Sunday, March 8, 2009

Religiosity and Intelligence: 50 years of study confirms what we've always suspected

In the spring of 1986, Free Inquiry a respected magazine that promotes secular humanism and rational thinking published a detailed article entitled “The Effect of Intelligence on Religious Faith”. Contained within that article were sixteen studies conducted from 1927 through 1980 that examined college students’ degree of religiosity and their intellectual ability as measured by test scores and grades.

Of the sixteen studies thirteen of them, 81%, showed an inverse correlation between religiosity and intelligence. That is, the aggregate scores were consistently highest among the least religious / non-believers, and lowest among the more religious / most religious. While three studies reported no statistical difference between the groups, not a single one of the studies reported higher intelligence in the religious groups Vs the less religious / non-believer groups.

A list of those studies follows for those who would like to research this further:
Thomas Howells, 1927
Hilding Carlsojn, 1933
Abraham Franzblau, 1934
Thomas Symington, 1935
Vernon Jones, 1938
A. R. Gilliland, 1940 (no statistical difference)
Donald Gragg, 1942
Brown and Love, 1951
Michael Argyle, 1958
Jeffrey Hadden, 1963 (no statistical difference)
Young, Dustin and Holtzman, 1966
James Trent, 1967 (no statistical difference)
C. Plant and E. Minium, 1967
Robert Wuthnow, 1978
Norman Poythress, 1975
Wiebe and Fleck, 1980

The results of the Poythress (’75) study were typical of the majority findings. They tracked SAT scores of religious students compared to three levels of non-belief/anti-religiosity. It showed that as religious belief declined/ anti-religiosity increased SAT scores increased commensurately. The religious student group average SAT scores were 10% lower than the most anti-religious student group.

Another example, the Brown and Love (’51) study, tracked controlled test scores. Believers’ averaged 19% lower average test scores than did non-believers.

I have discussed in earlier posts the fact that the most eminent scientists in the US and Great Britain, members of The National Academy of Science, and the Royal Society, have much lower rates of religious belief than does the general population of either country.

So when we take all this data into account, what conclusion can we draw? Well, we cannot infer that all atheists are smarter than all theists. That would be an easily falsified assumption. But we can deduce by a preponderance of corroborating results from scientifically conducted studies that on the aggregate atheists are more intelligent than believers.

The reason for this is not difficult to surmise. People who can best access problems using reason, fact and logic use those same attributes to analyze / examine the claims of theistic belief. When they do they conclude those claims to be lacking. People with lesser degrees of those attributes are least likely to apply critical thinking to religious claims, and are more inclined to accept them at face.

The evidence for this is overwhelming and not a recent observation. Celsus, a 2nd century Greek writer was a careful observer of the early Christian movement and critic of it. Among his many observations are the following:

"… the following are the rules laid down by them [ Christian proselytizers] . Let no one come to us who has been instructed, or who is wise or prudent (for such qualifications are deemed evil by us); but if there be any ignorant, or unintelligent, or uninstructed, or foolish persons, let them come with confidence. By which words, acknowledging that such individuals are worthy of their God, they manifestly show that they desire and are able to gain over only the silly, and the mean, and the stupid, with women and children."...

The least educated, least discerning, most ignorant and gullible are those least likely to challenge and question, and the more likely to blindly accept faith over fact. This is just as true of Islam, the fastest growing religion in the world thanks to its appeal to the most undereducated inhabitants of the Third World.

Here’s a tip -- if you see people who are babbling mindlessly in tongues, or handling snakes as they dance around praising Jesus, or proclaiming the Earth to be 6,000 years old, or crawling on their hands and knees to be touched by a faith healer, or allowing themselves to be ceremonially crucified in honor of their savior, or attesting to the End being near; feel comfortable giving good odds, and placing a week’s salary bet, that none of them are brain surgeons, rocket scientists, or Mensa members. It’s money in the bank.


Holey Hands said...

