Intelligence, Liberalism and Atheism

A higher intelligence has a definite correlation with a liberal political ideology and atheism, or so new statistical research informs us. According to psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa, human beings with an above average intelligence are more likely to adapt themselves to evolutionary innovations and act according to superior values.

“General intelligence, the ability to think and reason, endowed our ancestors with advantages in solving evolutionarily novel problems for which they did not have innate solutions,” argues Kanazawa. “As a result, more intelligent people are more likely to recognize and understand such novel entities and situations than less intelligent people, and some of these entities and situations are preferences, values, and lifestyles.”

Religion is a by-product of man’s tendency to constantly try to see patterns in the world around him, and to try to explain – however feebly – everything that world. “Humans are evolutionarily designed to be paranoid, and they believe in [a] god because they are paranoid,” states Kanazawa.

Now, this paranoid behaviour was fine for our ancient ancestors. In fact, it probably helped them to remain vigilant and alert to dangers that could pose a threat to themselves, their family and their tribe. – Hardly behaviour that one likes to associate with modern mankind.

“What is it you most dislike? Stupidity, especially in its nastiest forms of racism and superstition. […] The essence of the independent mind lies not in what it thinks, but in how it thinks.” ― Christopher Hitchens

Kanazawa concludes “so, more intelligent children are more likely to grow up to go against their natural evolutionary tendency to believe in god, and they become atheists.”

Data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (2010) supports Kanazawa’s hypothesis. Young adults who subjectively identify themselves as ‘very liberal’ have an average IQ of 106 during adolescence, while those who identify themselves as ‘very conservative’ have an average IQ of 95 during adolescence.

Similarly, young adults who identify themselves as ‘not at all religious’ have an average IQ of 103 during adolescence, while those who identify themselves as ‘very religious’ have an average IQ of 97 during adolescence.

47 thoughts on “Intelligence, Liberalism and Atheism

  1. Apparently, one can only hit the “LIKE” button once – pity. Liked it, and recommended it to others.

  2. How fallacious is this line of reasoning! And how convenient. Nature may be responsible for less intelligent beings becoming religious, but you can bet your bottom dollar nurture can help very smart individuals become religious as well. Averages and calculations admits the very fact this guy ignores: very smart people are religious, very dumb people are atheists; numbers that are buried in the supposed neutrality and unbiased realism of averages.
    To say that smart people are liberals and dumb people are conservatives is as inductive (and therefore primitive) as saying that because a tooth becomes a quarter at the end of the night the Tooth Fairy exists. Averages work really well there, too. After all, children of well-off parents who receive money for their teeth more often do believe in an incorrect principle more often as well. Are we to blame intelligence for money and therefore the perpetuation of the Tooth Fairy mythology, in which poor children (the offspring of less intelligent parents) believe? Ah, probably not.
    The Japanese love that old ‘by the numbers’ system of the German school, too bad not even the Germans practice it anymore due to the problems said system made evident. One cannot measure man, and therefore man does not conform to averages.

  3. Clearly you are “thinking like the ancients” – you really dated yourself with this: “…a tooth becomes a quarter at the end of the night the Tooth Fairy exists.” Any idea what teeth are going for these days? Anywhere from one to ten dollars! A quarter? I wish!

    …very smart people are religious, very dumb people are atheists” – I am an atheist, and my IQ is very close to that of Albert Einstein. I find it difficult to accept the validity of your statement.

    And THIS happens to be one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever heard: “One cannot measure man, and therefore man does not conform to averages.

  4. Abstract

    A meta-analysis of 63 studies showed a significant negative association between intelligence and religiosity. The association was stronger for college students and the general population than for participants younger than college age; it was also stronger for religious beliefs than religious behavior.

    Three possible interpretations were discussed. First, intelligent people are less likely to conform and, thus, are more likely to resist religious dogma. Second, intelligent people tend to adopt an analytic (as opposed to intuitive) thinking style, which has been shown to undermine religious beliefs. Third, several functions of religiosity, including compensatory control, self-regulation, self-enhancement, and secure attachment, are also conferred by intelligence. Intelligent people may therefore have less need for religious beliefs and practices.

