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Professor Bruce Charlton has a fascinating post relating r/K reproductive strategies to the concept of “Genius”.  r and K represent opposite ends of a continuum.  An r genotype is an organism that is genetically predisposed to have lots of offspring but provide very little parental care, while a K genotype is an organism that evolved to have few offspring but provide lots of parental care.  In popular culture, r genotypes would be the cool people (the ones with many one night stands, large sexual anatomy, lots of illegitimate children etc) while the K genotypes would be the stereotypical nerd who doesn’t lose his virginity until after 30, and stays monogamous with one woman his whole life.  The term “Genius” (capital G) is harder to define, but I would define it as anyone whose creativity has changed the world.  

Charlton cites scholar Michael A. Woodley as claiming K people more cognitively specialized, which Charlton uses to argue that they’re more likely to be Geniuses.  I don’t know what Woodley supposedly means by more cognitively specialized.  If he means that they have more specialized crystallized knowledge, then I would agree, because K men evolved to be the monogamous partners of women, providing for a single family, all of which requires a focused personality, which may also make them more focused, and hence specialized in their intellectual interests.  However if Woodley means that their innate biological fluid brain power is more specialized, then I’m pretty skeptical.

K organisms are more evolved, and one of the primary themes of evolution is that organisms become less specialized, not more, as we move up the evolutionary tree.  Consider primitive organisms like birds.  They have very specialized mental abilities like being able to build a nest or navigate from Northern Canada to Florida, but they are wholly lacking in general abilities like abstract reasoning.  By contrast advanced organisms like humans have so much general mental ability that we can adapt to almost any environment, from the warmest jungles to the coldest mountains; from underwater to outer space.  

The reason why primitive organisms are more specialized is because by definition, they branched off the evolutionary tree prematurely, which means they found their niche early and spent an enormous amount of time becoming more and more adapted to that one specialty.  By contrast, more advanced organisms branched off the evolutionary tree late, which means their ancestors experienced far more evolutionary forks and splits.  They didn’t have the luxury of becoming more and more adapted to one specialized niche, because their niche was constantly changing, so they evolved the general ability to adapt itself: Intelligence.

IQ tests have been criticized for emphasizing abstract reasoning and logical mathematical ability to the exclusion of musical, artistic, or kinesthetic abilities, but excluding these talents makes sense because they are highly specialized.  Musical, artistic, or kinesthetic abilities aren’t usually that useful unless you want to be a musician, artist, or athlete, respectively, and even if you do, your skills in those domains must be exceptional to guarantee a good living.  By contrast, having good abstract reasoning or logical ability is a huge competitive advantage in almost every occupation.  This demonstrates that abstract and logical abilities are more adaptable, and thus bigger parts of intelligence, than musical, artistic or kinesthetic abilities are, so IQ tests are justified in emphasizing the former over the latter.

Now one seemingly adaptable ability that IQ tests tend to ignore is social cognition, however social cognition is only adaptable when other people are around.  However people have only existed on one single planet for 200,000 years, so for the virtually infinite number of situations that have existed over the vast majority of the universe, social cognition would have had zero adaptive value, so I would classify it as a specialized adapted ability, not a general ability to adapt.

So r genotypes are the “cool people”, and since r genotypes are primitive, and primitive organisms are specialized, r genotypes will be relatively good at specialized abilities like musical, artistic, social and kinesthetic talent, but they will lack the K selected nerdy abilities like logical abstract reasoning, that dominate intelligence.

So while Professor Charlton argues that Geniuses are K genotypes with a few non-K traits (i.e. psychoticism which Charlton defines here), in my humble opinion, there are two types of Geniuses: The Cool Geniuses (i.e.great rock stars, artists, religious prophets, heads of state) who are predominantly r genotypes but with a few K traits (i.e. high IQ) and the Nerdy Geniuses (i.e. scientists, mathematicians, high tech entrepreneurs) who are predominantly K genotypes, but with a few r traits (i.e. psychoticism).  The Cool Geniuses are better at acquiring status (i.e. loved by millions) because r genotypes evolved through sexual selection (reproduction of the sexiest), while the Nerdy Geniuses are better at acquiring wealth because K genotypes evolved through natural selection (survival of the fittest) and thus needed to be good at acquiring the resources to survive.

But regardless of whether you are a Cool r genotype, or a Nerdy K genotype, intelligence (including Executive Function) usually has to be high to be a Genius.  When Executive Function is impaired, I suspect the Cool tend to become schizophrenic and the Nerdy tend to become autistic. 

 

 

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