Imagine if all atheist left the USA?">

DromedaryHump said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DromedaryHump said...

Lemme restate that.. yeah..if all atheists left the US the IQ of the country would drop 25 points!!!

Holey Hands said...

That's MUCH BETTER! There for a minute I thought you had been SLAVED and lost a few IQ points...hehehe

Joyce said...

So how does my MENSA IQ factor into all of this?

Joyce said...

How does my MENSA IQ factor into all of this?

Joyce said...

I just noticed you changed your comment moderation. Sorry about that.

DromedaryHump said...

Well, Joyce...
I havn't seen you at any of the meetings Hehehehe!!!


Joyce said...

Sure you have. I'm the weirdo praying in the back. lol

DromedaryHump said...

HAHAHAH!!! Oh, thats YOU??
There's one in every group. Its the exception that proves the rule ;)

OJ said...

Very cool findings.

Did you see the piece on religiosity on NBC news this evening? A few studies have come out that all find that since 1990, the percentage of Americans with no religion has risen from 8% to 15%. Good news!

DromedaryHump said...


Yeah..i was just about to post the associated press story on Fighting Ignorance, and Iron Chariots.

Great news!!!


Radames said...

Paul himself knew that:

"26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:
27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty"
(First Corinthians, I)

If "god" choosed the foolish things to confound the "wise men in the flesh", he made an excellent job. I can hardly imagine something more foolish than a bunch of fundies. The error is: they do not confound the wise, they are confounded themselves. The “wise” are more amused... Even laughing out loud, I believe.

DromedaryHump said...

well said. thanks.

People are coming to their senses. That associated press yesterday reported a decrease in christianity in the US and a doubling in non-believers since 1990 confirms that.

Maybe people are getting smarter... and becoming "less confounded"


Valérie said...

Atheist Camel,

I'm sorry but I have to laugh about your nickname. I think it's wonderful. In French we have 2 words very much understood by everyone, "chameau" (= camel, with 2 humps) and "dromadaire" (=dromadary, only one hump).

I am not very good with English language, but I have improved much with the years I have spent on the blog I attend, but I have noticed that it seems that in English people talk of both animals the same way, they just say "camels". Even the cigarette brand shows the picture of a dromadary and yet calls itself Camel.

You remind me so much of Whynot, the owner of that blog I attend. He is a atheist and also likes to portray himself as "commie bastard", LOL.

I am catholic but I don't blindly follow the doctrines. In all cases, Whynot thinks of me as a very good friend, and me the same. I have many friends here in Paris that are of religion or of no religion, and every body gets on well, and religion or not makes no difference, nobody cares, and nobody talks about it. Religion is private to each person.

You also remind me in your way of talking about Stiletto. I think it is because you say it so raw like her. And also because of your icon, the dromadary. She is crazy about animals. Her main one is polar bears. I think she doesn't care about religion at all. I like her very much even that sometimes I think she is so strong and daring.

Greetings from Paris,

DromedaryHump said...

Bon jour!

Your English is quite good, much better than my French.

I had 3 years of French when I was in school. Problem was it was TWO years of French I, and one year of French II, I was that bad at it. I tried smoking Gaulois to try and improve my didn't help.

I agree, what one believes or doesn't believe is a private matter. Unfortunately here in the US there are religious people who insist we believe like them and want to force a theocracy into our government, and dumb down our schools educational curriculum by forcing religiou dogma into the classroom.

All that is in opposition to what our Founding Fathers meant for our country. LaFayette fought with us to help us win our freedoms, I won't stand by and let them be erroded by religious fanatics.

Thanks for your comments, come back often.

a tout a l' heure


Rob R said...

So your claim is that higher intellegence makes one epistemically priviledged noting the higher ability in logic.

I'm not confident in that. You can have a high IQ and still think foolishly.

