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Religiousness and intelligence

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Religiousness and intelligence

The topic of religiosity and intelligence is the statistical relationship between intelligence and religiosity. Studies have begun to explore the link between religiosity and issues related to intelligence and educational level.

Various studies further suggest that relying more on intuition tends to increase religious beliefs, while analytic, deductive, and more rational thinking decreases religious beliefs.

Although statistical studies show that the poorest countries tend to be more religious, experts suggest that the reason may be that religions play a more active social, moral and cultural role in those countries[1][2][3] Religions in wealthy countries used to have a more specific moral and spiritual role. [4]

Summary of research and definitions of terms

Main articles: Religiosity and Intelligence

Intelligence is a property of the mind that encompasses many related abilities, such as the capacities to reason, to plan, to solve problems, to think abstractly, to comprehend ideas, to use language, and to learn. There are several ways to more specifically define intelligence. In some cases, intelligence may include traits such as creativity, personality, character, knowledge, or wisdom. However, some psychologists prefer not to include these traits in the definition of intelligence.[5][6]

A widely-researched index or classification of intelligence among scientists is Intelligence Quotient (I.Q.). I.Q. is a summary index, calculated by testing individuals' abilities in a variety of tasks and producing a composite score to represent overall ability, e.g., Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale. It is used to predict educational outcomes and other variables of interest.

Others have attempted to measure intelligence indirectly by looking at individuals' or group's educational attainment, although this risks bias from other demographic factors, such as age, income, gender and cultural background, all of which can affect educational attainment.[5]

Dissatisfaction with traditional IQ tests has led to the development of alternative theories. In 1983, Howard Gardner proposed the theory of multiple intelligences, which broadens the conventional definition of intelligence, since the cognitive or mental capacity of an individual logically includes all forms of mental qualities, not simply the ones most transparent to standardized I.Q. tests. The categories of intelligences Gardner proposes are logical, linguistic, spatial, musical, kinesthetic, naturalist, intrapersonal and interpersonal intelligences.[7]

The term Religiosity refers to degrees of religious behaviour, belief, or spirituality. The measurement of religiosity is hampered by the difficulties involved in defining what is meant by the term. Numerous studies have explored the different components of religiosity, with most finding some distinction between religious beliefs/ doctrine, religious practice, and spirituality. Studies can measure religious practice by counting attendance at religious services, religious beliefs/ doctrine by asking a few doctrinal questions, while spirituality can be measured by asking respondents about their sense of oneness with the divine or through detailed standardized measurements. When religiosity is measured, it is important to specify which aspects of religiosity are referred to.

Studies comparing religious belief and I.Q.

In a 2013 meta-analysis, led by Professor Miron Zuckerman, of 63 scientific studies about IQ and religiosity, a reliable negative relation between intelligence and religiosity was found in 53 out of 63 studies.[8][9]

In 2008, intelligence researcher Helmuth Nyborg examined whether IQ relates to denomination and income, using representative data from the National Longitudinal Study of Youth, which includes intelligence tests on a representative selection of white American youth, where they have also replied to questions about religious belief. His results, published in the scientific journal Intelligence, demonstrated that atheists scored an average of 1.95 IQ points higher than agnostics, 3.82 points higher than liberal persuasions, and 5.89 IQ points higher than dogmatic persuasions.[10]

Nyborg also co-authored a study with Richard Lynn, emeritus professor of psychology at the University of Ulster, which compared religious belief and average national IQs in 137 countries.[11] The study analysed the issue from several viewpoints. Firstly, using data from a U.S. study of 6,825 adolescents, the authors found that atheists scored 6 IQ points higher than non atheists.

Secondly, the authors investigated the link between religiosity and intelligence on a country level. Among the sample of 137 countries, only 23 (17%) had more than 20% of atheists, which constituted “virtually all... higher IQ countries.” The authors reported a correlation of 0.60 between atheism rates and level of intelligence, which was determined to be “highly statistically significant”.[11]

Professor Gordon Lynch, director of the Centre for Religion and Contemporary Society from London's Birkbeck College, expressed concern that the study failed to take into account a complex range of social, economic and historical factors, each of which has been shown to interact with religion and IQ in different ways.[12] Gallup surveys, for example, have found that the world's poorest countries are consistently the most religious, perhaps because religion plays a more functional role (helping people cope) in poorer nations.[2][3]

Commenting on some of the above studies in The Daily Telegraph, Lynn said "Why should fewer academics believe in God than the general population? I believe it is simply a matter of the IQ. Academics have higher IQs than the general population. Several Gallup poll studies of the general population have shown that those with higher IQs tend not to believe in God."[12] A study published in Social Psychology Quarterly in March 2010[13] also stated that "atheism ...correlate[s] with higher intelligence".[14]

...belief in God may be intuitive for reasons related to more general features of human cognition that give rise to tendencies toward dualism (Bering, 2006, 2011), anthropomorphism (Epley,Waytz, & Cacioppo, 2007; Waytz et al., 2010), and promiscuous teleology (Kelemen & Rosset, 2009)... What’s more, the belief in God may give rise to a feedback cycle whereby satisfying explanatory appeals to God reinforce the intuitive cognitive style that originally favored the belief in God.

