A New IQ Test for Americans: The Ignorance Quotient Test

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Screenshot (10)This is shocking. An ABC News/Washington Post poll released on Sunday shows that only 33% of Republicans believe that Russia meddled in the 2016 election. There’s some hope in that: 33% of Republicans remain amenable to reason. But that leaves 67% who are so cognitively or psychologically impaired that they repel facts like holy water repels a vampire. I suspect – and this is not a hopeful observation – that this is more a psychological than cognitive problem. Unfortunately, that means that the right-wing revulsion against facts and evidence is not a matter of ineptitude, but a matter of choice.

This is to say that what afflicts modern conservatism is not a lack of intelligence, but an abundance of ignorance. Anyone can suffer cognitive disability or deterioration through no fault of his or her own, but it takes a special kind of obstinance to achieve the studied and willful ignorance required to reject the unanimous finding of all US intelligence agencies on the subject of Russian meddling. If there is not a cognitive explanation at work, then the afflicted are so intellectually undisciplined and weak of character (yes, those are related) as to be easy marks for any demagogue or tyrant.

I was inspired by this alarming statistic to develop a new kind of IQ test (mostly for Republicans, but anyone can try): not an intelligence quotient test, but an ignorance quotient test. This exercise is designed to test whether you are committed to some minimal standard of intellectual rigor or, conversely, consciously inclined toward ignorance and catastrophic decision-making.

First take the test, then score yourself, and then check the grading metric at the end.


  1. Among the world’s climate scientists (people with PhD degrees from institutions like MIT), 97% say that the Earth is undergoing a crisis involving global warming that is caused, at least in part, by human activity that produces carbon emissions. Should we do whatever we can reasonably do to control carbon emissions and slow global warming?

a. Yes, of course we should.

b. No, 97% of the world’s climate scientists are perpetrating a hoax for their own financial gain.

  1. A consensus exists among the world’s most prominent economists that, although adequate supply is necessary to stabilize markets and control inflation, the driver of the economy is demand. Put another way, while supply is the motor oil that keeps the economy humming along, demand is the motor itself. Demand, in turn, is generated when people in the low and middle economic strata acquire more wealth. They, unlike the already wealthy, spend newly acquired wealth and thereby infuse that money into the economy, where it leads to cyclical increases in production, wages, and the standard of living. Additional wealth accumulated at the higher strata, on the other hand, is generally invested in gimmicky, convoluted financial instruments or hidden in overseas bank accounts to avoid applicable taxes or regulations. Given these facts (or in spite of them), do you think that tax cuts and spending programs should be geared towardThe_Thinker_Musee_Rodin

a. Helping lower- and middle-income people to generate more demand, or

b. Allowing upper-income earners to accumulate more wealth?

  1. Psychologists and psychiatrists agree that sexual orientation is innate. It is also a universal human experience that a person develops sexual impulses (usually before or during puberty) independently of any volition or conscious deliberation. One might develop sexual attraction to the opposite sex, one’s own sex, or both. Sexual orientation is immutable, which is to say that it cannot be changed any more than one’s country of origin or height can be changed. Given these facts (or in spite of them), do you conclude that

a. One’s sexual orientation is a morally neutral characteristic that has nothing to do with a person’s ability to contribute to society, or

b. Homosexuality is morally wrong and should be treated as morally wrong under the law?

  1. Ethnic minorities are, as the term suggests, minorities – which is to say that they are fewer in number, largely unable to protect their own interests against majoritarian hostility, and historically economically and socially disadvantaged. Which of the following is true?

a. Laws and courts should protect minority rights and target bigotry and discrimination against ethnic minorities.

b. Minority status entitles one to unfair advantages that lead to the oppression of white people.

  1. The “birther” movement led by Donald Trump was developed around the theory that Barack Obama’s mother, at the time of Obama’s birth in 1961 (before the federal Civil Rights Act was enacted into law), knew that her son was going to be a candidate for President of the United States. Knowing that, instead of staying in the US so that her son might be born a US citizen, Obama’s mother moved to Kenya, gave birth to him there, and hatched an elaborate scheme to a) get her son’s birth announcement published in a Hawaii newspaper, and b) falsify official state birth records – all instead of just giving birth in the US. And just to make sure her son would be guaranteed a membership card to the world’s whitest, most nominally “Christian” club (US presidents), she named her son Barack Hussein. Do you believe that

a. Barack Obama was born in the United States and was qualified to be president, and Trump was and is full of it, or

b. Trump was right and Barack Obama was born in Africa and was not eligible for the presidency (or we will never know)?


Award yourself 1 point for every (a) answer and 0 points for every failure to answer. For every (b) answer, subtract 1 point. Enter your total here: ___

Grading Metric

4 or 5     You are a sentient human being who exercises adequate intellectual rigor.

2 or 3     You have developed questionable habits of the mind.

0 or 1     You are willfully ignorant and likely a Trump voter.

-1 to -5   You are a mindless vulgarian, an unapologetic Trump voter, and worthy of nothing but scorn and mockery.