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Intelligent people 'less likely to believe in God' - Comments

Tyler Durden's Avatar Comment 1 by Tyler Durden

One wonders if this is why the Catholic Church runs 90% (yes, 90%) of the primary schools (children 5 - 10 yrs approx.) in Ireland. Get them while they're young etc. Corrupt them early, and often.

Thu, 12 Jun 2008 11:21:00 UTC | #182459

Quetzalcoatl's Avatar Comment 2 by Quetzalcoatl

I don't know about this. It does seem rather simplistic to suggest that greater intelligence means that you are less likely to believe in God. If you're caught early enough, then surely your faith will be just as strong?

Thu, 12 Jun 2008 11:24:00 UTC | #182461

GSP's Avatar Comment 3 by GSP

Ahhh yes.... where would we be without pop-science?

Thu, 12 Jun 2008 11:26:00 UTC | #182464

ThoughtsonCommonToad's Avatar Comment 4 by ThoughtsonCommonToad

I saw the title and wondered why this was published in the Telegraph. The Telegraph? Then I saw who conducted the research, Richard Lynn. I now know why the Telegraph published. Sigh.

Let's not forget who Richard Lynn is.

Thu, 12 Jun 2008 11:27:00 UTC | #182467

Duff's Avatar Comment 5 by Duff

"...a simplistic characterization of religion as primitive." Oh, say it isn't so!

Thu, 12 Jun 2008 11:53:00 UTC | #182492

AdrianT's Avatar Comment 6 by AdrianT

I must say the responses to this on the Telegraph's website are better than I expected. Clearly not every reader is a raving bible bashing nutjob anymore...

The response to this by Christopher Howse, on why believers might be ' cleverer' was poor journalism, even by the newspaper's standards:

Thu, 12 Jun 2008 11:54:00 UTC | #182493

EvidenceOnly's Avatar Comment 7 by EvidenceOnly

Seems very logical to me.

People with a higher IQ are more likely to use their brain.
They may grow up with the religious indoctrination that their ability to think critically is god-given but once they really grow up they start thinking more and more critically, helped by higher education.

This drives them in the one-way street of realization that there is no rational explanation for anything supernatural and mankind has created gods in its image contrary to what religions claim.

If you have the IQ and you're educated to use your brains, you need to have a severe split personality to hang on to religion.

Thu, 12 Jun 2008 11:55:00 UTC | #182495

FightingFalcon's Avatar Comment 8 by FightingFalcon

If you're caught early enough, then surely your faith will be just as strong?

I was caught at a young age and became extremely devout. However, I would like to think that I'm a fairly smart individual and that my studying of religions caused me to doubt the validity of 2000 year old texts, burning bushes, virgin births, etc. Rather than seeing Christianity as unique, I saw it as one of many belief systems invented by humans to explain what we couldn't (as of yet) understand.

I have found GENERALLY that the more religious a society is, the less educated it is. This is well documented throughout history though and should be no surprise to anyone. Why did Imperial Spain contribute nothing to the sciences while Protestant Prussia and the Reformed Netherlands (both relatively open and tolerant societies) make tremendous advancements in science and math?

It should be no shock to anyone that having a closed mind that is brought about largely by religion should leave you less educated. This is common sense yet very hard for Theists to accept.

The less you study, the less intelligent you are. Period.

Thu, 12 Jun 2008 12:00:00 UTC | #182497

RichardWolford's Avatar Comment 9 by RichardWolford

I want to see his data; the parsimony is too much.

Thu, 12 Jun 2008 12:13:00 UTC | #182507

JLD Calgary's Avatar Comment 10 by JLD Calgary

I have to agree with this articles premise, though I'd love to see some nice graphs with the details pulling it all together. I think we'd find though that the higher the IQ, the less religious. It just seems like common sense, I'm glad research is being done on it.

Take careful note about how those critics quoted in the article seem to be more concerned with whether it will make religion seem primitive or spawn hostility towards it without actually debating the scientific data.

Perhaps they are a bit too quick to pull the "don't hurt my feelings" card without actually looking at the information?

Thu, 12 Jun 2008 12:31:00 UTC | #182521

Mango's Avatar Comment 11 by Mango

So most people are religious because most people are ignorant? It has its exceptions of course, but I think it goes a long way to explaining what we see in Western countries.

