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Here we ago again. A study has apparently shown that prejudice comes from low intelligence and social conservatism. (Surprise!) From the LiveScience story:

There’s no gentle way to put it: People who give in to racism and prejudice may simply be dumb, according to a new study that is bound to stir public controversy. The research finds that children with low intelligence are more likely to hold prejudiced attitudes as adults. These findings point to a vicious cycle, according to lead researcher Gordon Hodson, a psychologist at Brock University in Ontario. Low-intelligence adults tend to gravitate toward socially conservative ideologies, the study found. Those ideologies, in turn, stress hierarchy and resistance to change, attitudes that can contribute to prejudice.

Of course, all of this depends on how the authors define “prejudice,” doesn’t it?  For example, I believe that Peter Singer-style “personhood” theory is profoundly prejudiced because, like racism, it states explicitly that some human beings have greater value than other human beings.  It is also invidious, since if personhood theory is ever adopted in law, some human beings will lose the right to life and the right not to be used instrumentally.  But I’ll bet that kind of bigoted thinking didn’t count as “prejudice” in the study.  Needless to say, Singer is not dumb, nor his he a social conservative.

Also, I wonder if prejudice against religion and the religious counted in the study?  If not, we are missing a whole cohort of potential bigots, and many who are very intelligent and would clearly fall on the progressive side of the political spectrum.

But none of that really matters.  The root cause of prejudice is the rejection of human exceptionalism, and its necessary corollary that all of us have equal moral worth—the necessary foundation to support universal human rights. Dumb people reject it, but so do some who are quite well endowed with gray matter. In fact, from my experience, more of the latter than the former.


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