I recently saw a post about relationship between atheism and intelligence and then came across this article discussing this correlation.
"For more than a millennium, scholars have noticed a curious correlation: Atheists tend to be more intelligent than religious people.
It’s unclear why this trend persists, but researchers of a new study have an idea: Religion is an instinct, they say, and people who can rise above instincts are more intelligent than those who rely on them....."
What's your take?
I doubt atheists are any smarter than others. Everyone likes to bandy about articles suggesting that their "in-group" is smarter - whether it be Democrats, Republicans, whites, ...
Also I doubt there is any scientific evidence going back "for more than a millennium" that demonstrates a statistical correlation between faith and intelligence.
Another factor is that every group or culture defines intelligence the way they want to define it. I remember, years ago, reading an Isaac Asimov essay on how elusive it is to really pin down what constitutes intelligence. OUR culture defines it as the ability to reason through questions having to do with logic and even math.
So if you take natives from some tribe in the middle of nowhere that has not had contact with the outside world, they - if they could even take our test - would all be classified as complete idiots, even though they've managed to survive on their own for thousands of years. Conversely, if they had to define intelligence it might have to do with how quickly one can locate dung beetles, or who can find just the right branch from which to make a bow. And of course Einstein himself would be classified as an idiot by their standards.
All of that said - yes, those who cling to a particular religious doctrine have a blind spot in their reasoning that makes them appear less intelligent, and certain areas that value religion more may de-value education a bit, again causing a discrepancy. But I suspect that if you were to use some regression tools to factor out things like religion and lack of education we'd find that raw brain power is similar between believers and non believers within a given culture. Just my hunch.
Are atheists necessarily more intelligent, or are religious believers just better at ignoring the cognitive dissonance involved in not applying their intelligence to one particular area of life?
In fact, for some, it may require even greater intellectual gymnastics to justify the logic-defying beliefs they hold; for example, the young-Earth creationists who go to enormous lengths attempting to "explain" the fossil record in terms of an Earth that's only 10,000 years old with all the species created at the same time. They must be smarter than me, because I can't understand a word of their "explanations"... whereas with my much lower intelligence, the evolutionary history of a 6.5 billion year old planet is fairly easy to comprehend.
Those who detect a trace element of sarcasm in this comment may be correct, but the gist is sincere. Christian intellectuals, for instance, do a lot of hard work trying to understand 3 deities who are still 1 deity, where the Father is also the Son, who sacrificed himself to himself so he (who is also himself) wouldn't have to send us all to hell. They are way smarter than me, if they understand that.
I believe Atheist are not more intelligent than religious people, religious people deliberately act, or feel obliged to act dumber than atheists in order to show and parade their faith in their imaginary friend, imaginary enemy, the flying guys with wings, the red anally fixated guys with pokers and their book of bronze age fairy tales.
It is generally more about being socially acceptable than actually being religious.
Nine times out of ten once they stop being so farcical it turns out they were pretty much on an average with everyone else intelligence wise.
I have two cousins who are dumb as posts--not being unkind, but they are semi-literate and have the logic of sheep, maybe.
They are both on Facebook and it hurts my brain and my eyes to read their posts. They are both deeply devout Christians who believe in the flood and all of the miracles. They are extremely childlike in their faith and if as children they had been told that faeries exist, they would still believe that faeries exist. Their reasoning skills do not allow them to move beyond their simple faith.
My older sister is also a deist and used to be fairly fundamentalist. A few years ago, she shocked me when she said that evolution was a fact, adding how could it not be? Now she thinks that Adam and Eve, the flood, etc., are myths. Although she still believes that a god exists, she now says that no one understands the nature of that god. She's a LOT smarter than my cousins.
I have known smart people who believe in a god, but they take The Bible with a boulder of salt.
And though I have encountered some fairly dense atheists (most of whom I have "met" on this site), most I have met are fairly intelligent.
It is about reason and examination of the facts and they myths.
About that opening line:
Here is where they get their opening line.
Notice that the author jumps from three quotes which he interprets as saying atheists are smarter (but can be interpreted as saying nothing of the sort) straight to 1920 with nothing in between
So "widely remarked" comes down to 1 quip from greece (none from rome) and two quotes from the bible. (Let that sink in; he is claiming the bible says that the religious were fools and the skeptics were wise)
And a "millennium of correlation" talks about a 1 quip from greece and 2 bible verses and then we fast forward to 1920.
