Latest Round of Atheist IQ Scam Based upon Racism and False Assumptions

Einstein believed in God.

On Atheistwatch I've written about the new attempts of atheists to prove that they have higher IQ's than religious people: Atheism's Psychology Today Scam, and The Atheist IQ Scam (part 1) (see part 2). Today I found an article by Andrew Brown in the American Guardian (Andrew Brown's Blog) where he demonstates the racist background of the atheist assumptions. He also discusses the idea that IQ tests are not measuring intelligence but cultural norms.

First, I originally wrote about Atheist IQ claims (that atheists are Smarter because they have higher IQ's) on Doxa. This was roughly somewhere in the early oughts (2001-2004). At that time the atheist website making the claims put up a bunch of old studies that pre-dated the 60s. They had small samples and their basic assumptions where veg. they used the term "liberal" interchangeably with atheism and most of them never made clear that they had any atheists in the study. My criticism was "liberal" might as well mean theologically liberal. They didn't have data that showed that people who identified themselves "I don't believe in God or gods" score higher on IQ tests than "I believe in God but in a liberal theology sense." I think for this purpose we can assume that "liberal theology " is broad and can include "new Evangelicals." I had some basis to suspect that the studies used were of liberal theological believers. Studies done after the 60s, which the atheist site didn't include, showed uniformly no correlation between intelligence and religious belief or that religious believers were smarter. These studies all used bigger samples and data bases. There had not been a study done showing atheist were smarter since the early 60s and there were three in the 1990s (by Leslie Francis) showing no correlation.

The Brown article demonstrates the truth of my basic criticism. The atheists are doing a bait-and-switch to identify "liberal" with atheist when, in fact, the term includes theological liberals. Brown, "Brown's Blog" on Guardian,

OK, it's a naughty headline, but no less true than the one put on this survey at the aggressively atheist Sandwalk blog, which said "Atheists are smarter than agnostics". Both readings are justified. A large-scale analysis of the religious allegiance and measured IQ of a representative sample of 3,742 American adolescents found a clear trend: the more fundamentalist denominations had the more stupid believers, so that the bottom four places were occupied, from the bottom, by Pentecostalists, Baptists, Holiness churches and "Personal Philosophy", which I presume means a new-age-ish syncretism, while the top four places, again in ascending order, were taken by agnostics, atheists, Jews, and Episcopalians (Anglicans). So, atheists are smarter than agnostics, Jews are smarter than atheists, and Anglicans the smartest of the lot

The atheists came back on it in the late oughts with a whole new batch of studies. They have three major researchers: Helmuth Nyborg, Richard Lynn and Satoshi Kanazawa (from Psychology Today). Now I find the Andrew Brown article blows the lid off of that research. I already hinted at big problems with those guys in my previous articles. Nyborg has been criticized as a racist. Brown took a look at his work:

The research was done by a retired Danish professor of psychology, Helmuth Nyborg, and he really does believe that he has found the explanation for the persistence of religious belief in the modern world: believers are measurably more stupid than atheists. His tone of elevated scorn will be familiar:

The study begins with two sets of a priori assumptions. First, [intelligent] people have a brain based biological capacity for solving complex problems, and for acting rationally when confronted with fundamental questions about existence, human nature, underlying causes, or the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune". Second, [unintelligent] people lack this protection and are therefore unfairly ordained to live in a pre-rational world based on poorly validated evidence and little accumulated insight. They accordingly often find themselves in cognitively, emotionally, or morally challenging situations and have to use plan B, that is, to call upon easily comprehensible religious authoritative guidance and to submit more or less uncritically to culturally given stereotyped rituals. Frustration with their life may also make them seek redemption or faith in an after life.

High-IQ people are able to curb magical, supernatural thinking and tend to deal with the uncertainties of life on a rational-critical-empirical basis, and to become prosperous servants of society, whereas low-IQ people easily become trapped in religious magical thinking, in addition to achieving, earning and serving less well.

They are doing another bait-and-switch here. By "SN" they mean magical thinking but it creates the impression that liberal theology, philosophy and anything not "science" is automatically stupid. It's not hard to prove that non religious people are smarter when you define religion as "stupid" a priori. Of course they don't distinguish between an ancient world religious view and a modern one. But it gets worse.