Thu, 12 Jun 2008 12:35:00 UTC | #182525

rod-the-farmer's Avatar Comment 12 by rod-the-farmer

I too am not sure the relationship with IQ is entirely true. I suspect it is a broader question than that. I think it is more EDUCATION that pushes people towards disbelief in god. After all, there HAVE to be a great many people in profoundly religious countries (e.g. some of the islamic ones) who have a naturally high IQ. But if they are denied a chance for a broad education in the sciences, what chance do they have to seriously consider the beliefs in which they were raised ? You need to be trained to question critically, and to use rational thought, before you can truly have any internal debate on the truth of religious beliefs. Why would you even question your beliefs, unless you had heard about the growth & history of science, and people like Galileo, Copernicus, Pasteur et al. Without examples from history, it would take a very special person indeed to discard their religion. A high IQ can easily be present in an ignorant person. To get the full potential in ANY field, from him/her, you need an education. And even those with average or slightly less IQ can be educated enough to make a personal decision about religious beliefs and any others they may have been "issued" by their social structure. Education is the key here.

Thu, 12 Jun 2008 12:42:00 UTC | #182533

gyokusai's Avatar Comment 13 by gyokusai

Well, sounds like total bollocks to me.


Thu, 12 Jun 2008 12:43:00 UTC | #182536

Mango's Avatar Comment 14 by Mango

comment 12 rod-the-farmer: But if they are denied a chance for a broad education in the sciences, what chance do they have to seriously consider the beliefs in which they were raised?

I agree with you. I think this correlation between IQ and disbelief is only applicable to Western countries (and assorted others) in which people have the opportunity (educationally and socially) to doubt and disbelieve in their society's ascendant supernatural beliefs. "Death to apostates" as a rule of law will keep someone from reading "The God Delusion" on a city bus.

Thu, 12 Jun 2008 12:46:00 UTC | #182540

gyokusai's Avatar Comment 15 by gyokusai

Yeah, rod-the-farmer, I was thinking about education instead of intelligence, too. Referring to "intelligence" in this context reminds me of referring to "nutritional value" or "energy balance."

But I'm not sure that even education would hold up, under scrutiny. You have so many variables here like indoctrination, tradition, group pressure, and what have you, which are all known to be able to persistently override "intelligence" as well as education.


Thu, 12 Jun 2008 12:50:00 UTC | #182545

ThoughtsonCommonToad's Avatar Comment 16 by ThoughtsonCommonToad

A survey of Royal Society fellows found that only 3.3 per cent believed in God - at a time when 68.5 per cent of the general UK population described themselves as believers.
A separate poll in the 90s found only seven per cent of members of the American National Academy of Sciences believed in God.
He said religious belief had declined across 137 developed nations in the 20th century at the same time as people became more intelligent.

There are no other factors than IQ. Just like the Bell Curve.

Thu, 12 Jun 2008 12:50:00 UTC | #182548

mordacious1's Avatar Comment 17 by mordacious1

Totally anecdotal, but the non-believers I run in to seem to be a cut-above, whereas when when I run into an idiot...

Thu, 12 Jun 2008 12:54:00 UTC | #182552

Mango's Avatar Comment 18 by Mango

comment 17 mordacious1: Totally anecdotal

Have you read his journal article? My university's library doesn't have online access to the latest issue yet so I haven't seen it, but presumably it will contain some statistics that support the argument that The Telegraph reports Lynn makes.

Thu, 12 Jun 2008 12:57:00 UTC | #182556

notsobad's Avatar Comment 19 by notsobad

Intelligence and education. Intelligence alone is not enough if you are brainwashed.

Thu, 12 Jun 2008 13:02:00 UTC | #182557

Dinah's Avatar Comment 20 by Dinah

Some people are very good at compartmentalising their ideas which enables them to hold beliefs which contradict each other. For example, you can get someone with an entirely rational approach to the world and life in general except when it comes to religion, when they will believe any old hooey. I don't think this is necessarily anything to do with how intelligent they are.

It is more likely (though by no means always the case) that those who have had a scientific education will be less religious because they have been taught to think critically and evaluate evidence. I know someone who is a scientist and claims to believe in God, but she is actually more of a Daniel Dennett 'believer in belief' person, who thinks religion is a Good Thing and a method of spreading values and preventing social breakdown.

Thu, 12 Jun 2008 13:12:00 UTC | #182564

Goldy's Avatar Comment 21 by Goldy

Loved this

"Really clever people ?quot; .. Shakespeare .. ?quot; are big enough to believe in God"

Shakespeare's a bad example; he was Elizabethan and, if I recall correctly my school history lessons, the Christians who ran Elizabethan England had declared atheism a capital offence. If Shakespeare had declared himself an atheist, the intelligent, peace-loving Christians (those who believe "thou shall not kill") would have killed him.
Posted by Mike on June 12, 2008 4:09 PM

Talking of the Bard, UoA has this (that's the Uni of Auckland)
Watch, listen to or download this fascinating series of conversations between well-known broadcaster Kerre Woodham and six top academics from the Faculty of Arts. The eclectic range of topics includes New Zealand politics, the sociology of genocide, and whether Shakespeare believed in God

Check it out -

Thu, 12 Jun 2008 13:18:00 UTC | #182567

Dr. Strangegod's Avatar Comment 22 by Dr. Strangegod

Well, that's all very nice, but this guy has proven nothing. It is FAR more complex than he presents it. The religious = stupid, or ignorant, or uneducated argument holds a kernel of truth, but over-simplifying does not help us reach the actual answer. There are lots of correlations and causes, but there has simply not been enough work done to make any conclusions. Gallup polls are almost meaningless to the larger question here.

Thu, 12 Jun 2008 13:27:00 UTC | #182574

hopeful's Avatar Comment 23 by hopeful

Another consequence of the PC world we live in is the denial of the obvious, and this is a very sensitive issue because the religious world doesn't want to hear it.

We are talking about a rough correlation not an absolute and simple rule. Sure there are exceptions and probably other factors involved, but it seems obvious that the higher the intelligence and education the less likely to be religious.

Look at what religion is: myths, superstition, dogmatic belief, ritual, lack of scientific understanding and faulty reasoning. By definition, anyone with better reasoning skills and a broader education is going to be less likely to buy into this.

The fact is, that people are afraid to speak out about this, because obviously anyone who is religious is going to get offended, and there are plenty of non-religious people willing to get offended on their behalf.

Thu, 12 Jun 2008 13:29:00 UTC | #182576

Goldy's Avatar Comment 25 by Goldy

Also depends on the definition of intelligence. I am sure many of the cretinists are very smart - look how they can manipulate data and evidence to show the opposite to what we see as bleeding obvious.
Militant ignorance is not less clever - it is just intelligence going down a dead end ;-)

Thu, 12 Jun 2008 13:30:00 UTC | #182579

HourglassMemory's Avatar Comment 26 by HourglassMemory

I think a better choice of words would be "Better thinkers tend to not believe in god".
It's not an arrogant claim.
After all, people who do well in IQ tests are just people who can think about things better than most.

Thu, 12 Jun 2008 13:30:00 UTC | #182581

rod-the-farmer's Avatar Comment 24 by rod-the-farmer

Thank dog for cut-&-paste-before-submit, otherwise I would have lost another comment.

Re-reading my own comment, I had another thought. How would/could you test for high IQ in a country which does not educate its own citizens well ? Is it not a premise of IQ testing that the individuals being tested have had some sort of minimal education ? I suspect there is some sort of cultural bias in the test itself, that would discriminate against say, a reindeer herder from Mongolia.

Cringe on.........are there statistics on the IQ in islamic countries where some segments of the population (e.g.....women in Afghanistan) are sometimes denied an education ? And those women who DO receive an education, apparently are not tested on subjects other than the koran. It is probably safe to assume that IQ levels in islamic countries have a "bell curve" similar to those in Japan, China and western countries, But is the peak at the same level ? I mean, if the purpose of islamic education is to recite the koran from memory, does that affect your IQ ?

cringe off

Thu, 12 Jun 2008 13:30:00 UTC | #182578

Jiten's Avatar Comment 27 by Jiten

I wonder if any studies have been done to find out what percentage of believers are intelligent?

Thu, 12 Jun 2008 13:35:00 UTC | #182589

Rawhard Dickins's Avatar Comment 28 by Rawhard Dickins

The more "intelligent" you are, the more likely you are to have a well thought out word view. (Which is unlikely to include a bearded old man that waves a magic wand or whatever).

It's not rocket science that poorly educated people tend to be more religious!

Thu, 12 Jun 2008 13:39:00 UTC | #182591

infidel_michael's Avatar Comment 29 by infidel_michael

What I'm missing in such studies is statistics of other beliefs, not just religion. For example astrology, homeopathy, psychics, faith healers, UFO, conspiracy theories, etc.
Then it would be interesting to see the link between religiosity and irrationality in broader context. If religious people are also likely to have other irrational beliefs, then connection between faith and irrationality would be better supported.

Thu, 12 Jun 2008 13:46:00 UTC | #182598

mordacious1's Avatar Comment 30 by mordacious1


I meant I was being anecdotal, not the article necessarily.


I find myself reading your posts with a deep voice. It's the Avatar, and I can't stop myself.

edit: I think believers can be smart or dumb as a rock. If you are a declared atheist, anecdotal again, you are probably at least above average in thinking skills. IMHO

Thu, 12 Jun 2008 13:56:00 UTC | #182608