  5. “To say that smart people are liberals and dumb people are conservatives…”
    The results of the research as described in this article – as in so many articles – should be read as a representative and relevant conclusion in general, not as a law-like finding without exceptions. That is why your summary is far too crude, and in fact not at all what this article states.

  6. I have dated myself because I said the Tooth Fairy drops off quarters instead of $1-10 dollars; right, great piece of deduction.

    Your IQ is indeed worthy of admiration. Use it to decipher a statement instead of pulling out a phrase you did not like. I was defending averages can hide within them both very smart and very dumb people on either side, therefore they are dangerous to take at face value. Perhaps you have spent too long tugging at the tail of the lion.

    I am sorry my statement was so ridiculous it merited addition to your Most Ridiculous Things Ever Said by a Guy who Made an Argument and I Answered with a Bunch of Ad Hominem Premises that Totally Highlighted my Near-Einstein IQ. Yet again, that doesn’t sound so bad; thanks?

  7. You have to admit that a study of a study made generalized in order to make a very specific statement is just not reliable. If I know that 30% of people like strawberry and 30% of people like blueberry, I can’t just say that 60% of people in the world like berry-like products and that the other 40% were probably lying because, in reality, who doesn’t like berries?

    “The association was stronger” is the equivalent of ‘averages point in the direction of,’ and that is just dangerous, because people take those measurements at face value. You very well know someone out there is thinking religious people are all nutty and now science is backing it up; it simply does not.

    Now, you tell me three possible explanations are given based on the data from the data. In other words, averaged data was made faulty data upon which we drew some kind of more generalist data. There is something wrong there, isn’t it? Let’s say, for example, that “intelligent people are less likely to conform.” What you are also saying when you assert this is that ‘less intelligent people are more likely to conform.’ Since when has the question been this simple? Were North Americans who supported the English monarchy during the Revolutionary War less likely to be intelligent people? Or was the French populace more likely to be intelligent than their rulers during the French Revolution? Rather, it is cookie-cutter statements that we have to be weary of.

    Let us take the title of the post. Intelligence = Liberalism = Atheism. This is precisely the reason by scientific assertions use concrete statements, long-winded explanations, and avoids generalizations. Studies serve the purpose of broadening our understanding not narrowing our perspective.

  8. A crudeness that yet exemplified the very solution I proposed through the expression of my fears on the generalizations that can be made from a poorly defined conclusion. Polarization was inevitable, only conversation could have brought about (as it in fact did) an explanation that would make plainly evident the need to read the information provided “as a representative and relevant conclusion in general.”

  9. Pingback: IQ and Intelligence | See, there's this thing called biology...

  10. 1. What exactly is a ‘liberal ideology’? The first quote doesn’t describe that. It says that intelligence makes it easier to solve and handle new problems – which I don’t disagree with.

    2. Paranoia is a extreme distrust of others. A paranoid person will most likely not be able to maintain healthy relationships. Human beings are social creatures (What we’re doing here,for example, is a social activity). How come this paranoia helped us in old times?

    3. Hitchens shoots himself in the foot in that quote. First, he claims racism comes from stupidity. Then he says intelligence is not in what you think (the conclusion) but how you think (the basis/reasoning). Racism is a conclusion. So, wait, what is stupid? Conclusions or reasoning? Are some conclusons always stupid? It’s a stand-alone quote, obviously,so maybe something is missing. It’s not an attack on Hitchens, just on that specific bit.

  11. What I find so curious is why human beings with an above average intelligences, who’ve adapted themselves to being evolutionary innovators with superior values, would nevertheless retain an incessant need to constantly reiterate to themselves how intelligent and evolved and oh so intellectually grown they up are now…

    If paranoia is the hallmark of the less intelligent religious, then why do you basically seem to be so paranoid of them..??

  12. 1. Now there’s a question! – Food for thought.
    2. Please note “In fact, it probably helped them to remain vigilant and alert to dangers that could pose a threat to themselves, their family and their tribe.”
    3. The quotation is a merge of two separate quotes (as indicated by the brackets), so there can be not direct contradiction since I am responsible for the juxtaposition. As for unsound reasoning, I fail to agree.

  13. Speaking of interesting questions, truth – if religion is true, why do religious people seem to find the need to band together at least once a week? