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Why are very intelligent people usually atheists? It's not as obvious as it seems...

Discussion in 'Physical & Life Sciences' started by Notedstrangeperson, May 10, 2014.

  1. Notedstrangeperson

    Notedstrangeperson Well-Known Member

    +99
    Anglican
    In Relationship
    (If you don't fancy wading through endless quotes and web sources, just skip to the bottom. ;))

    Intelligence is positively correlated with atheism. In other words, the smarter a person is, the less likely they are to believe in God:
    "Out of 63 studies, 53 showed a negative correlation between intelligence and religiosity, while 10 showed a positive one. Significant negative correlations were seen in 35 studies, whereas only two studies showed significant positive correlations.
    The three psychologists have defined intelligence as the “ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend complex ideas, learn quickly, and learn from experience.” In short this is analytic intelligence, not the newly identified forms of creative and emotional intelligence, which are still subjects of dispute."
    ...
    "Among the thousands of people involved in these studies, the authors found that gender or education made no difference to the correlation between religiosity and intelligence; however, age mattered. The negative correlation between religiosity and intelligence was found to be the weakest among the pre-college population."
    ...
    "A 2009 study, led by Richard Lynn of the University of Ulster, compared religious beliefs and average national IQs of 137 countries. In their sample, only 23 countries had more than 20 percent atheists, which constituted, according to Lynn, "virtually all higher IQ countries."
    (source: arstechnica.com)​
    One common reason for this is simply that people who are highly intelligent think more rationally than people of normal or lower intelligence.

    However, there is another correlation which throws a spanner in this theory: high intelligence isn't always associated with rationality. In some cases it is actually associated with irrationality. Here are a few examples:
    • Highly intelligent people are just as prone to congitive bias:
    "In one study, subjects read about a controversial issue, such as whether or not people should be allowed to sell their own organs. Then, they wrote their thoughts about it. The researchers found the typical cognitive bias. People mostly wrote arguments favoring their own position. They did not tend to integrate arguments across different perspectives. The researchers also assessed intelligence. They found that people who scored more highly on the intelligence test showed just as much of the cognitive bias as the rest."
    (source: globalcognition.org)
    • Highly educated people are MORE likely to fall for investment scams:
    "Many scam victims are pretty smart. Three studies in 2006 and 2007 of identified investment-fraud victims and randomly selected participants—carried out by the Finra foundation, WISE Senior Services of Los Angeles and AARP Washington State—found that victims of investment fraud tend to be better educated than nonvictims, have higher incomes and have been investing for a decade or more. But they are so confident in their judgment that they fail to seek out professional or other opinions."
    (source: WallStreet Journal [cached])
    • Doctors in particular have a reputation for being bad investors:
    "The analytical-test results of people like [the hypothetical] Dr. Heart indicate that he's close to genius level. So perhaps he doesn't need any advisers. Perhaps he thinks he's smarter than any adviser. So why spend time and money dealing with these people? When it comes to investing, some people do think they are, financially speaking, immortal. Being very, very intelligent may have some drawbacks. Most high-income people with average to above-average intellect realize they aren't brilliant, but the majority have great common or practical intelligence. They know their strengths and weaknesses and act accordingly. They never make major investment decisions without first seeking advice from skilled professionals."
    (source: medicaleconomics.moderdmedicine.com)
    • With the exception of God Himself, highly educated people are are just as likely (if not MORE likely) to believe in the supernatural and paranormal:
    "While 23 percent of college freshmen expressed a general belief in paranormal concepts — from astrology to communicating with the dead — 31 percent of seniors did so, and the figure jumped to 34 percent among graduate students. "As people attain higher college-education levels, the likelihood of believing in paranormal dimensions increases," Farha and Steward write."
    (source: nbcnews.com)

    "These results are consistent with the notion that having a strong scientific knowledge base is not enough to insulate a person against irrational beliefs. Students who scored well on these tests were no more or less skeptical of pseudoscientific claims than students who scored very poorly. Apparently, the students were not able to apply their scientific knowledge to evaluate these pseudoscientific claims. We suggest that this inability stems in part from the way that science is traditionally presented to students: Students are taught what to think but not how to think."
    (source: skeptic.com)
    ---

    To cut a long post short...

    If people who are highly intelligent or better educated are less likely to believe in God because they think rationally, why are they MORE likely to have other irrational beliefs than people who are less intelligent or have less education?
     
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  2. BL2KTN

    BL2KTN Scholar, Author, Educator

    +68
    Deist
    Engaged
    US-Libertarian
    Glad to be a deist... not enough of us for people to run stupid polls on our investment abilities, and then correlate that to belief in somebody's specific version of God.
     
  3. Syd the Human

    Syd the Human Let it go

    405
    +6
    Agnostic
    Hmmm, so one's need to make money and therefor more likely to put into it, is correlated with god? Interesting :smarty:

    All joking aside, I don't think intelligence has anything to do with one's faith, or are you suggesting that it is not smart to be religious? Are you saying that having a religion is not the best choice, or one that should be avoided?

    Correlation does not prove causation. <--- Keep this in mind.
     
  4. Senator Cheese

    Senator Cheese Master of Cheese

    812
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    Social Psychology combines the two most pseudoscientific disciplines to create a hybrid of bad scientific practice. I just wanted to get that out of the way beforehand: with the exception of very few really confined fields of research, psychology is filled with much speculation and very little hard facts.