Logic also doesn't lead you anywhere if your premises aren't true. It's a matter of faith that logic applies to our universe. It's also a matter of faith that human brains are wired to correctly understand the universe, and if this isn't the case, it doesn't matter if one brain that measures more highly on a scale of brain excellence than another brain.

Having a high IQ doesn't necessarily make one wise. It could even make someone arrogant and arrogance leads to some foolish behavior. This is demonstrable in the medical profession for instance where arrogant doctors are more likely to get sued.

If this claim is true (and I'm skeptical that it is), I would say that it reflects the philosophical biases of the the culture at large on what consitutes knowledge. The natural sciences of course have been very epistemically successful but the unquestioning assumption by many is that all of our knowledge should be judged on scientific terms. The problem with that view is that it is self defeating. As mentioned, some things that are fundamental to science are based upon faith, more specifically epistemic risk, that is the risk that what is held to be true either can be concievably be false or cannot be proven. Worse, science itself cannot legitimize itself on it's own terms.

Now while it might be possibly true that atheists score higher on certain intellegence tests, it would seem that a group who on average are way more intellegent than the average atheist are predeominantly religious. The majority of physicians are religious.

DromedaryHump said...

I see you brought your idiocy and unjthinking babble to my blog. I'm so proud.

Rob said: "The majority of physicians are religious."

Rob, I warned you before you came here that if you make a statement proffered as fact you will need to provide evidence, corroborated proof.

Now.. I want the proof, the evidence, the statistical support for the statement you made above. The data must have been derived by an impartical and scienifically conducted survey, by an agency or organization that is impartial / lacking any agenda.

If you cannot provide that evidence/proof you will be forever banned here. I told you inadvance, I don't tolerate idiocy.

Now... get the proof.


DromedaryHump said...

BTW... understand.. I have no doubt about religious physicians being in the majority.

What I'm goingto show you with the raw stats, if you can provide them is... that while the number of self proclaimed Christians in the US is "X", the number of US physicians claiming christanity will be X- , and by a statistically significant margin.

In otherwords..if 76% of the US claims christianity, and say 60% of physicians claim christiaity, ther inference is diametrically oppose to what you'd like it to be. And you will have caused yourself a problem, if you have even a modicum of understanding of stats and the implication of such a variance between populations.

Take your time.

DromedaryHump said...

Finally this:
"You can have a high IQ and still think foolishly."

absolutly true; however the lower the IQ the more likely and more frequently one is to think foolishly (i.e. incompletly, irrationally, without logic, lacking reason).

Thus, the likelyhood of a theist acting "foolishly" is significantly greater than an atheist acting similarly, by the obvious truism of lower IQ increases chance of stupid thinking.

Thats why the religious are religious, its an act of faith / aka belief without evidence, which is in and of itself foolishness.

DromedaryHump said...

here..i did it for you:

" A study from the University of Chicago, being billed as the first to examine physicians' religious beliefs, has found that 55 percent of doctors say their religion influences how they practice medicine."

"In addition, 76 percent of doctors said they believe in God and 59 percent believe in some sort of afterlife, putting them more in line with their patients than the rest of the scientific community."

"We did not think physicians were nearly this religious," said the study's author, Dr. Farr Curlin, citing previous studies that indicate religious belief tends to decrease as education and income."

Thus, the proportion of dr's who are religious is identical to the general population.

However, the article goes on to explain that as the level of achievement increase (i.e.: accredited research papers published; higher graduating class standings; and technical difficulty of speciality increases (i.e. brain surgeons and oncologists Vs podiatrist and dermatologist) that the level of religiosity declines.

Thus, while they are a reflection of the general population as a total, they drop below the general population's frequency of religiosity as achievment and standing increases.

Interesting mix of results, no?

Rob R said...

I had thissource in my first post. The article is sourced all over. I forgot to add the text for the link so it didn't show up. I didn't get back from an outing until now.

However, the article goes on to explain that as the level of achievement increase (i.e.: accredited research papers published; higher graduating class standings; and technical difficulty of speciality increases (i.e. brain surgeons and oncologists Vs podiatrist and dermatologist) that the level of religiosity declines.

source? link?

