OK. I give up. Just abandon critical thinking. Everything you read on the internet is true, because internet.

In case you don’t already know, this post’s title is facetious.

After I read an article I linked to last time, I made the mistake of following one of the recommended article links at the bottom. I followed it to this one: Nine science-backed signs you’re smarter than average.

It’s a post about intelligence; specifically signs that indicate high IQ. The post sucked me in with a thumbnail image of Natalie Portman. Yeah, I’m male. But Ms Portman is hot… Forgive me! Her image has sweet bugger-all to do with the points, but its caption mentions that she graduated from Harvard and speaks six languages. Yup… I’ve read about her before and she is smart.

Then the article takes a dive from reality. Point one is “You don’t smoke”. Because, you know, smart people don’t smoke cigarettes? Yes, it’s a disgusting, stinky habit, and I’m sorry to say that I am a smoker. And apparently 21-year old non-smokers who comprised the sample of people being tested had an average IQ of 101, higher than the smokers sampled. Well… excuse me, but 101 isn’t very fucking high for an IQ, is it? It’s just above average. Also, Ms Portman happens to be a smoker, not that it should mean anything because her image was only included for its clickbait value.

The next point suggests that you took music lessons, then proceeds to get confused about whether music makes you smart, or smart people tend to be musical. So I guess people who are creative in other ways, but not musical, must be idiots. This is a meaningless statistic.

You’re the oldest child? Taken from a study published in 2007. Why quote a 2007 study in an article published in 2015? Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of the slippery slope, I shall fear no bad cherries

You’re thin? This time our friendly cherry-picker quotes a 2006 study from a different country.

You have a cat? OK, I’m not going to argue with this one. I’ve always said that cat people are smarter than dog people. Besides, the intrepid cherry-picker used a 2014 study for this one, so it must be true.

You were breast-fed? Oh woe is me! My mother couldn’t produce enough milk, so I guess she is to blame for my stupidity. But I do like boobs. Does that count?

You’ve used recreational drugs? What? Yeah, I used crystal meth for seven years because I’m a fucking genius! So I can stop beating myself up about this? It’s a sign that I’m smart because some random article on the internet says that smart people tend to exhibit self-destructive behaviour? Right. Except what about point one? Smart people don’t smoke. Every addict I ever knew also smoked cigarettes.

The last two points are about being left-handed and tall. The left-handed claim involves a reference to a 1995 paper.

What all those statistics have in common is that they cite correlations. Correlations don’t necessarily mean anything. David Gorski wrote a great article a while back about spurious correlations. The gem of that post is that he linked to a site that shows you many spurious correlations, where it is quite clear that there is no causation in any of them. Check it out. It’s great for a laugh: Spurious Correlations.

Here’s a screen-grab from that site… Apparently there is a correlation between films that Nicholas Cage appeared in and the number of people who drowned by falling into a pool.


The moral to this story: Don’t believe everything you read.