There have been several researches on the link between religion and intelligence. They found atheists tend to be more intelligent than people who are religious.
According to a US study carried out in 2013 the unfaithful are more intelligent than the faithful.
The researchers there found those with higher IQ were more likely to dismiss religious beliefs as irrational, unscientific and untestable.
Scientists from the University of Rechester analysed 63 surveys comparing intelligence levels and religious beliefs between 1928 and 2012. They found 53 of the reports had seen a negative relationship between intelligence levels and religiosity.
And they claimed the trend was consistent across all ages, with clever children more likely to shun religion.
Co-author Jordan Silberman added: Intelligence may lead to greater self-control, self-esteem, control over life events and supportive relationships – averting some of the benefits that religion sometimes provides.
Another study the paper of which was published on 17 May 2017 suggested a negative correlation between intelligence and religion. It makes sense if religion is considered an instinct, and intelligence the ability to rise above one’s instincts, say researchers Edward Dutton and Dimitri van der Linden in their paper.
Writing for Springer’s journal of Evolutionary Psychological Science, the authors – who are based at the Ulster Institute for Social Research and Rotterdam University respectively – explained their model is based on the ideas of evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa.
Mr Kanazawa’s ‘Savanna-IQ Principles’ suggest human behaviour will always be guided by the environment in which their ancestors developed.
Mr Dutton and Mr van der Linden argue in keeping with this that religion should be considered an ‘evolved domain’ — or instinct.
Rising above instincts is advantageous, they said in a statement, because it helps people to solve problems.
“If religion is an evolved domain then it is an instinct, and intelligence — in rationally solving problems — can be understood as involving overcoming instinct and being intellectually curious and thus open to non-instinctive possibilities,” explained Mr Dutton.
According to the 2013 review, the more intelligent a child is — even during early years — the more likely it is to turn away from religion.
In old age, above-average-intelligence people are less likely to believe in a god.
Mr Dutton and Mr van der Linden also investigated the link between instinct and stress, and the instinctiveness with which people tend to operate during stressful periods.
They argue that being intelligent helps people during stressful times to weigh up their options and act rationally rather than give in to knee-jerk responses.
“If religion is indeed an evolved domain — an instinct — then it will become heightened at times of stress, when people are inclined to act instinctively, and there is clear evidence for this,” said Mr Dutton.
“It also means that intelligence allows us to able to pause and reason through the situation and the possible consequences of our actions.”
The researchers believe that people who are attracted to the non-instinctive are potentially better problem solvers.
“This is important, because in a changing ecology, the ability to solve problems will become associated with rising above our instincts, rendering us attracted to evolutionary mismatches,” said Mr van der Linden.
There’s a new paper out by Satoshi Kanazawa which is causing a bit of a stir. You might have seen something about it already – I’m a little behind the curve on this one, but on the plus side I have actually read the paper, unlike many other pundits!
What’s got people talking is the correlation between atheism and intelligence, although that isn’t what the paper is actually about. It’s already pretty well established that atheists tend, on average, to be more intelligent. This paper firms that finding up a bit more, but makes a bigger claim than that.
But before delving into the paper, I want to just cover a few commonly raised objections that tend to fly about whenever the intelligence-atheism link is raised.
Firstly, although there are many different aspects to intelligence (and intelligence tests), there really is such a thing as ‘general intelligence’. People who score highly on one test will tend to score highly on others. That’s statistically provable, and the only explanation is that there is some aspect of brain function that enables you to be generally good at tests of intelligence. Of course, there’s a lot more to being a smart individual than general intelligence, but general intelligence is a real, measurable thing.
What is true is that the IQ test does not measure general intelligence (no test does, by definition). However, it does provide a good approximation. And in fact, Kanazawa’s study does not use IQ tests, but other tests that are also related to general intelligence.
Perhaps more importantly, general intelligence has a genetic component and a substantial environmental one. And so any time anyone tries to use intelligence scores to make racial claims, you can probably disregard them.
So, with that in mind, what did Kanazawa find?
There were actually two studies, both using US data. The first looked at intelligence scores from a group of adolescents (junior high and high school), and compared it with their religious beliefs 8 years later.
The figure shows that atheists are smarter by a good few points on average. And the link remained even after Kanazawa corrected for age, sex, race, education, earnings, and even religion. It’s not a trivial difference. In fact the effect is pretty strong – stronger than the effect of education, for example.
The second was from the general social survey – a survey of adults. Once again religion (belief in god and religious intensity) was strongly related to intelligence, even after correcting for a host of factors that you might think could explain the link.
So what? Well, Kanazawa believes that the explanation for the link lies in the Savannah hypothesis. This is the idea that general intelligence evolved as a way to deal with evolutionarily novel situations. It lets us transcend our evolved behaviour and do things that contravene our instincts.
Is there a correlation between intelligence and religion?
Yes, on average the higher the religiosity the lower the IQ, on average. For countries where belief in God is over 80%, the average national IQ is 83.0 points. For those countries where stated disbelief in God is greater than 20%, the national average IQ is 98.0 points.