In an important and fascinating column, “Are We Becoming Morally Smarter? The connection between increasing IQs, decreasing violence and economic liberalism,” the writer pulls from several longitudinal studies of brain development to make an interesting point. It is a point that should inform policy discussion by all Western governments, but, given America’s role in the world, particularly should inform America’s policy and defense decisions.
The “Flynn effect,” and the studies on which it is based, essentially say that post-Enlightenment brains are wired differently than are pre-Enlightenment brains. That as we have moved from manipulating things in a pre-industrial world, to manipulating ideas and abstractions in a post-Industrial world, we have become intellectually smarter as we – in order to – have done so. “Our economy shifted from agriculture and industry to information, demanding more conceptual, abstract thinking at every level of life.” Measured IQ has increased substantially across developed nations in just the last century, so this effect is extraordinarily fast, as well.
“There is debate about whether the rise in IQ scores also corresponds to a rise in general intelligence, or only a rise in special skills related to taking IQ tests. Because children attend school longer now and have become much more familiar with the testing of school-related material, one might expect the greatest gains to occur on such school content-related tests as vocabulary, arithmetic or general information. Just the opposite is the case: abilities such as these have experienced relatively small gains and even occasional decreases over the years.” (Translation: The longer you’re in a traditional K-12 school, the lower your gains in IQ in what they teach, but that’s a different post…)
The point the author of “Are We Becoming Morally Smarter” is making is this: as we have become intellectually smarter, we have become morally smarter, as well, positing a “moral Flynn effect.”
“Since the Enlightenment, humans have demonstrated dramatic moral progress. Almost everyone in the Western world today enjoys rights to life, liberty, property, marriage, reproduction, voting, speech, worship, assembly, protest, autonomy, and the pursuit of happiness. Liberal democracies are now the dominant form of governance, systematically replacing the autocracies and theocracies of centuries past… Violence and crime are at historic lows, and we have expanded the moral sphere to include more people as members of the human community deserving rights and respect.” (Emphasis mine) (The columnist makes the point that what is being discussed is classical liberalism; this is the philosophical opposite of Progressivism.)
“Abstract reasoning and scientific thinking are the crucial cognitive skills at the foundation of all morality. Consider the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This requires you to change positions – to become the other person – and then to extrapolate what action X would feel like as the receiver instead of the doer (or as the victim instead of the perpetrator).”
“Even more intriguing is newer evidence that shows a positive correlation between literacy and moral reasoning.”
How does this column effect the War on Terror strategically, or the war on ISIS tactically?
What are the policy implications to Western leaders and societies?
The final paragraph begins: “Given that the moral Flynn effect is cultural not evolutionary…” (emphasis mine). Western mores have advanced because of the Industrial and Information revolutions, because of how the Enlightenment has affected our culture, because of the literacy and abstract reasoning these have both caused and required:
“Our improved ability to reason abstractly may also be the result of the spread of scientific thinking – reason, rationality, empiricism, skepticism. Thinking like a scientists means employing all our faculties to overcome our emotional, subjective, and instinctual brains to better understand the true nature of not only the physical and biological worlds, but the social world (politics and economics) and the moral world (abstracting how other people should be treated) as well.”
(This also argues against the nonsense of cultural relativity – at the foundational level: the wiring of our brains. Non-Western cultures, the gatherings of those with similar patterns of thought into separate cultures, are not relative to ours in any discernible or substantial way.)
The intellectual ability – the sheer brain wiring, “hardwiring” – of those in other cultures, particularly cultures with a failure in literacy (of which Islamic countries are among the most egregious), to grasp the Western notion of “Hearts & Minds,” does not exist.
Since the Enlightenment, Western brains have evolved to deal with abstract moral concepts. The brains of our opponent have not. (This also explains our opponents setting up HD-TVs for their societies to watch & cheer as entertainment the burning alive of other human beings.)
Abstract reasoning is the foundation for Western mores (which, contrary to our intelligentsia, are not “universal,” but exist only in the West; the desire of our mores to be universal is not the same as stating that they are universal, which is untrue), and is the entire foundation for “Hearts & Minds,” the anti-terror strategy now being pursued by Western leaders.
Hearts & Minds relies on persuading others – in the GWOT, the “others” are in pre-Enlightenment cultures that lack literacy in any meaningful use of the word (Koranic “literacy” is not “literacy” as understood in the West). The moral “Flynn effect” precludes the success of this strategy. Persuading our enemies requires the ability of their brains to process abstract moral reasoning in a way that their brains do not support.
The inability of our opponents to think in the moral terms we take for granted means that our chosen strategy cannot succeed; the brains of our opponents are not wired in a way allowing a persuasive strategy to succeed.
We are dealing with a pre-modern, pre-Enlightenment, pre-Industrial, pre-Information Age opponent. Science shows that his brain cannot process the moral reasoning required to accept our way of life, our values, our rights & liberties.
No amount of Hearts & Minds can work. (Neither can the infantile notion today being promulgated by America’s State Department that the clash with ISIS is about jobs.)
Because our strategy cannot work, we are wasting money, lives and time in a fruitless struggle to advance the actual brain wiring of our opponents a thousand years… on the battlefield.
Simply put, our current strategy in dealing with our enemies is anti-scientific, anti-rational and anti-empirical.
In short, America’s current warfighting strategy is absurd.
Because this strategy cannot win, only two choices remain if we desire to keep our freedoms and not be killed by those demanding the eradication of those freedoms by the implementation of sharia:
- Completely isolating the terrorist societies – the societies and cultures demanding sharia – from the modern world and introducing Enlightenment concepts to forcibly drag them into the modern world – which still will require the development of the necessary literacy, and the rational thought of the Enlightenment to re-wire their brains, the work of tens of generations, at least, or,
- Killing them.
Given current brain research and our understanding of the advances in cognitive function and morality based on the post-Enlightenment world in which we – and not they – live, there is no third alternative.
The “Party of Science” needs to accept the science and formulate a strategy that can either isolate completely, or utterly defeat, the enemy to the point they lack the physical capacity to attack us.
Not to do so is to advance an anti-science agenda in the defense of our people, our freedoms and our liberty.