From John Stuart Mill to Bertrand Russell, philosophers have debated how religious, moral, political and philosophical dogmatism can account for falling into the trappings of the illusions of absolutes and thus to prejudice, in my view. In short, we have seen throughout history learned people, scientists included, develop ideologies to defend prejudice, everything from racial and ethnic prejudice, to religious and gender prejudice. By no means does this indicate that the people who led the debate on such issues, frequently learned people of secular or religious background, were of low intelligence.
In American history from colonial times until the Civil Rights movement during the Johnson administration, we have a long record of learned individuals who tried to prove the legitimacy of racism based on what they deemed scientific reasoning. Similarly, we have a long record of learned men who tried to prove the inferiority of women by pseudo-scientific methods, or the inferiority of homosexuals. Can it be argued that people advancing arguments based on prejudice suffered low IQ, or that they were conditioned by the prevailing political and social environment, or that they suffered from deep-seated psychological problems?
In the recent scholarly study regarding the correlation between IQ and prejudice, researchers found that right-wing ideas and prejudice commonly appeal to the less educated masses with a low IQ. Therefore, the lower the IQ and lower the ability for abstract thought, the higher the possibility that the individual embraced right ideas and prejudice. Although the study did find empirical evidence for a correlation between social conservatism and low intelligence, it cannot be established that people of higher intelligence with the ability to conceal underlying prejudice are not more hypocritical and less transparent in their views. In short, the higher the education level, the better the ability to articulate a more liberal (tolerant) view that may be hiding prejudice. The empirical evidence of isolated people with a higher propensity toward prejudice is useful, but it is one that has been well established historically, and hardly a revelation.
In studying and analyzing the causes of prejudice it is important to keep in mind that conservatives are actually just as hypocritical about this issue as liberals, and that less intelligent individuals more honest about prejudice than educated ones or high IQ people. Historically it is true that people of higher IQ and of more liberal leanings have advanced ideas of greater tolerance and understanding, but this is not to conclude that intelligent liberals are free of prejudice in some form, from socioeconomic to racial.
Nor does a lower sense of prejudice of any type indicate that the individual may be of high intelligence, but rather that the environment has molded the individual as such. Moreover, we must keep in mind that an individual may be free of racial prejudice, but very much a slave to gender or socioeconomic prejudice. In short, the idea that all forms of prejudice are eliminated from those of higher IQ and greater liberal disposition in a myth.
It is true that the more simple-minded people tend to find appeal to right-wing ideologies that very intelligent people have developed and the privileged ones have embraced out of enlightened self-interest. It is true that the simplicity of right-wing ideas and prejudice may have a mass appeal partly because it is rooted in the irrational to which people respond more readily. Clearly, social class, education, home/family environment, political proclivities, cultural/religious influences, and personal emotional/psychological balance are all variables in the individual's makeup regarding prejudices that all human beings have and cannot escape.
Prejudice is not caused by low intelligence, although low intelligence exacerbates predisposition toward prejudice. A combination of factors, largely environmental and psychological, and not necessarily predominantly neuro-biological as some scientists have argued, account for human prejudice. The issue is not necessarily prejudice at the individual level, but at the mass/societal level and how politicians use it for policy of inclusion/exclusion, as a pretext for conflict and wars, as we have seen in the past two decades with the clash of civilizations between Islam and the Christian West.