Worse than reported?

I have posted very little on this blog recently because I, along with a great many people, spend time on the atheist-religionist battleground on YouTube.

Numerous studies demonstrate an inverse or negative correlation between religiosity and:
educational level
education in science
liberal moral attitudes
acceptance of the fact of biological evolution

My observation of discussions between atheists and religionists on YT suggests that the inverse correlation between intelligence and religiosity is considerably more pronounced than is reported*. That is, based on level of performance in discussions, creationists and religionists are collectively much less educated and logical than atheists. This observation could, of course, be skewed by the possibility that those who make religious videos, or who visit atheist and science videos in order to fight for religion and creationism, might not be a representative sample. Intelligent theists could be watching entirely different types of videos, or not bothering to engage in discussion.
* "Of 43 studies carried out since 1927 on the relationship between religious belief and one's intelligence and/or educational level, all but four found an inverse connection. That is, the higher one's intelligence or education level, the less one is likely to be religious or hold "beliefs" of any kind." ~ Bell, Paul. "Would you believe it?" Mensa Magazine, Feb. 2002, pp. 12–13
My recollection could be faulty, but a summary of these studies was once available on the internet. As I recall, most of those studies in Bell's meta-analysis were based on results for American college students. This would confine the results to that section of the population that is already intelligent enough to attend college^. This could blur the distinctions between the two populations, perhaps moreso because such a small percentage of the American population is atheistic. The pertinent question would be what proportion of theists versus atheists actually complete high school and attend college.

Obviously, the results could be skewed in an opposite direction to that reported by Bell — the differences might be less than reported. However, this possibility is confounded by the fact that scientists, particularly eminent scientists, are much more likely to be atheistic than religious.

"In 1998, most members of the National Academy of Sciences rejected the notion of God, with the highest rate of disbelief noted amongst biological scientists." Table. ~ Larson, Edward J.; Larry Witham (1998). "Leading scientists still reject God". Nature 394 (6691): 313. Available at StephenJayGould.org, Stephen Jay Gould archive.
None of this should be taken as denial of the undoubted fact that many theists are intelligent, or that some atheists are unintelligent and/or poorly educated. Instead, the populations overlap in both level of education and native abilities.

Fundamentalist Christian families in the US take pains to ensure that their children are indoctrinated into literalist beliefs. Mainstream Christian families encourage indoctrination into more moderate beliefs. Both sets of "converts" necessarily include intelligent children.

However, intelligent, rational indoctrinees seem to be the more likely to deconvert. My impression is that fundamentalism loses more indoctrinees than mainstream religion, but this might be a false impression that results from the resentment towards religion that many fundamentalist escapees feel. Deconversion can be very painful and protracted for fundamentalists, and can result in alienation from family and friends. Resentment and a desire to help others through deconversion is understandable.

^ For comparision: sometime in the 80s, it was reported that the average IQ of college graduates was 110, whereas the average IQ of graduates of Harvard Medical School was 135.

No comments: