September 9, 2010

Satoshi Kanazawa Explains ‘Unnatural’ Human Behavior

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Is the population getting dumber? Is male bisexuality a myth? Do Cornell students have less sex than their counterparts at Tompkins County Community College? Based on his theories, Satoshi Kanazawa answered “yes” to each of these questions over the course of a wide-ranging and contentious discussion with Cornell students Thursday night.Kanazawa, a visiting scholar and evolutionary psychologist from the London School of Economics, is known for his controversial theories on intelligence patterns in humans, and students eager to absorb and challenge his ideas crowded Prof. Jeff Cowie’s, Industrial and Labor Relations, living room for the second “Conversation at Keeton” of the semester. “It’s clear that demand for this kind of thing has really gone up,” Cowie remarked, surveying the crowd who, having exhausted his supply of couches and chairs, sat on each other’s laps, the floor and even spilled into the hallway.In a program entitled “Why Intelligent People Do Unnatural Things,” Kanazawa described his theory of general intelligence, which holds that more intelligent people are more likely to embrace “evolutionarily novel” concepts — aspects of life that did not exist when humans first evolved. According to his studies, Kanazawa said, more intelligent children are more likely to grow up to be liberal, while less-intelligent children will adhere to more conservative, evolutionarily-established principles that focus on taking care of oneself.“It’s unnatural to want to help people you’re never going to meet,” he said. Other traits that tend to be more widely embraced by intelligent people, according to Kanazawa, include atheism, staying up late, drinking alcohol and homosexuality. He also correlated intelligence with the choice to have few or no children, because like homosexuality, it defies the ultimate evolutionary goal of reproduction. No sooner had Kanazawa described his basic ideas than the audience began interjecting questions, and the lecture quickly became a discussion. Students bombarded the visitor with their own ideas and theories, and questioned him on everything from female sexuality to the “unnatural” nature of techno music. For the majority of questions, Kanazawa answered with confident reference to his theory.“Good question. Unfortunately, I have an answer for that,” he told one student.However, even he was stumped by one Cornellian’s inquiry about empathy’s role in “unnatural” behavior. He paused, gazed reflectively at the ceiling and exclaimed with a laugh, “Yeah, that’s  good point!” adding that “I never have and never will claim that I can explain everything.”After the discussion, many audience members expressed appreciation for the opportunity to have a relatively intimate conversation with such a controversial scholar.“I really enjoyed the back-and-forth,” said Marc Campasano ’11, who questioned Kanazawa several times during the evening. Even though he doesn’t live in Keeton House, Campasano said he was drawn by the title of the presentation and hoped more such opportunities would be forthcoming.

Original Author: Eliza LaJoie