Your brain. It should be used.

Your brain. It should be used.

… or lack of intelligence to religious fundamentalism.

The New Zealand Herald published an article today about a study done by the Department of Psychology at Edinburgh University, “The relationship between intelligence and multiple domains of religious belief: Evidence from a large adult US sample”, that links intelligence to a lack of religious belief. I think the newspaper article does a fair job of describing the results – they are pretty straight forward: “These analyses indicated that intelligence was significantly and negatively associated with five of the six religion measures, with the largest coefficient on fundamentalism”. The only one of the six measures not significantly negatively correlated with intelligence is ‘spirituality’.

The article includes some comments from New Zealand psychologist Professor Tim Bates, who was one of the researchers in the study.

A possible reason behind the finding was a tendency for more intelligent people to challenge religious claims, said one of the researchers, New Zealand psychologist Professor Tim Bates.

“If you believe in religion, you haven’t really questioned things,” he said. “Brighter people were less likely to feel that religion plays a dominant role in their life.”

Professor Bates goes on to say:

Intelligence was an “inoculation against fundamentalism”, with each 15-point increase in IQ making people about half as likely to have strong fundamentalist views, said Bates.

You can read the article at The Herald here: Bible-bangers aren’t the brightest, study shows.

To those of us who spend significant amounts of time thinking about why and how people believe the nonsensical, self-contradictory and reality contradictory fables that religion teaches, the results of the study are not a surprise. It is hardly the first study to have linked intelligence with a lack of religious belief though it seems to possibly be the first to include 6 different dimensions of religiosity.

Obviously the religious will take exception to the study; who, after all, wants to feel like somebody is inferring that they might be less intelligent? Thankfully, reality and truth are not about sparing the feelings of some subsection of people who insist against all credible evidence in believing in unicorns, angels, demons, 600 year old men, world-wide floods, child murdering bears and people living inside whales.

The study included 2307 individuals who were surveyed for their religious beliefs and then tested for their intelligence. The study showed a good correlation between intelligence and lack of religious belief.

6. Results


These analyses indicated that intelligence was significantly and negatively associated with five of the six religion measures,with the largest coefficient on fundamentalism (β=−.13). Only spirituality did not relate to intelligence. This pattern of relationships did not change when education was omitted: For each of the religion variables, except fundamentalism,the association with intelligence was practically unchanged (all Δβ≤.01). For fundamentalism, however, removing education from the model increased the association with intelligence to β=−.25 (up from β=−.13). Openness had mixed relationships with the religion measures: For mindfulness, spirituality, and religious support, openness was a significant and positive predictor; however, this relationship was reversed for fundamentalism. Religious identification and private religious practice were not significantly associated with openness. Demographic variables were also significantly associated with the religion measures. Both sex (male = 1, female = 2) and age were positively associated with each of the religion measures with the exception of age on spirituality, and fundamentalism, where a null effect was observed for both age and sex.

From the results of this study it seems that level of education isn’t a huge factor, except for fundamentalism. When you remove education as an influencing factor, the inverse association of intelligence to fundamentalism increases.

You can download a PDF of the study be following this link: The relationship between intelligence and multiple domains of religious belief: Evidence from a large adult US sample or you can download the copy I have uploaded here and there is a link to the PDF from Gary Lewis’ site here.

There is the other side of the coin whose opinion is based on… well, no research really, just their own learned opinion:

The findings of the University of Edinburgh study were “a bit hilarious”, said Auckland Bishop Patrick Dunn. “The suggestion that the less intelligent you are the more religious you would be seems to be degrading and insulting,” he said.

Of course the poor Mr. Patrick Dunn’s reaction is understandable; nobody likes the inference that they might be… less intelligent. The truth sometimes hurts Mr. Dunn and science is only about the truth. The researchers didn’t set out to prove that religious people are less intelligent, they looked at the data and the data says that intelligent people less likely to believe religious garbage. It’s not degrading and insulting to anybody or does Mr. Dunn think that proving the world is round to a flat-earther is ‘insulting’ and ‘degrading’ to them?

“I can’t take [the study] very seriously.”

Of course you don’t Mr. Dunn; religion and science are very infrequently good bedfellows since religion is about dogma and science is about the truth. Science requires you to change your mind when you are proved wrong and religion has fought that tiny fact viciously and lost, for several thousand years.

Let me lay it out for you, again: reasonable people cannot consider anybody who believes that the Bible is the inerrant word of the creator of the universe to be sane or intelligent. You must be delusional, ignorant or stupid if you believe that every word in the Bible is true. It demonstrably (even using the Bible its self) is not.

And again, another study proves, that the more intelligent you are the less likely you are to believe the garbage religion sells.


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You can read Stuart Ritchie’s (one of the three authors of the paper) summary of the paper here: Fundamentalism, Spirituality, and IQ