I have access to highbeam. I read the whole article twice. It's actually pretty short.

The chicago sun times report did not make this claim.

DromedaryHump said...

Yes, my mistake. I was refering to this, ehers an extract:

"In 2003, Curlin and his colleagues surveyed 1,820 practicing physicians, from which 1,144 physicians responded, including 100 psychiatrists. The survey contained questions about medical specialties, and various aspects of religion. That data has now been analyzed."

"Whereas 61 percent of other physicians reported Protestant or Catholic affiliation, just 37 percent of psychiatrists were associated with the two religions."

I can't find the original study, albeit I had it in my archives. I will find it for you so you can read how various specialties / kinds of medical practices are represented by religion.

But since my last post I reealized I made an error. I'm surprised I wasn't called on it.

First: 76% of americans are "CHRISTIANS". I said 76% had religion. Typo.


The actual US population that claims religion is 86%. With 14% claiming non-belief, per the latest stats:

THUS, since only 76% of physicians claim religion, they are 10percentage points below the national average. Thats a 12% lower rate of religiosity than the general US Population. 12% as you know would be statistically significant.

So, what does this infer? While a majority of physicians are religious, as one would expect in a hghly religious country; they are significantly LESS likely to be believers than the general US population.

This isn't an opinion, nor an argument. Its a fact.

Add to that the fact that the most prestigious doctors, in the most demanding specialties are less religious( I WILL!! find that study) and the inference is clear.

so what's the bottom line? Well, since you put great empahsis on the intellectual abilites of doctors, the fact they are:
1) 12% less religious than the great unwashed american public; and
2)those who are the most reknown and higly skilled are even LESS religious than their peers,

it's clear that the premise of my post, the studies I sited, work for the medical profession as well the best of the scientific community.

QED: my point is proven.


DromedaryHump said...


this has more detail on the curlin study. if you go to the fifth para from bottom you will see they did conduct the study by specialty. while only two or three are mentioned in this one little parag. the full details are available thru the JAMA subscription which i now no longer have.

The Psychiatrist extract is only detailed in that other article because it was sited by an organization of psychiatrists. The point is the data IS broken out and DOES discribe the declining degree of religiosity as I said.

However, since i cannot get down to that detail level and provide the data, I will do the intellectually honest thing and withdraw the refence to speciality and degree of religious belief.

It does not change the lower dr to US population religiosity ratio fact; which supports my contention vis-a-vis intellect and religion... assuming we credit dr. with higher degree of intellect

Re your most rcent post: I am unconcerned with what religious doctors think about the effectof spirtituality on patients. I'm quite sure practicing witch doctors would associate spirituality with patient health as well. That belief by the religious drs goes beyond the scope of this thread, albeit, it would be of interest to mindless sheep who share their perspective.

Ok... now I'm REALLY tired.


sunnyskeptic said...

PS: We have to know they're not REAL bright, the reason they're still religious is that they don't even read their own 'holy books'... :)

mud_rake said...

I see that Rob indeed followed you here. His mom does that as well. In fact, she followed Microdot back to Valerie's blog- the one to which she referred- and nearly closed it down with her idiotic fundy blather.

The apple doesn't fall too far from the tree as we call all see in sonny, Rob.

Additionally, you might like to know that mom is married to a doctor who is also a hard-core fundamentalist. Often mom 'sources' him without admitting that he is her husband.

Just trying to fill in a few details for you, Hump, so that you know where Rob is coming from. Take mercy on him for he knows not what he does.
His great-grandfather, Harold Mason, was a fundamentalist preacher and teacher, so you can realize that he has been thoroughly brainwashed into his current belief-system.

DromedaryHump said...

thanks for the heads up.


Angel said...

Ahhh.. Luther at his best...

Dromedary Hump said...

I'm beginning to sense you haven't read my book yet :)