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June 18, 2006


Now this I can believe. :-)

However, there might be a problem with other variables. For example, it's well-known that people with more education are more likely to be atheists or agnostic and they are also surely more likely to have higher verbal IQs. If higher education is a cause of higher verbal IQs rather than just a result, it might not be the higher verbal IQs that makes one more likely to be an atheist or agnostic.

And, with your (misguided, IMO) belief about the causal relationship between race and intelligence, you'd have to take into account the fact that most minority groups in the U.S. are both less educated and more religious than Whites.

Jewish Atheist, interesting question. The data clearly demonstrates that high verbal IQ causes less religiosity independent of education.

Over the entire sample, only 16% of respondents believe that the Bible is a book of fables. 23.7% of people with Bachelor's deegrees believe that the Bible is a book of fables. But 25.4% of people with only a high school diploma who fall into the high verbal IQ category believe that the Bible is a book of fables.

21.8% of people with a graduate degree who have an average (WORDSUM 4-8) IQ believe that the Bible is a book of fables. This means that a high IQ high school graduate is probably less religious than an average IQ graduate school graduate.

The race question is also interesting

16.6% of white people but only 12.5% of black people believe that the Bible is a book of fables. This is consistent with white people being smarter than black people.

After you account for verbal IQ, the results look more similar. 31.6% of white people with high verbal IQ think that the Bible is a book of fables, and 32.8% of black people with high verbal IQ think the Bible is a book of fables.

There are two caveats: (1) very few black people fall into the high verbal IQ category (only 58 respondents in the sample that includes RACE and BIBLE) so the results have a high margin of error; and (2) of those blacks who believe the Bible has at least some truth, a much larger percentage think it is the actual word of God rather than the inspired word of God compared to whites--I suspect this has to do with the fact that blacks and whites attend different churches, and black churches put a more fundamentalist spin on the Bible.

But the percentages don't add up to 100! The first option excludes all others. Is God defined as a personal one?


The %s are the % of people in that category who have high verbal IQs. They don't need to add up to 100.

(That confused me at first, too.)

I'd be interested in seeing a study that asks similar 'faith' questions with regard to government; i.e., it is proper for government to do things that would be impermissible/immoral for individuals to do to one another (yes/no)...if one believes that X is a wrong, it is necessary that there be a government to prevent/punish X (yes/no)...etc. I wonder if that would show a similar correlation of skepticism to intelligence; my guess is that it won't (at least not statistically significant), which may just show that such skepticism is tied to the environment (or social structure) one is in, and having high intelligence just allows one to 'read' said environment more completely. In other words, given what evidence is available regarding age of the Earth, evolution, etc, only an idiot could continue to hold the Bible as literally true - and then once this wall is breached, questioning the existence of the God of the bible follows more easily. However, we are immersed in a world of governments, and such questioning of their necessary existence would not come as easily.

Austrian has a good point. Also note that more educated people tend to live in cities--you generally need more government to run NYC than a small town.

I will only comment based on my own observations. Statistics are so impersonal.

Anyway, I have noticed over the years that there are a lot of people in church who don't think things through. Those of us (in church) who do are glad that they believe, but their inability to work things out does carry over into how they access the benefits of following the Lord. In short, they do a lot of counterproductive things in spite of the fact that their hope is in Christ.

In the final analysis. I glad that God is merciful to those who are not smart enough to make the grade with the wise ones, who inspite of being so smart, are still so unwilling to be humble. It's a choice. And most people just won't make it. But it's not because they are less intelligent.

I glad too. Me hungry, go eat now.

Austrian, higher IQ is correlated with more libertarian views on economics. The data is in the GSS. This is why Republicans have higher IQs than Democrats.

What I wonder is if you can separate out IQ from income. Wealthier people tend to be more socially liberal and fiscally conservative (do you REALLY think the Bush family worries nights about gay marriage?), and it's looking like smarter people are the same.

Half's contribution is to figure out which effct is dominant.

"What I wonder is if you can separate out IQ from income."

I've made some fascinating discoveries about IQ and income that I will blog about soon.

On the status of the Bible, one important alternative left out: Do you believe the definitive word about God -- ie, of the Hebraic conception of God as that idea has been historically understood. This is an important altenative because of the enormous influence of that idea in Western history, which, alone, justifies a close reading and understanding of that ancient collection of writings.

Also, on the belief question, at least three of the alternatives are not mutually exclusive -- I know because all three apply to me; I'll let you guess which three they are.

The real relationship betheen IQ and those things is probably even larger, because people with low IQ often misrespond in complicated questions like the public prayer question.

So with very low IQ, there's more noise in these responses, and less with high IQ..

"people with low IQ often misrespond in complicated questions like the public prayer question"

I agree entirely, and I've been thinking the exact same thing when reading many of the GSS questions. They are too long and complicated.

Furthemore, in some cases high IQ people will consider the question in a more nuanced way than intended also creating "noise" in the responses.

The question writers, in many cases, don't seem all that smart.

the survey makes a false distinction between "people who believe in God" and people who "..don't believe in a personal God, but...do believe in a Higher Power of some kind". both are different manifestations of the same human bent towards mysticism, whether its the existence of god, mind, the "spirit of man" or the independent existence of ideas. it also reflects the verbally fluent tendency towards nominally, ie, by changing the name of "god", they change the nature of "god"

this survey more likely shows that the less intelligent are more likely to believe in the "gods of their fathers", the old fashioned gods of the various scriptures. the more intelligent have reached a place philosophy reached 100s of years ago, divorcing the deity from its specific ethnic or scriptural roots, but not yet dispensing with him entirely

Do you understand the concept of correlation? The largest correlation between WORDSUM and the religious questions you cited was 0.28 -- almost insignificant.

Isn't ALIKE1...ALIKE7 a better measure of actual intelligence than a vocabulary test? (Not that any of the measures are very good...)

The correlation between GOD and ALIKE1...7 seems to top out at .11, by the way.

All comparing WORDSUM to GOD tells is is that people who use fancy words are less likely to be believers, which is a socioeconomic (education) measure, not one of intelligence.

(Full disclosure: I have a BA in Philosophy, a 150 IQ (on REAL proctored tests!), and I'm an atheist.)

Tom, I'm not sure you understand correlation, or statistical significance. I ran the correlation between WORDSUM and GOD, along with WORDSUM and FEELREL (how religious the person is) and WORDSUM and IMPCHURCH (how important the respondent believes religion and church to be), found the following correlations (in respective order):


In each case, the direction of the correlation indicates that intelligence is negatively correlated with religiosity (as religiosity goes up, intelligence goes down).

Now, according to you, these correlations would not be "significant," but with the sample sizes (each over 45,000), those correlations are highly statistically significant.

We all know that correlation does not necessarily indicated causation, though causation may be indirectly linked to the correlation.

My experience suggests several things: higher verbal IQ scores result from interaction of genetic cognitive potential with education, which in turn forces more logical approaches, which in turn reduces religiosity. Since most Westerners are introduced to religious concepts when young, most agnostics and atheists have moved away from religious belief. I think that this directionality does suggest that intelligence (read as logic combined with education) precedes, and hence causes, reduced religiosity.

Most people are not particularly logical, and those with little formal education are the least logical. Those people whom I have known who are both intelligent and religious typically have emotional issues that necessitate a comforting belief system. So, emotionality is a confounding factor, as are early indoctrination and community peer pressure.

I think that to tease out the truth about the connection between religiosity and intelligence would require examining all the possible variables and not merely religiosity and verbal IQ.

antarch, you nailed it.

As most Americans and probably Europeans to a lesser extent are (currently) brought up into a major religion to become atheist 1 has to 'break out'. This takes reasoning which takes intelligence and knowledge. Of course some atheists may just be following a crowd but the majority have made up (and altered) their own mind. It's not surprising more atheists have higher IQs as it takes intelligence to break from the 'flock'.

There is no god, we are made of stars and we return to the stars. IQ 153 EQ 176

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