Recently three psychologists published a review based on 63 studies that concluded that Atheists, in general, are more intelligent than Believers, much to the dismay and disgust of professors and scientists both Theist and Atheist alike.
The Relation Between Intelligence and Religiosity an Abstract of the report by Miron Zuckerman, from the Department of Clinical and Social Sciences in Psychology, University of Rochester.:
“A meta-analysis of 63 studies showed a significant negative association between intelligence and religiosity. The association was stronger for college students and the general population than for participants younger than college age; it was also stronger for religious beliefs than religious behavior. For college students and the general population, means of weighted and unweighted correlations between intelligence and the strength of religious beliefs ranged from −.20 to −.25 (mean r = −.24). Three possible interpretations were discussed. First, intelligent people are less likely to conform and, thus, are more likely to resist religious dogma. Second, intelligent people tend to adopt an analytic (as opposed to intuitive) thinking style, which has been shown to undermine religious beliefs. Third, several functions of religiosity, including compensatory control, self-regulation, self-enhancement, and secure attachment, are also conferred by intelligence. Intelligent people may therefore have less need for religious beliefs and practices.” - Source:SAGE Journals
The new review led by Professor Miron Zuckerman, found “a reliable negative relation between intelligence and religiosity” in 53 out of 63 studies.
The study doesn’t claim that being a Theist or Believer makes one stupid, as it doesn’t imply that being an Atheist makes one smart. The report does claim that our level of ‘intelligence’ will dictate whether one is more likely to become a Believer or Nonbeliever.
Conclusions from this report published in the 'Personality and Social Psychology Review' include;
- During the early years the more intelligent a child is, the more likely it would turn away from religion.
- In old age, more intelligent people are less likely to believe.
- Intelligent people typically spend more time in school - a form of self-regulation that may yield long-term benefits
- More intelligent people get higher level jobs, better employment, and higher salary which lead to higher self-esteem, and encourage personal control beliefs.
The three psychologists carrying out the review defined intelligence as the “ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend complex ideas, learn quickly, and learn from experience”. Religiosity, on the hand is defined by the psychologists as ‘involvement in some or all facets of religion,’ which has a very broad inclusion.
The paper made the conclusion that:
"Most extant explanations (of a negative relation) share one central theme —the premise that religious beliefs are irrational, not anchored in science, not testable and, therefore, unappealing to intelligent people who 'know better'."
Dr. William Briggs however, finds their conclusion laughable at the very least:
“But consider: nearly all the greatest, best, highest, most beautiful minds that ever existed were theists. Aristotle? Augustine? Confucius? Aquinas? Bonaventure? Copernicus? Bruno? Kepler? Galileo? Pascal? Descartes? Newton? Bach? Mendel? The list is endless. Most people were and still are theists of one sort or another. It is only in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries where atheism picked up steam.”
Dr. William M. Briggs, Professor of Statistics at Cornell University (M.S. in Atmospheric Science and Ph.D. in Statistics.) says theres a laundry list of problems with the report:
“Just because a person is or isn’t intelligent contributes nothing, not a thing, to the truth or falsity of any proposition (not related to the individual). Does God exist because Aristotle, perhaps the greatest intelligence of all, said so? Of course not. Is relativity true because Einstein, no small brain, thought it up? Again no.
If it were true that merely being intelligent conferred truth then we would never have political disagreements, because all we’d have to do is give everybody an IQ test and put whoever scored highest in charge. Except that highly intelligent people believe stupid and false things. And at a rate too depressing to contemplate.”
Problems that Dr. William Briggs found with the reports conclusion:
- They didn’t take history into account at all.
- Their study shows (in their Table 1 graph) that the mechanism to measure IQ was different in different locations.
- The proportion of males varied from unknown, to low, to 100%
- The measures of religiosity differed at different locations. Religions were also hugely different (is it the same to believe in animism as Protestant Christianity?).
- The samples, particularly in developed countries, were college kids, but elsewhere more non-college and precollege people were used.
“Data of every flavor was observed, data that should not be mixed without an idea of how to combine the uncertainty inherent in each study and in how, say, kinds of IQ measurements map to other kinds of IQ measurements. In other words, they mixed data which should not be mixed, because nobody has any idea how to make these corrections. But suppose somebody did know how. Then what? What could we possibly learn? Nothing. Or nothing of any use, except perhaps the extent which enculturation works (to convert people to atheism and theism).” - Source: Strange Notions
PZ Myers, the outspoken American Atheist and Scientist (Associate Professor of Biology at the University of Minnesota Morris) says the report is not only inaccurate but asks, “Why is anyone continuing to cite that sloppy work?”
Myers, in a recent post he wrote titled, ’Y’all can stop patting yourselves on the back now. ‘points out some of the problems that he found with the report, including its overwhelming bias;
“... I’d add a fourth interpretation that they don’t take seriously enough: that there was systematic bias in the intelligence studies they analyzed. I’m actually personally put off (bias alert!) by any study that attempts to reduce something as complex as intelligence to a simple number amenable to statistical analysis.” Myers says, “The various studies measure intelligence by GPA (grade point average), UEE (university entrance exams), Mensa membership, and Intelligence Quotient (IQ) tests. Can you say apples and oranges? Yeah, I thought so. And anyone who has spent any time with Mensa people knows they aren’t particularly shining examples of crystal clear analytical intelligence, for instance.”
Myers also shares that ‘intelligence’ cannot be defined by such a limited measurement and that the conclusion of the report was inappropriate;
“They also note studies that show the higher echelons of academia and educated individuals are less likely to be religious, and I can honestly believe that analytical examination of the claims of religion leads to a loss of faith. But we typically associate “intelligence” with something intrinsic to the individual, a biological property of their brains, and nothing in this study allows that conclusion to be made. The word is heavily loaded and entirely inappropriate.”
Myers says that even without the bias, the report still has no real weight:
“If you throw out the obvious bias of classifying whole nations as mentally impaired, if you recognize that IQ is an artificial construct that measures a very narrow range of intellectual potential, it looks to me like the variation reduces to noise — that the supposed debilitating effects of religion are going to be very weak, if there at all. And what does that do to all the cunning rationalizations, no matter how plausible, for why atheists would do better on IQ tests?” - Source: PZ Myers/ Pharyngula
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