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Intelligence, Wealth and Acceptance of Euthanasia and Suicide

Richard Lynn and Gerhard Meisenberg


Published: 2019/09/01


Intelligence and material wealth are two possible determinants of moral values for individuals and societies. To explore their roles we examine responses to two questions of the World Values Survey, asking about the acceptability of euthanasia and suicide respectively, in the broader context of moral values. We find that at the country level, both higher national average intelligence and higher per capita GDP lead to more liberal attitudes. The GDP effect is related to political freedom and globalization, while the effect of intelligence is mediated entirely by religiousness. We conclude that greater material wealth, by creating more options for people to choose how to live their lives (and how to die), strengthens the desire for freedom. Therefore, unnecessary restraints on free choice must be removed. Intelligence affects these moral judgments by a different mechanism. Rather than strengthening the desire for freedom of choice, higher intelligence undermines traditional religion and the moral value systems that traditional religion supports. Thereby it weakens negative controls imposed on questionable behaviors.

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