There is actually a website which tries to argue that non-religious people are smarter than religious people, and that this should be a valid criterion for determining the truth! This is such an amusing argument, because to argue it is to demonstrate the opposite of the case. It's really just an appeal to authority, and is aimed at bolstering the fragile ego of certain atheist types, and to dismiss thinking so that one need not engage in such a messy pursuit. Nevertheless it is instructive to examine the data. The Site is found here: ,
The site has changed a lot since I first researched this topic back in 98. Back then it had a clear challenge that atheists were smarter. It gloated and flaunted the obvious nature of its case. Now it purports to merely answer the myth that religious people are smarter. I think this is in response to the data I uncovered which you are about to see.
Myth: Intelligent people tend to be more religious.
Fact: Intelligent people tend to be more secular.
this is indicative of the mistake this guy makes all the way through. He continually assumes that liberal religious views are not religious, that secular counts as atheist and that simple correlations are proof. He also assumes that the opinions of smart people would automatically equate to "more logical" or "more true." Smart people can hold stupid opinions. I can think of several people from my childhood who were very bright and accomplished and were as racist as they come. I lived in the south and one could find accomplished people with racist presuppositions all over the place.
Nevertheless the facts are simply other than the site wants to maintain and he actually distorts and in one case lies about the study findings in order to create the myth he wants to pass off as "scientifically empirical." This trend is indicative of a spate of websites in which atheist try their hands at bogus social sciences, and in so doing merely present a very amateurish and dishonest mining of data which over which they try to cast the aura of the empirical.
In the coming months I'll be exposing these on my new blog,Atheist Watch: keeping tabs on hate group atheism.
Now let us turn to the site in question:
The site presents several studies which supposedly show that the more intelligent students tend to be nonbelievers, and so forth. Unfortunately, most of the studies are so briefly summarized that we cannot really get a clear picture of exactly what they do find. Oddly enough, at least half of them seem to come to a conclusion the opposite of that argued by the site. Let's examine the summaries and group them into three categories, those that contradict the thesis, inconclusive, and favorable to the thesis:
The site also presents 17 studies giving the impression that all 17 support the thesis that more successful and higher scoring students tend to be non-believing students, while religious students score lower. Then they actually argue that this is a reliable guide to which world view is correct! (Appeal to success, similar to appeal to authority!)
But if we divide them into categories according to what they actually say, we see a much different picture. The first number is the counting number, to show how many are in each section, the number in parenthesis is the actual number given in the list on the website.
Studies Too Veg to draw conclusion:
1. (#7) Donald Gragg, 1942
Reported an inverse correlation between 100 ACE freshman test scores and Thurstone "reality of god" scores.
2. (#9) Michael Argyle, 1958
Concluded that "although intelligent children grasp religious concepts earlier, they are also the first to doubt the truth of religion, and intelligent students are much less likely to accept orthodox beliefs."
3. (#14) Robert Wuthnow, 1978
Of 532 students, 37 percent of Christians, 58 percent of apostates, and 53 percent of non-religious scored above average on SATs.[but wait, there's no comparison of the scores, so even though only 38% of Christians as oppossed to 58% of apostates scored above average, what if the Christians scored way above average and th apostates only slightly?]
The thing about Wuthnow is that he is one of the major researchers of religious experience. His studies of RE show that religious experiences tend to be better educated and more self actualized.
Wuthnow: religious experience study
*Say their lives are more meaningful,
*think about meaning and purpose
*Know what purpose of life is
*Score higher on self-rated personal talents and capabilities
*Less likely to value material possessions, high pay, job security, fame, and having lots of friends
*Greater value on work for social change, solving social problems, helping needy
*Reflective, inner-directed, self-aware, self-confident life style
It's hard to believe that his study on IQ would find that religious students score lower. The contradiction would have to require some kind of explanation so this is something the wary researchers should dig up.
4. (#16) Norman Poythress, 1975
Mean SATs for strongly anti religious (1148), moderately anti-religious (1119), slightly anti religious (1108), and religious (1022). [From what sample group? All of them? Doesn't say!]
The few studies that actually seem to support the conclusion
1. (#1.) Thomas Howells, 1927
Study of 461 students showed religiously conservative students "are, in general, relatively inferior in intellectual ability."