Does anyone bother doing the research on these sorts of things or, like the theist, just because what is written reaffirms your belief, you'll believe it blindly?
I’m not sure what the point is. Is it an argument for the doctrine of atheism? If so it is a very poor argument. Is it just an ego boost? Are atheists insecure in their stance and need emotional support? Whatever it is, it doesn’t seem like a very intelligent approach to me.
There have been some extremely intelligent people who have advocated for the presence of a higher intelligence in reality. One such is Christopher Langan, said to be the smartest man ever tested.
I believe we would be better off if we didn’t isolate ourselves into these camps of us vs. them. No one knows anything anyway except superficially. Can’t we just get along?
Simple minded people tend to gravitate toward supersticion and ritual. Thinking outside of the box makes them uncomfortable because it is a very difficult thing for them to do. Organized religion provides the continuous, predictable, known quantity which the simple minded require in order to be able to function on a daily basis.
I would imagine that people attending public universities tend to be more secular. I doubt that atheists are smarter but that education as taught in public universities tends to make people question beliefs more than people that don't strive for higher education and this would skew the opinion that people who succeed tend to believe less. Of course those same secular universities try and teach kids to rise above their instincts and think both rationally and creatively.
Trends are interesting, but there are always exceptions to rules. Also many people that claim to be religious, in my experience, are not true believers, they're just there because they're part of the herd, or it gets their kids into the right school.
I think it's dangerous to look down on people, which in the context of this site I think this post promotes. I don't think it's helpful for us as people to segregate, we achieve much more if we can put aside differences and find common things to work towards.
Sorry, perhaps it's because I'm tired,(may delete this post tomorrow), sleep time for me now!
The apostle Paul laid out the reason for the lack of wise ones in the faith at 1 Corinthians 1:26-30:
Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.
The odd thing about this is Paul himself was very intelligent and he practically gave us Christianity as we know it today.
In my years as a Christian, I found my fellow Christians to be very proud of their lack of wisdom by human standards. I didn’t find that lack of wisdom by human standards was any indication of wisdom in spiritual matters. Perhaps I shouldn’t make judgment; call it an observation.
"For more than a millennium, scholars have noticed a curious correlation: Atheists tend to be more intelligent than religious people." -
A millenium are 1000 years. 200 years ago there were almost no atheists and certainly no scholars who could measure their intelligence.
If atheists are more intelligent today, it is because of education. People with higher education tend to be less religious. If that is just a correlation or if there is some causation behind the scenes .. the jury is still out.
The meta-study upon which this is based is flawed and the fact that people (mostly atheists) believe in it is just another example that confirmation bias is a commonality across all belief and unbelief systems. After all, the majority of medical doctors (hardly dullards) and nobel prize winners in science (hardly unintelligent) are/were theists, a slap in the fact of this conclusion and if we wanted to go there, we would claim that theism is in fact more intelligent than atheism... yet that claim isn't, nor should be, made... or should it if the statistics back it up? hmmmmm
Here is a Cornell University statistician making short work of why the meta-study is flawed.
"Zuckerman cobbled together over sixty studies. Their Table 1 shows 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. The lowest sample size was 22, but most were a hundred or so, with one topping out at over 14 thousand. And we already mentioned the widely disparate years the samples were taken.
. 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 maps to other kinds of IQ measurements. In other words, data which should not be mixed, because nobody has any idea how to make these corrections."
I think it may be true to assert that those not steeped in dogma are more open to learning and increasing knowledge, whereas those that are religiously devout or observant are more prone to practicing their beliefs at a comfortable level for them, and not engage in ongoing pursuit of knowledge, resulting in spiritual discomfort and hard questions. Those that do pursue knowledge whilst having a deep faith based belief system, are on the path to be free of their blinders. The accumulation of knowledge both respectively destroyed and created who I was and who I am. I have no doubt that it will continue this process all my days.
I honestly don't see a great deal of difference overall. Atheists may have a slight edge in average intelligence, but there are many individual exceptions. I've seen atheists, who while not believing in gods, believe in myriad superstitious and magical falsehoods.
It may be the case that the conditions for intelligence are simply more in sync with Atheism than the conditions for religion. Religion thrives in a soup of economic depression and environmental degradation. Atheism seems to thrive in affluent societies that are economically strong and not as dependent on environmental degradation. Perhaps there is hope for a religion free world if we can fix the problems of the world with green technology.