Religion, conservatism, and low IQs

So, for a paper I just turned in about two weeks ago I wrote about the debate over whether or not atheists are qualified to hold public office (50% of Americans say no). I’ll be posting some stuff relevant to that in the next few days (as soon as I get some comments back on it), but until then I wanted to throw out some stuff I discovered in the process of doing research for that paper.

First, I discovered an article in Social Psychology Quarterly from 2010 entitled “Why Liberals and Atheists are More Intelligent.” It was a fascinating read. It was the product of two studies, which found (among other things) that adolescent intelligence is one of the biggest predictors of atheism, liberalism, and monogamy in men. Atheists and liberals tend to score higher on verbal intelligence tests than people who are religious or more conservative. To be honest, it doesn’t really shock me that much, since I’m a liberal atheist and as such I’m biased in that direction. Anyway, it was kind of nice to find out that there was some empirical evidence that my bias is founded. According to the author of the article, intelligent people are more likely to be atheists or liberals because they are more likely to think in evolutionarily novel ways.

I told one of my liberal atheist friends about the study and sent it to him, and a few days later he sent me this blurb on Live Science about a study which found that conservatives are more prejudiced and have lower IQs than non-conservatives. So, apparently conservatives really are just ignorant bigots. Again, didn’t shock me, but it’s nice to have some evidence.

Finally, just now Tony (the guy who sent me the above blurb) told me about this new study which found that religious people are less motivated by compassion than non-religious people. That seems to go well with a 2009 paper by one Gregory Paul in Evolutionary Psychology (which I have on my computer but currently can’t find online) which found that religiosity is strongly correlated with social dysfunction. Once again, I’ve always thought atheists and agnostics are more compassionate that religious folks, who are big on the fire and brimstone thing, but it’s nice to have some evidence.

Also, atheists know more about religion than religious people. Shocker! (Not.)

Obviously not all conservatives or religious folks are ignorant assholes; some are fairly intelligent. However, there seems to be a growing body of evidence that intelligence is not conducive to religion or conservative values. My theory as to why religious folks are less compassionate is that their god judges, so they think it’s okay for them to judge. As for the intelligence bit, progressives and liberals and atheists all tend to arrive at their conclusions through careful, well-reasoned critical thinking, which is usually easier to do when you’ve got a lot of brain-power. As for knowing more about religion, it makes sense to me because we get a lot of people trying to convert us, so we like to know what we’re up against. The easiest way to do that is to read the holy books and such. Maybe religious folks should give it a try.

The only thing that remains to be seen is if atheists and liberals get big heads with all this evidence that we’re smarter. Of course, we’re more compassionate, so at the very least we won’t hold it against you that you’re inferior.

(I was being sardonic there. Apparently it doesn’t come thru on the interwebs.)

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4 thoughts on “Religion, conservatism, and low IQs

  1. Let me say that the survey results make me sad, but I am not surprised that Americans don’t know things.

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  4. It seems to me that high IQ probably means your willing to explore and perhaps break out from social dogma. However, many agnostics and spiritual but not religious people can fit in the same group as well. To be conservative on some issues is actually highly intelligent, to be liberal on some issues is as well. The reason I don’t consider myself conservative or liberal is because people that tend to categorize themselves as such, don’t really look at the big picture. For example, if you look at liberal thinking, global warming is good science, but the space program is a waste of money. From the conservative point of view it appears that most support some kind of space program but completely deny global warming. Perhaps greed on both sides taint such thought but the reasonable thing is that it is prudent to accept that global warming is happening whether it is man-kind induced or natural. Protecting the world you live in is not a trivial thing, It’s an important thing.The space program not only helps provide technology,but it gives us a better understanding of Earth and our understanding of nature. Surely the world cannot support the current population without science. Of course, if we keep adding to the population even science will struggle to keep up with it. The population is the worlds biggest challenge. Support of science is critical for our survival. Regardless of how intelligent you are or your political thinking, it is prudent to examine all aspects of the world you live in. True intelligence espouses that, When you become open minded but skeptical you become neither but a become free thinker. Pseudo-intelligence is the domain of the skeptical without an open mind. These people are the debunkers of the world, They try to prove something is wrong without the thought that it could be right. Good science (or in general thinking) is to take a neutral approach. People tend to find the answers they are looking for when they take sides before study.Then we have believers with a closed mind, I would guess this would be the domain of orthodox religion. Both are dangerous because both really don’t allow progress and the ability to change.

    As for religion per se, it has been and will be important, it gives people hope. Something that can’t be underestimated. While I certainly do not consider myself to be religious, I don’t fault people for being so. Despite all the problems it causes, I’m not entirely sure that lack of it solves any problems in the big picture. New ones would take their place. I think tolerance is the best answer, live and let live it night be your only shot at it. Just an opinion.

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