So I did a little digging around. I downloaded the paper, which costs, alas, $37.50 with VAT, and read it carefully through. It turns out that Nyborg is an enthusiast for scientific racism. It's not just believers who are more stupid, in his world: it's black people and women, too. In a collaboration with Richard Lynn of the University of Ulster, he measured religiosity against IQ in 137 countries, and concluded that low IQ countries always had higher rates of religion. It's not religion that makes you stupid, he told a Christian paper at the time: but if you live in a very religious country, you are very likely to be stupid. And of course the correlation of religion and poverty is in global terms very clear, while the most religious continent of all is Africa.

In the paper under review, he writes,

The ultimate causal level presumes that geographically separated peoples were subjected to different evolutionary pressures over extended time-periods. Those living under the hardest of evolutionary pressures, in cold or arctic areas, were gradually and over many generations selected for enhanced g (for details of the Climate Theory, see Lynn, 2006; Rushton, 2000). They had to replace ancient pre-rational supernatural beliefs with more effective rational approaches in order to survive under the harsh conditions given. People living in warm or tropical areas enjoyed in general more relaxed selective conditions, and low g individuals were not severely punished, as their survival was not seriously compromised by uncritical reference to ancient supernatural thinking, irrational beliefs in souls, invisible worlds, Gods, forces, angels, devils, hell, or holy spirits. A contemporary belief that supernatural forces control behavior, feelings and thinking is accordingly seen as a reminiscence of pre-historic animism and magical thinking.


(In case anyone is tempted to take this seriously, it's worth pointing out that one of the most demographically successful populations in human history were the New England puritans, many of them descendants of Vikings, who managed to combine life in a very cold climate with fervent religiosity.)

But Nyborg is entirely serious. He argues – in the spirit of Murray and Herrnstein's Bell Curve – that intelligence is IQ; IQ is biological, and biology is destiny:

High g individuals will gravitate towards atheism or science, will discard supernatural phenomena, and will learn fast and prosper. Average g individuals will find one of several moderate liberal denominations more to their taste, will display average learning, and will accordingly assume an intermediate socio-economic standing. Low g individuals will to submit to one of the many dogmatic denominations, will be slow learners, and will attain a low socio-economic status that accord with their limited cognitive
complexity and closed mind. Variations in disbelief, denominational complexity, educability and income are accordingly expected to follow from essentially heritable g differences, and to manifest themselves as today's mainly biologically brain based religious class differences.

By now I imagine that you are recoiling from these ideas. The belief that religion can simply be explained by stupidity suddenly looks a lot less attractive when it is presented scientifically by an intelligent man who also believes that poverty, too, can be explained by stupidity, and stupidity in its turn by race.

Of course only science people are intelligent. Since philosophy, literature, art don't count as real knowledge, people who are do them are not smart. Only number crunchers matter.

This is all very self-referential because IQ is only measuring IQ not intelligence. Brown talks about the Flynn ects which shows that IQ's are getting higher. Our children will be smarter than us, we are smarter than our parents and grandparents. The problem is they are only getting higher not because people are really smarter but because the concentrated urban environment re-writes cultural literacy. It's the same problem as the bell curve. In the olden days people lived in the country and hunted. So a question "what do a god and rabbit have in common?" the old answer was "one uses a dog to hunt a rabbit." Yet, this is now a wrong answer. Now we don't hunt and we are all into science, so the right answer is they are both mammals. Thus people in the ancient past are automatically stupid compared to us. Flynn finds that by modern standards the average student around 1900 had an IQ between 50-70. So how did they even function? A person today with an IQ of 50 would be profoundly retarded, live in an instituion and not be able to tie his shoes. Yet doctors, lawyers, and bankers ran the world with IQs that would today be 60-70.

Brown reflects:

The answer, he says, is that one of the things that IQ tests measure is "post-scientific operational thinking". This is not the same as scientific thinking. But it is thinking about the world in terms of the categories by which science understands it. For instance, if you ask, "What do dogs and rabbits have in common", the post-scientific answer, that we would now regard as evidence of intelligence, is that they are both mammals. The pre-scientific answer is that you use a dog to hunt a rabbit. That's what matters about the two animals, not what class they belong to.

It is that kind of difference in reasoning which accounts for the huge measured IQ differences between urban and rural Brazil, and, of course, the fantastically low IQs measured in African countries.

But could something similar be true of religion? In particular, could dogmatic and fundamentalist religion be more useful to the poor and wretched? Could it lift them to the stage where they could experiment with doubt, with nuance, with novelistic thinking? The history of the early Methodists suggests exactly this. Remember John Wesley's reflection on his own success:

The Methodists in every place grow diligent and frugal; consequently they increase in goods. Hence they proportionately increase in pride, in anger, in the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, and the pride of life. So, although the form of religion remains, the spirit is swiftly vanishing away.


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