Saturday, December 31, 2016

Why Are Religious People (Generally) Less Intelligent?

A piece in the Intellectualist looks at a topic that I have touched on previously over the years: the general negative correlation between intelligence and religiosity.  One prior post for instance looked at education levels of different denominations and showed highest education levels among Episcopalians and Evangelical Lutherans - the liberal denominations always attacked by fundamentalist Christofascists - and descending downward toward Pentecostals and other fundamentalist sects.  With the election of Donald Trump supposedly being a triumph for low education whites (at least according to the spin of some in the pundit class and Trump sycophants) and 81% of evangelical Christians having voted for Trump, it is worth considering whether what we just witnessed instead was a triumph of ignorance and the low IQ portion of society setting the nation on a course for disaster.  I don't deny that I hold religion in general in low regard because it opposes science, knowledge and logic and too often provides an excuse to avoid thinking and making one's own reason based decisions.  Given the negative correlation between intelligence and religiosity one has to ask why politicians give such deference to to the religious.  Are they merely playing to the least intelligent and most easily duped?  Here are article excerpts:
1) A meta-analysis of 63 studies showed a significant negative association between intelligence and religiosity.
2) The study indicates that it is uncommon to meet someone who is both highly intelligent and is also (sincerely) highly religious.
3) This study doesn’t mean that there are not some highly religious people among intelligent people (law of large numbers). This is a probabilistic model.
4) Yes, there are very famous scientists who were also devout Christians, however, if you notice, this combination tends to decrease when the time period shifts to the 19th century and becomes even less common in the 20th century. Atheism (or similar) was a serious crime against the State until fairly recently (It still is in many countries).  
5. Not being religious, doesn’t imply being an atheist.
The key question of the study is why are religious people generally less intelligent? And the authors of the study did not shy away from the answer, offering three compelling explanations:
(1) Intelligent people are generally more analytical and data-driven; formal religions are the antithesis: they are empirically fluffy and their claims are often in direct contradiction with scientific evidence, unless they are interpreted metaphorically – but maybe intelligent people are not that keen on metaphor. Another way of putting it is that people with a high IQ are more likely to have faith in science, which isn’t religion’s best friends (yes, yes, I do know about Einstein’s quotes).
(2) Intelligent people are less likely to conform, and, in most societies, religiosity is closer to the norm than atheism is. Although this interpretation is based on extrapolation, it still makes sense: first, smarter people tend to be less gullible; second, in most societies religious people outnumber atheists and agnostics – though global levels of religiosity have been declining, and there is substantial cultural variability in religiosity levels.
(3) Intelligence and religiosity are “functionally equivalent”, which means that they fulfill the same psychological role. Although this intriguing argument contradicts points 1 and 2, it deserves serious consideration. Humans will always crave meaning.
Religion – like science and logical reasoning – provides them with a comprehensive framework or system to make meaningful interpretations of the world.
At times, religion and science are in conflict; but they can also act in concert, complementing each other to answer non-falsifiable and falsifiable questions, respectively. The authors conclude that some people satisfy their desire to find meaning via religion, whereas others do so via logical, analytical, or scientific reasoning – and IQ predicts whether you are in the former or latter group.
It is noteworthy that these three explanations assume that IQ influences religiosity rather than vice-versa, which seems plausible: IQ levels remain very stable after childhood, whereas religiosity levels keep fluctuating – childhood IQ predicts adult IQ, but childhood religiosity is a very poor predictor of adult religiosity.
 I am sure some will find all of this insulting or "elitist," but the next time you are forced to someone expounding on their religiosity, know that you are likely listening to either a dullard or someone - i.e., a "scamvangelist" - preying on the less intelligent.  Either way, it is not a positive phenomenon. 

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