● having the capacity for thought and reason especially to a high degree
● possessing sound knowledge
● exercising or showing good judgment
● endowed with the capacity to reason
The term 'intelligence' refers to the mental capability that includes the ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend ideas and language, and to learn. It has been confirmed that an individual's potential intelligence is much more strongly related to his or her genetic endowment than to environmental factors. That is, when environmental factors are removed, intelligence most closely relates to genetic inheritance. Environment, specifically educational experience, however, does play a role in whether or not an individual realizes his or her intellectual potential. Thus, scores on IQ testing are higher in nations with higher levels of education.
To attribute biological complexity or natural physical phenomena to operation of a supernatural 'intelligence' is fallacious equivocation because such usage is outside the acceptable definition of intelligence.
IQ testing is intended to provide a standardized measure of an individual's capacity for analysis and comprehension in comparison to calibrated population-norms. IQ tests are designed as predictors of academic and vocational performance, and they have proven to correlate with scholastic and career success. Tests are designed in such a way that most subjects will score close to the average in a normal (Gaussian) distribution on most scales – an IQ of 100.
While most IQ tests are designed to test capacity for analysis and comprehension, a high score does not guarantee that the individual will function at a commensurate level and practice critical thinking, nor that he or she will achieve logical thinking in all aspects of daily life. Conversely, an average score does not indicate that the individual will not exercise good judgment. Accordingly, some psychologists prefer to consider the individual's level of emotional intelligence or to classify capacity for intelligence into different sub-areas (multiple intelligences).
It has been my personal observation that those with a combination of high IQ and high educational level tend not to hold dogmatic religious beliefs. In my personal experience, those whom I know to hold dogmatic religious beliefs invariably have a very low level of science education, usually a low level of education, and generally display average intelligence. However, I have also met atheists and agnostics with average intelligence and low levels of education.
Obviously, personal experience is always somewhat biased simply because one usually chooses to mix with people both with similar opinions and with similar educational status. I am also thrown into contact with people with whom I might not otherwise mix, allowing a sampling of more diverse opinions and attitudes. However, regardless of the breadth of our contacts, we must be cautious in extrapolating from personal experience. Far better to base any assumptions about possible connections between religiosity and intelligence upon impersonal measures:
"According to a study by Paul Bell, published in the Mensa Magazine in 2002, there is an inverse correlation* between religiosity and intelligence. Analyzing 43 studies carried out since 1927, Bell found that all but four reported such a connection, and he concluded that "the higher one's intelligence or education level, the less one is likely to be religious or hold 'beliefs' of any kind." A survey published in Nature in 1998 confirms that belief in a personal God or afterlife is at an all time low among the members of the National Academy of Science, only 7.0% of which believed in a personal God as compared to more than 85% of the US general population."[w]
Presumably the spectrum of intelligence within the US is much the same as that in England, northern Europe, or the Antipodes, so intelligence alone cannot account for religiosity versus secular beliefs. The US's peculiar immigration history, generally poor educational levels, and peculiar religious history of evangelicism and indoctrination set against a background of anti-intellectualism probably combine to explain the high levels of religious dogmatism in the US.
Similarly, the range of intellectual capacities in other nations afflicted with religious fundamentalism is probably similar to that of the secular Western nations – there is, however, a marked difference in educational levels.
1. Bell, Paul. "Would you believe it?" Mensa Magazine, Feb. 2002, pp. 12–13
2. Larson, Edward J.; Larry Witham (1998). "Leading scientists still reject God". Nature 394 (6691): 313. Available at StephenJayGould.org, Stephen Jay Gould archive. Retrieved on 2006-12-17
3. IQ - Genetics or Environment
4. Explaining the Relation Between Birth Order and Intelligence (NYT subscription required)
* correlation does not necessarily indicate causation.