Doesn't show how conclusion was arrived at 2 (#2.) Hilding Carlsojn, 1933
Study of 215 students showed that "there is a tendency for the more intelligent undergraduate to be sympathetic towards atheism."
Doesn't really say "sympathetic" means self-identified as atheists, nor does it show how he arrived at his conclusion.
3 (3.) Abraham Franzblau, 1934
Confirming Howells and Carlson, tested 354 Jewish children, aged 10-16. Found a negative correlation between religiosity and IQ as measured by the Terman intelligence test.
4 (11.) Young, Dustin and Holtzman, 1966
Average religiosity decreased as GPA rose.8. Brown and Love, 1951 At the University of Denver, tested 613 male and female students. The mean test scores of non-believers was 119 points, and for believers it was 100. The non-believers ranked in the 80th percentile, and believers in the 50th. Their findings "strongly corroborate those of Howells."
5 (13.) C. Plant and E. Minium, 1967
The more intelligent students were less religious, both before entering college and after 2 years of college.[Doesn't say how they determined this]The interesting thing about this is, there are actually more studies that have counter findings than there are supporting the thesis, which give enough information to be clear about how they obtained it (with four that are too vague about this to consider).
6. (#4) Thomas Symington, 1935
Tested 400 young people in colleges and church groups. He reported, "There is a constant positive relation in all the groups between liberal religious thinking and mental ability There is also a constant positive relation between liberal scores and intelligenceŠ"Note: This guy with the website habitually assumes that liberal religious views are not religious views and counts liberal religious thinkers as unbelievers, which is absurd and dishonest; he does it with this study and on page 2, you will see he does it a lot.
My in my view this really counts as a lie, he puts this study in the wrong category it really contradicts his thesis. this is not the only time he does this.
Studies presented that actually count as evidence counter to the claim.
In other words counter to the claim that unbelieving students score higher.
1. (#5) Vernon Jones, 1938
Tested 381 students, concluding "a slight tendency for intelligence and liberal attitudes to go together." [This doesn't say anything about religious belief or lack thereof. He's equating "liberal" with non-religious.]
2. (#6) A. R. Gilliland, 1940
At variance with all other studies, found "little or no relationship between intelligence and attitude toward god."[Obviously its not really at variance with "all" others since I just listed several others that don’t make those findings, and little or no relationship counts as negative evidence.]
3.(#10) Jeffrey Hadden, 1963
Found no correlation between intelligence and grades. This was an anomalous finding, since GPA corresponds closely with intelligence. Other factors may have influenced the results at the University of Wisconsin. [counts against his assumption that grades = intelligence so he can't measure intelligence through the studies that make that assumption. Also, what does he site in the face of this one to prove that graces indicate intelligence? And what about motivations?] (I suggest a sentence such as [This study discounts his assumption…)
4.(#12) James Trent, 1967
Polled 1400 college seniors. Found little difference, but high-ability students in his sample group were over-represented.[so they polled them? What did they use as a measure of intelligence? Doesn't say. But it does say they found no relation, or little, and virtually admit the sample is worthless so this counts as negative or at best as inconclusive.]
5. (#15) Hastings and Hoge, 1967, 1974
Polled 200 college students and found no significant correlations.[negative correlation is clearly negative evidence, there is no relation] Notice: the Francis study lists Hoge under the category of those that show no correlation between intelligence and religion, but that website lists it as positive to their thesis.
6. (#17) Wiebe and Fleck, 1980
Studied 158 male and female Canadian university students. They reported "nonreligious S's tended to be strongly intelligent" and "more intelligent than religious S's."[dosen't hint at how this was determined]
Studies not on the web site (listed by Francis) which found either no collation or positive collation
1) Feather (1964)Critical reasoning test and religious attitudes scale to 165 male psychology students. "He found no significant relationship between these measures."
2) Feather (1967) replicated in among 40 students.
3) Young et al., (1066) 32 item scale by Holtzman and young (66) five percent random sample of native born full time students at University of Texas, "where they found no significant relationship between mean attitude scores and cumulative grade points."
4) Dodrill (1976) 20 Christians, 24 non Christians, "This study found no significant differences between the two groups using the Westchester Adult Intelligence scale."