- Amitai Shenhav, David G. Rand, and Joshua D. Greene[15]

Even at the scale of the individual, IQ may not directly cause more disbelief in God. Dr David Hardman of London Metropolitan University says: "It is very difficult to conduct true experiments that would explicate a causal relationship between IQ and religious belief." He adds that other studies do nevertheless correlate IQ with being willing or able to question beliefs.[12]

Researcher Gregory S. Paul's findings suggest that economic development has a closer relationship with religiosity.[16] He argues that once any "nation's population becomes prosperous and secure, for example through economic security and universal health care, much of the population loses interest in seeking the aid and protection of supernatural entities." Other studies have shown that increased wealth is correlated with a decline in religious beliefs.[17][18] Indeed, the majority of the nations that showed a strong relationship between low religiosity and high IQ in the 2008 study were developed nations.[11]

Study examining theistic belief and cognitive style

The idea that analytical thinking makes one less likely to be religious is an idea supported by other early studies on this issue[19] including a report from Harvard University.[15] First of all, the Harvard researchers found evidence suggesting that all religious beliefs become more confident when participants are thinking intuitively (atheist and theists each become more convinced). Thus reflective thinking generally tends to create more qualified, doubted belief.

Furthermore, the Harvard study found that participants who tended to think more reflectively were less likely to believe in God.[15] Reflective thinking was further correlated with greater changes in beliefs since childhood: these changes were towards atheism for the most reflective participants, and towards greater belief in God for the most intuitive thinkers. The study controlled for personality differences and cognitive ability, suggesting the differences were due to thinking styles - not simply IQ or raw cognitive ability.[15] An experiment in the study found that participants moved towards greater belief in God after writing essays about how intuition yielded a right answer or reflection yielded a wrong answer (and conversely, towards atheism if primed to think about either a failure of intuition or success of reflection). The authors say it is all evidence that a relevant factor in religious belief is thinking style.[15] The authors add that, even if intuitive thinking tends to increase belief in God, "it does not follow that reliance on intuition is always irrational or unjustified."[15]

Studies examining religiosity and emotional intelligence

A small 2004 study by Ellen Paek empirically examined the extent to which religiosity, operationalized as religious orientation and religious behaviour, is related to the controversial[20][21][22] idea of Emotional Intelligence (EI). The study examined the extent to which religious orientation and behavior were related to self-reported (EI) in 148 church attending adult Christians.[23] (non-religious individuals were not part of the study). The study found that the individuals' self-reported religious orientation was positively correlated with their perceiving themselves to have greater EI. While the number of religious group activities was positively associated with perceived EI, number of years of church attendance was unrelated. Significant positive correlations were also found between level of religious commitment and perceived EI. Thus, the Christian volunteers were more likely to consider themselves emotionally intelligent if they spent more time in group activities and had more commitment to their beliefs.

Tischler, Biberman and McKeage warn that there is still ambiguity in the above concepts. In their 2002 article, entitled “Linking emotional intelligence, spirituality and workplace performance: Definitions, models and ideas for research”, they reviewed literature on both EI and various aspect of spirituality. They found that both EI and spirituality appear to lead to similar attitudes, behaviors and skills, and that there often seems to be confusion, intersection and linking between the two constructs.[24]

Studies exploring religiosity and educational attainment

Main article: Religiosity and education

The relationship between the level of religiosity and the level of education has been a philosophical, as well as a scientific and political concern, since the second half of the 20th century.

The parameters in this field are slightly different compared to those brought forward above: if the "level of religiosity" remains a concept which is difficult to determinate scientifically, on the contrary, the "level of education" is, indeed, easy to compile, official data on this topic being publicly accessible to anyone in most countries.

Different studies available show contrasting conclusions. An analysis of World Values Survey data showed that in most countries, there is no significant relationship between education and religious attendance, with some differences between "western" countries and former socialist countries, which they attribute to historical/ political/ economic factors (not intelligence). [25] Other studies have noted a positive relationship. [26][27]

See also



Further reading

External links

  • "Is atheism linked to intelligence?" Review of Satoshi Kanazawa, “Why liberals and atheists are more intelligent,” Social Psychology Quarterly 73(1): 33-57.
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