    Putting that aside, I do believe that a negative correlation may exist - which certainly does not imply a causative effect but could easily be explained in a cultural context: it is no surprise to see that universities are increasingly hostile towards mainstream Christian views. As I have explained in previous threads, the assumption that Christianity is often "backwards" (due to homophobia, fundamentalism and supposed ignorance of natural sciences) is held within many faculties and by many university authorities.

    What I find interesting in this context is the idea that, if this study were to have shown a negative correlation between intelligence and, for example, female gender or skin pigmentation, the study would have obviously been either a forgery or simply the result of apparent discrimination. :)
    It just goes to show that any observation on a macrosocial level is open to the wildest of speculation in regards to assumptions regarding causality.

    Furthermore, the question also remains as to how methodically correct these studies were designed. How were the individuals assigned to their respective groups? I don't think it's completely off the table to assume that some of these results may be attributed to selection bias.

    Either way, faith and intelligence may or may not correlate negatively. There will be extremely stupid atheists and extremely intelligent religious individuals, and vice versa. I find the meta-analysis interesting, but no more than that.
     
  5. pyramid33

    pyramid33 Well-Known Member

    +64
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    Are you encouraging atheist's to reject God? :)
     
  6. andy b

    andy b Newbie Supporter

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    It depends on how you define intelligence.From a Darwinian standpoint true intelligence would be the ability to have as many kids as you can and make as much money as you could while keeping your offspring safe i think , or is that cobblers
     
  7. Senator Cheese

    Senator Cheese Master of Cheese

    812
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    I think the correct term that you're looking for is fitness (i.e. the ability to reproduce viable offspring).
    Intelligence here was, as the article states, measured by standardized IQ tests.
     
  8. pyramid33

    pyramid33 Well-Known Member

    +64
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    Now that is insightful.
     
  9. pyramid33

    pyramid33 Well-Known Member

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    IQ test's made by an offspring of ape's. Oo Oo Ah Ah.
     
  10. lesliedellow

    lesliedellow Member

    +2,483
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    High IQ people are more likely to be atheists because they are more likely to have high salaries, and "You cannot serve both God and Mammon" is a psychological truism as applicable today as the day it was spoken.

    In previous centuries, before there were bucket loads of money sloshing around, the equation High IQ = irreligious didn't hold.
     
  11. pyramid33

    pyramid33 Well-Known Member

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    Anybody with any intelligence, certainly isn't against God.
     
  12. andy b

    andy b Newbie Supporter

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    Thats the contradiction there are plenty of Christians,jews and muslims with heaps of money.I often flick through the religious channels ( im sorry but when im alone not with the family ) and some of the American preachers are obsessed with money.
     
  13. andy b

    andy b Newbie Supporter

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  14. pyramid33

    pyramid33 Well-Known Member

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    Some? Try about 95% of all people in the entire world.
     
  15. pyramid33

    pyramid33 Well-Known Member

    +64
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  16. lesliedellow

    lesliedellow Member

    +2,483
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    Most, if not all, televangelists are conmen.
     
  17. pyramid33

    pyramid33 Well-Known Member

    +64
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    Well, perhaps that is true in many case's, but you cannot ever go wrong loving God's word. :) And giving your money to people that need it.

    At the end of the world, the weeds will be plucked and the wheat risen.
     
  18. Notedstrangeperson

    Notedstrangeperson Well-Known Member

    +99
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    I made another thread a little while ago (The Link Between IQ, Religiousity and Academic Subjects) which also looked at the association between intelligence and belief.

    If you look at the data, the correlation is somewhat weaker than it initially appears - for one, there is a stronger correlation between intelligence and religiosity than there is between education and religiosity. In other words, smart people are less likely to believe in God when they are still children, long before they receive any higher education. For another, the link between intelligence and lack of faith is almost solely confined to Protestantism: Catholics and Jews are both less likely to lose their faith as they become more educated. Mormons are supposely more intelligent than average too.

    As the awesomely-named Senator Cheese :p has pointed out, correlations involving intelligence are always controversial: scientists and other highly intelligent people tend to be atheists ... but scientists also tend to be white, male, and left-wing. You could argue that scientists tend to be atheists because they think more rationally - but can you imagine the fuss if someone used that same argument to explain why scientists tend to be liberal white men?

    So yes, obviously there is a great deal more to it than simply saying "Smart people are atheists because only stupid people believe in God".

    That said, that doesn't mean the correlation doesn't mean anything. As a Christian myself, I find it slightly depressing that belief is associated with lower intelligence and lack of education. I'd like to understand why.
     
  19. lesliedellow

    lesliedellow Member

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    The level of education in the southern states of America must do something to pull the average Christian IQ down. Especially if the survey is conducted in America.

    So far as I can make out, unsupervised home schooling is rife in the southern states, and, even if it was supervised, the chances are that the inspectors would be fundamentalists themselves.
     
  20. juvenissun

    juvenissun ... and God saw that it was good.

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    It is a misleading. It skipped an important word in the question:

    Why are "famous" intelligent people ..."

    This corrects the misconception that "famous intelligence" is equivalent to "very intelligent". For example, I believe I am as intelligent as Einstein, only much less famous. I can not compete on physics with him. But I am certainly a much better geologist than him. There are a lot of intelligent people, but there is no "very" intelligent people. If we call one to be very intelligent, than that makes every intelligent ones very intelligent too.

    With this correction in the original question, then I would question the validity of the statement. I am not sure the statistics is true. It is easy to know who is famous. But it is not easy to know if one is an atheist or not. I can easily argue that those people might not be Christians, but they could certainly be religious. As long as they are religious, it defeats the argument.
     
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