5) Francis (1979)using frequency of prayer and church attendance) 2272 school children between 9-11,"found no relationship between school assigned IQ's and religious behavior after controlling for paternal social class."
6) Fracis'('86 replication) findings replicated in second study among 6955 students.
7) Francis ('98) the study these studies are sited in, using sample of 711 students, the Francis Religious attitude Scale and standard IQ tests Francis again found no correlation.
1) Pratt (1937) among 3040 students at regional state college, taking denominational affiliation as sign of religiosity, "found that non-affiliates recorded lower mean scores on the American council Examination than any students affiliated to any denominational group."
2) Rummell (1934) also using denominational affiliation 1194 students at University of Missouri. "He found that non-affiliates recorded lower mean scores on his scholastic index compared with Methodists and Episcopalians."
3) Corey (1940) 234 Freshmen University of Wisconsin positive correlation between scores on the Ohio State Psychological Examination and the Thurstone scale of attitude toward God. "'The more intelligent were more favorably inclined toward God.'"
4) Kosa and Schomer (1961) 362 students at a Catholic undergraduate college: taking participation in campus religious activities as scale of religious attitude "intensive participants recorded significantly higher scores than non-participates on OSU aptitude Test and OSR reading comprehension test.
6 studies find negative correlation.
17 find positive or no correlation.
[Leslie J. Francis, University of Wales Lampiter, "The Relationship Between Intelligence and Religiosity Among 15-16 year olds," Mental Health, Religion & Culture, Volume 1, Number 2, 1998]
Counting all the studies together, both those presented as negative and those presented by Francis which are either neutral or positive, 17 to 6 in favor of the thesis being unproven. But more importantly, Hoge was listed wrongly, so what else can we not trust about those studies? Moreover, the sample size for the positive or neutral correlations are much larger in many instances. None of the negative sample sizes come close.
negatives: 1448, 532, 354, 315, 613, 400 (not all listed)
Largest positive or neutral:381, 1400, 200, 158, 165, 44, 2272, 711, 3040, 1194, 362.
The Positive or neutral studies would tend to be the better studies since they have more with larger samples sizes, and Francis controls for the Freudian bias which taints all the negative studies. Poythres (1975) sets the differences within the context of psychoanalytic theory.(Francis 188). We also notice that the negative studies tend to be older, ranging mainly form the 1930s to 1968, while all of the positive or neutral studies tend to be set in the 1960s to the 80s and one as recent as 98. This is explained by Hoge in terms of increasing socioeconomic status and greater exposure of religious people to new ideas at a younger age.
"The long discussed shock of freshmen encountering Atheistic professors at college and the transition problems from childhood beliefs to intellectually defensible beliefs have been reduced in recent years. Today the shock comes earlier and with less force than in decades past."(in Francis 188). (This capitalization is a matter of mild controversy. If Atheism is a religion, then it is capitalized as Buddhist, Moslems and Christianity are.)
We really have to ask ourselves, in studying students, especially freshmen in college, they are getting kids when they are the most rebellious? For those in early college they are going off to school for the first time, away from home, no longer under the strictures of Mom and Dad, they tend to rebel against Mom and Dad. It's a time of experimentation. Naturally we should expect to find that bright kids are experimenters, that they are willing to try new ideas.
Secondly, how long did these kids remain unbelieving? How many are no in middle or even old age having had a life time of religious commitment gained in graduate school or beyond? Not a single one of these studies gave any indication of being longitudinal! That is extremely important, because it makes sense that students in late high school and early college will be rebellious and more inclined to question their upbringing. How many of them were actually still atheists 20 or 30 years latter? We don't know and not a single one of the studies even tried to find out. For all we know the vast majority of them might have become believers in 10 years out of college! In fact we have good reason to suspect that this is the case; after they got married and started raising families, they probably began to believe again, and this seems to be the pattern. That conclusion would also be supported by the quotation form Hoge above, the shock of leaving home, encountering atheist professors, dealing for the first time with serious challenge of new ideas could for time lead the unwary into doubt, but latter they recover.
The site also makes arguments not from IQ but from student body grades and professionals. Here is a page covering that.
Student Bodies and profeessions
We can also argueStandardized Testing is not indicative of intelligence.