Saturday, January 19, 2013

No, No, No - The IQ-Theism Link Says Nothing About Whether Believing in God is Dumb

Of the multiple reasons that may drive an individual to choose theism, agnosticism, or atheism, the primary reason seems to fall under one of three broad classes:

(a) Emotional (e.g., the comfort derived from believing in eternal life might lead one to accept belief in God)

(b) Social (e.g., one might find theism more compelling if it is embraced by family members or peers)

(c) Logical (i.e., through reading, contemplation and/or discussion, one reasons his/her way to theism, agnosticism, or atheism)

These classes of reasons correspond to emotional, socialized, or thinking individuals, respectively.  Now, it seems safe to make the following assumptions:

(1) A typical thinking individual is more intelligent at least than the average member of his/her respective group (whether it is theistic, agnostic, or atheistic).

(2) Higher intelligence does not necessarily guarantee the acquisition of truth (to illustrate, I once successfully convinced an otherwise intelligent relative of mine that Iraq had chosen a monkey as its head of state).  To put it another way, equally intelligent people often disagree.

(3) Atheists are more homogeneous with respect to the primary reason why members belong to this group.

The third assumption appears valid because people are unlikely to be motivated to become atheists for emotional reasons, and even more unlikely to do so for social reasons.  Beginning with the former, although atheism might satisfy one’s desire for moral autonomy, such “benefits” are temporary and thus incomparable to the eternal benefits of believing in God.  As for the latter, most people continue to believe in God.  Therefore, people choose atheism in spite of the social forces pulling them in the opposite direction.  Hence, it seems clear that thinking members are disproportionately represented among atheists.  Of course, this does not imply that atheism, itself, is true (recall the second assumption above).
Among theists, in contrast, one is likely to find larger shares of emotional and socialized members, in addition to its portion of thinkers.  On account of this, and insofar as the first assumption is correct, the average IQ of the theistic group should be lower than that of the more uniform atheist group. 

* For a quantitative study debunking the IQ-theism theory, please click here.