portrait of crying baby girl on living room at homeBrace yourselves for a full-blown meltdown by sanctimoniously-enraged believers! The (UK) Independent reports on the release of a meta-analysis that claims religious people are, collectively, less intelligent than atheists (WebCite cached article):

A new review of 63 scientific studies stretching back over decades has concluded that religious people are less intelligent than non-believers.

A piece of University of Rochester analysis, led by Professor Miron Zuckerman, found “a reliable negative relation between intelligence and religiosity” in 53 out of 63 studies.

According to the study entitled, ‘The Relation Between Intelligence and Religiosity: A Meta-Analysis and Some Proposed Explanations’, published in the ‘Personality and Social Psychology Review’, even during early years the more intelligent a child is the more likely it would be to turn away from religion.

Before I go any further with this, I need to point out that I’m always a bit skeptical about studies that talk about “intelligence.” Measures such as IQ are far from ideal in evaluating that quality people refer to as “intelligence.” The frequently amorphous, subjective, and biased nature of such measures all too easily can lead people to suspect conclusions. This is a meta-analysis, which required different measures of intelligence to be related to one another. To call this a slam-dunk is premature at best.

Even so, this analysis can’t be dismissed outright:

The review, which is the first systematic meta-analysis of the 63 studies conducted in between 1928 and 2012, showed that of the 63 studies, 53 showed a negative correlation between intelligence and religiosity, while 10 showed a positive one.

Only two studies showed significant positive correlations and significant negative correlations were seen in a total of 35 studies.

To dismiss the authors’ conclusion out-of-hand would be just as foolish as proclaiming it flawless and unassailable.

The reason I’m commenting on this, is because, as I said in the first sentence, it will no doubt trigger fury and outrage among believers. They will refuse to accept that it even might be remotely true, and will bluster and fume about how awful it is that someone dared insult them for their metaphysical beliefs.

As a matter of fact, just such a tirade can be found at the Independent itself (cached). Among the complaints:

As a sociologist the question that interests me is why do people embark on a project that seeks to determine the relationship between intelligence and religious belief.

Apparently the angry author of this plaintive whine thinks this is a question no one should be allowed to ask, and worse, that anyone who thinks to ask it, must be insane, mentally deficient, or evil or something. Moreover, he chalks this conclusion up to “sciencism” (whatever that might be). He apparently is unaware there’s been no law passed that decides what questions researchers can and cannot look into. He can’t handle that someone dared reach a conclusion he disapproves of.

As I said, there are problems inherent in any studies or analyses like this. Its validity, or lack thereof, will be thrashed out in the process of peer review. Throwing hissy-fits over someone daring to release it, cannot and never will invalidate it. Religionists would be better off growing up and accepting that questions like this might be asked, rather than getting all bent out of shape over them being asked in the first place.

Hat tip: Peter at the AntiBible Project on Delphi Forums.

Photo credit: Fiery-Phoenix, via Flickr.

P.S. Concerning the relation between religiosity and intelligence, something I find more measurable — not to mention more compelling — is that non-believers tend to be better-informed about religion, than believers (cached).

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