Study: High IQ linked to atheism

A new study from the UK claims that people with a high IQ are more likely to be atheists. Now I know you expect me to be gloating about this study but really, it’s not that interesting. From my perspective, it’s just common sense that people who have even an average level of intelligent wouldn’t feel the need to believe in the sky bully.

What is much more interesting is to work out why intelligent people *do* believe in him. And not just in God, but in other whacky ideas as well – psychic healing, UFOs, chakras, etc. What’s most interesting to me is how these memes survive in the 21st century when they are completely unsupported by common sense, not to mention scientific evidence.

Someone said to me the other day “I have evidence (for psychic healing), but not scientific evidence”. I went to lengths to explain that any evidence that can be tested, measured and confirmed by consensus *is*, “scientific evidence”. And if you can’t do those things, well… it’s not evidence. It’s just in your head. And while that is still interesting and worth exploring, before we can say something is “true”, we need hard evidence, not just your head.

11 thoughts on “Study: High IQ linked to atheism

  1. Could be. But in comparing two groups of human beings numbering in the millions, even if there are some statistically significant differences, the individual variability within the two groups on most measures will be tremendous.

    I attended one of the top divinity schools in the US (U of Chicago) and the intellecual abilities of faculty and students were amazing. Helped me understand my own brain’s relative strengths and weaknesses much better than I did before.

    I suspect that motivation, much more than differences in intellectual ability, factors into our different attitudes toward theism, atheism and whether we find anything realistic and meaningful that perhaps goes beyond current limitations on generally prevailing theistic and atheistic points of view.

  2. Motivation? In what way Paul?

    As for the intellectual capabilities at the U of CH, it would be interesting to grab such people and run them through a standard IQ test and then compare those results with the study mentioned above.

  3. Cam,

    You do just not believe in UFO’s are visiting us every other day as some would make you think, or that their is other life out in the universe?

    I hope it is the first cause the latter is just as ridiculous as believing there s a GOD being who created us.

  4. Name the 5 greatest thinkers to ever live (obviously subjective) and have a think about whether they were religious – chances are they were. Einstein was ‘scientific’ and he was a profoundly religious man.

    You’ll find a study to prove anything. Studies have shown that people who do drugs have a higher than average IQ as well.

    IQ tests are not a proper measure of intelligence anyway… By the way, I am not religious – I just think that people who say you’d have to be stupid to believe in religion most likely have a chip on their shoulder.

  5. Cameron,

    Do you ever have a gut feeling? Know when you are coming from your head or or heart? There you go, metaphors. Chakaras are metaphors. You can take God that way too. It is idiocy to literalise these things but stories and metaphors are the stuff of the soul. Ooops another metaphor, hope you can handle that… What could soul be a metaphor for? Relationship. Notions shared in a relationship.

    Science is fantastic for some questions, but so useless for others. Have blogs been proven to be helpful? Are metaphors useful?

  6. Tony – I don’t have evidence for either UFOs visiting earth *or* extraterrestrial intelligent life co-existing with ours, so I don’t “believe” that either exists. I believe both are possible though. There’s a big difference. I would love to have evidence about either but, until I do, I’m putting them into the ‘we don’t know’ basket with everything else that has no evidence. BTW – there are PLENTY of reasons why it’s possible that no intelligent life might co-exist with us. We haven’t been around very long ourselves. 2 million years out of 14 billion is a snap of the fingers. And I’m not sure we’ll last another 100. Perhaps intelligent life is an anomaly in this universe.

    Walter – yes I have “gut” feelings, but emotions reside in the brain, not in the heart (which is a muscle for pumping blood, nothing else). What are chakras metaphors for? What is god a metaphor for? Which questions is science useless for? Please explain.

  7. Hmmmmm… I’m not quite sure where that puts you though Cameron.

    I mean you had 15 years as a student of Advaita Vedanta didn’t you?

    http://reilly.typepad.com/cameronreilly/2004/12/string_theory_a.html

    Actually, it wasn’t just a passing fad either, it was:

    “my great interest for the last 15 years”

    Which, and do correct me if I’m wrong, is an ‘interest’ generally geared towards attaining ‘liberation from the cycle of births and deaths’

    And of which a key tenet is the belief that:

    “The world has a wonderful unity, coordination and order, so its creator must have been an intelligent being.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advaita_Vedanta

    Isn’t it about time you came clean on the ‘long held atheism’ side of things and let us all know whether you still consider yourself Brahman 😉

  8. Dan – where’s your evidence for claiming Einstein was religious? That’s certainly not the perspective I’ve read in the biographies on him. This letter by Einstein recently sold at auction has him calling the idea of God “the product of human weakness” and the Bible as “pretty childish”.

    Realist – advaita, in my experience at least, is about as far from religion as you can get. It doesn’t recognize a creator, at least in the advaitan circles I’ve mixed in over the last 20 years.

  9. So… just out of interest where do you stand on the whole ‘cycle of births and deaths’ thing then?

    Or are you one of those ‘Advaitians that doesn’t take teachings too literally’, you know, just sees that sort of thing as being a ‘metaphor’ of sorts?

    And just returning to that article you wrote in 2004, I’m wondering where the ‘hard evidence’ is to show that that “yet again physics comes to the same conclusion as a 2000 year-old philosophy. The entire universe is a vibration of energy.”

    Or were you just suffering from a lack of ‘average’ intellingence at the time?

  10. Realist – advaita doesn’t teach any cycle of birth and death and it doesnt have any metaphors in its teaching either, aside of the fact that all language is a metaphor at some level, an attempt to describe what we perceive.

    The “hard evidence” in contained in quantum physics. The more we learn about matter, the more evidence we find that at the lowest level it is some sort of vibration of something, usually referred to as ‘energy’. String theory isn’t backed up by evidence yet, but is a whole field of physics trying to work out what that vibration is. But even when we describe electrons, photons and quarks (for which we DO have hard evidence), we describe them in similar terms.

    So no, I wasn’t suffering from anything then, nor am I now.

    Got any more shots you want to take? I’m ready.

  11. Cameron, you replied:

    Walter – yes I have “gut” feelings, but emotions reside in the brain, not in the heart (which is a muscle for pumping blood, nothing else). What are chakras metaphors for? What is god a metaphor for? Which questions is science useless for? Please explain.

    Perhaps one day science will be able to distinguish a gut feeling from a heart felt feeling, and sure where they tap into that could be in the brain, or in the skin responses or in the blood pressure or in the nerves in the jaw. Whatever the science is it will still need to be compare results to what we know and mean by these feelings. There is established practice to develop these feeling capacities – “EQ” etc. We use metaphors to talk about complex sensations & experience. Cultures that use chakaras don’t just have head heart & gut they have a few more metaphors. They are good at talking about experience. So chakaras a metaphors for classes of human experience. Hard to talk about without metaphor. (of course there are people who make the mistake of literalising these, by thinking of them as if they are organs of the body, which clearly they are not.)

    My last two sentences (in the first post)

    “Have blogs been proven to be helpful? Are metaphors useful?”

    Were meant to be questions where science is not useful, but useful discussions could still be had.

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