Wednesday, June 25, 2008

scientific proof at last

there's a headline in my newspaper today that says, "Er de troende dumme?" translated, that's "Are believers stupid?" it goes on to report on a scientific study, released in the scientific journal Intelligence, that shows that the higher a population's average IQ, the less likely they are to believe in a god--whichever god that may be.

some examples:
  • denmark - average intelligence 98, 46% do not believe in a god.
  • sweden - average intelligence 99, 64% do not believe in a god.
  • zambia - average intelligence 71, less than 1% do not believe in a god.
  • united arab emirates - average intelligence 84, less than 1% do not believe in a god.
the study, which i couldn't gain access to online, not being a subscriber to the journal, compared average intelligence and religiousness in 137 countries.

the article doesn't give details as to how level of religious belief was determined. nor does it go that deeply into the general problematics of intelligence tests. i grant you that those are both factors in the credibility of the study. but, even not knowing that, the study is interesting.

a danish scientist, Helmuth Nyborg, was behind the study, which i guess is why Berlingske is writing about it. there is a rather humorous quote from him in which he says, "this doesn't necessarily mean that you become dumber for believing in god, but that you probably were already dumber in the first place." i'm not sure he meant to be funny.

now i sincerely don't want to offend anyone who reads my blog and who believes in god, but i have to say that with all of the killing going on in this world in the name of gods of all sorts, it is a bit of a relief to think that there might be a scientific answer behind it. saying that we are going to war because god wants it is a way of not taking responsibility for your own actions and that is what a certain mr. bush has done, as have a certain osama bin laden and his followers--they are also doing what they do in the name of god. both sides are equally guilty of using god to duck responsibility for their own actions.

in the ten years i've lived outside the US, i have seen a disturbing rise in religious fervor. when i visit my parents now in that little town where i grew up, there are many more in-your-face religious billboards and bumper stickers. and i'll admit it makes me very uncomfortable. i just consider religion to be a very private matter and not one that i would want to proclaim on a bumper sticker. (which i realize is rather negated by my writing about it here, but it's not something i do often.)

the little town of 1334 people that i grew up in had 12 churches. many were splinter groups from one another because even within that tiny little community, people couldn't actually follow the advice of the bible and just get along--loving their neighbor, and so on, so you might say a healthy suspicion of religion was instilled in me very early on. and you have to wonder how intelligent it is to spin off and make your own church every time you can't get along at a potluck, which is what happened. this may further underline the point of the scientific study.

there is a doomsday billboard outside of the town that says, "if you die today, where will you spend eternity?" the sign that follows is the town's sign. i've always thought that was a bit funny. whereever eternity may be spent, i'll hazard a guess that it's not a little town in south dakota.

but, that's enough controversy for today.


Magpie said...

Hear hear!

How did the US stack up in that there study?

Barb said...

This post really hit home Julie. Being raised in an extremely religious reformed Baptist home I watched as my parents criticized and consequently left many, many churches because that church did not agree with their fundamental beliefs.

The funny thing is they have changed their theological beliefs over the years themselves.

I agree with you - religion is a private matter. So many wars are fought in the name of "God", people are murdered in the name of "God". If "God" is good, then how do these people justify "living like the devil".

Hope I haven't started even more controversy, but I just had to add my 2¢. Barb

julochka said...

hi magpie--unfortunately, the condensed version that was in my newspaper didn't say where the US was and i couldn't get into the full article online. :-( it's called "Average Intelligence Predicts Atheism Rates across 137 Nations" and is by Richard Lynn, Helmuth Nyborg and John Harvey.

another article in another danish newspaper says that the stats on religiousness came from "The Cambridge Companion to Atheism" by P. Zuckermann. i haven't had a chance to try to find that as of yet.

julochka said...

barb--people's 2 cents' worth is exactly why i posted this! thank you for sharing yours!

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

The most amazing thing is that fundamentally, if you look at all the major religions, they follow the same set of principles. The trouble arises when people refuse to see that 1) everybody is striving for the same thing, and 2) religion is better kept to oneself. We ought not to brag about it, condemn others for theirs or try to 'save' people. It's the cause of so much of the world's pain, not for itself but in how it is used. Well done for writing about this.
Now I'm out of here ;) I, like Barb, gave my 2 cents.

Glenn Kachmar said...

Fantastic post, Julie. I have suspected this for a long time and I am glad to see it validated. Of course I feel a lot better about this as a born-again atheist. I will email you the paper as there is not very much posted on the internet that is closed to me if I set my mind to it.