectual development would be more motivated to study harder in school, and thus would gain more skills and not only do better on IQ tests, but also better on standardized tests like the SAT which can to some extent shape the future of high school students. This is comparable to martial arts. The best ones are not necessarily the ones that are the most athletically gifted but the ones who train the hardest and are the most focued.
How is it that IQ tests measure skills more so than intelligence? Here are a few examples:
What is the sum of the first seven consecutive integer multiples of three?
Questions like these can be used on timed tests and will be scored based on how fast the questions are answered. Normally, people would one by one add each number on to the total. But someone who has knowledge of mathematics beyond that of most college educated people would be able to find the sum in a matter of a few seconds using a shortcut. Here it is:
3 x (1) PLUS 3 x (2) PLUS 3 x (3) … PLUS 3 x (n-1) PLUS 3 x (n) EQUALS (1 2 3 … n – 1 n) x (3)
In other words, the sum of the first n consecutive integer multiples of a number is equal to that number (in this case that number is 3) times the sum of the consecutive integers from one to n. And this is equal to
(1/2) x (n) x (n1) x (3) which if we take n 7, the answer comes out to 84. Most people, even college educated people, do not know that you can add up all the consecutive whole numbers from one to a particular number by multiplying that particular number times the number that is one greater than itself and then taking half the product, and they may not be trained to make the simplification using the distributive property in the first step. Even if all persons taking the test do not know the shortcut, there is still bias in a question like this in that some people can "lose their place" as they are adding up the total. This is not a sign of a lack of intelligence but is either a lack of concentration, absentmindedness (which is actually a characteristic of a highly intelligent person), or a combination of both.
Here is another example of a quantitative problem that can be found on intelligence tests that is biased:
Bill and Joe start with their backs to each other, both walk four miles, take a left turn, and then walk 3 miles, at this time, how many miles apart are they? In this problem, one would have to be trained to recognize that the two paths form the legs of two identical right triangles, and by a theorem of right triangles, both have a hypotenuse with a length of 5 miles, and together the two of them add up to 10 miles.
IQ tests can also have word games to them, and these are probably even more biased than the quantitative questions that IQ tests have, as a person who has not read extensively and developed a sophisticated vocabulary would not do as well.
Which of the following does not belong in each group?
(Aspersion, Pejorative, Insult, Pittance), (Staid, Impassive, Phlegmatic, Animated), (Perspicacity, Sagacity, Wisdom, Prowess)
If one does not have an extensive vocabulary, answering questions such as these can be difficult.
Many IQ tests will also test short-term memory, doing such things as asking the test taker to regurgitate a long sequence of numbers. Short term-memory like this is considered a dimension of intelligence by some, but of course certain highly intelligent people may not be able to do those well either. Also, just like with the math and verbal type questions, short-term memory is to a certain extent a skill that can be learned, and there are not too many situations where they would be useful. Many receptionists and secretaries (who would tend to be unintelligent people, at least according to the authors of "Why Beautiful people are more intelligent") tend to be very good at writing down or keyboarding phone numbers that people call out rapidly over the phone.
There is another way that the skill-bias of the IQ tests apply to this situation. Kovar and Kanazawa cite a study in which IQ tests were administered to a group of girls the middle class ones were more intelligent and better-looking than the working class ones. Aside from the numbers of this study not strongly backing up their assertion that beautiful people are more intelligent (they admit the correlation is weak), there are more biases here. The researchers did not take into account that the girls were going through a stage in which some would have already gone through puberty and thus be prettier in the eyes of judges and may also have more well-developed brains. Also there is the sad fact of reality that beautiful children are more likely to receive encouragement from teachers, adult mentors, and even parents and relatives (again, this is backed up by research: google something like "lookism in society" and you will find all sorts of ways in which good-looking people are subconsciously treated better by other people). Girls tend to be motivated by encouragement more so than boys, and if they don't receive it, they won't strive to do well in school, retain knowledge, and learn more inside and outside of the classroom. This concept is my own personal justification for my theory about why good singers tend to be people who are sexually attractive: beautiful kids would be more likely to be extolled for their performance and would develop better singing voices, even if they do not show singing talent early on. Because girls who receive less encouragement would not work as hard in school, it also would mean that they would not develop skills and for the reasons listed above would not do as well intelligence tests.
With all three of the primary statements dubious, inaccurate, and overgeneralizations for all of the reasons that I have listed, the conclusion that beautiful people tend to be more intelligent is downright ludicrous. If this debate interests you, I encourage that you read through the PDF of the study which you can access for free online. If you can only retain one small part of this essay, please retain the first three paragraphs. Also, watch yourself closely to make sure that you do not treat certain people better than other people. This applies to race, looks, clothing choices, or socioeconomic status.
Finally, just for fun, a challenge to all the readers: Go to a search engine and type "engineering", "physics", "computer science", or "mathematics" into your search engine followed by the name of a random university. These statistically (based on average GPAS and dropout and retention rates) are the most difficult college majors and in my opinion are some of the brightest of all college professors and citizens. When you enter that into the search engine, the website for that department of that school should show up as the first page. Find the section of the page that lists the faculty. Look at the pictures of the faculty that are posted online. Are they a bunch of studs and beauty queens (or do they at least look like they would have been at one time)? You'll get the point.
The study is by Jovy Kovar Department of Sociology, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, USA Science, and Satoshi Kanazawa Interdisciplinary Institute of Management, London School of Economics and Political ScienceThe article appeared in "Intelligence" volume 32 in 2004.
The PDF can be viewed for free at
If the URL does not show up, type something like "beautiful people more intelligent" into a search engine and the link to the PDF should show up.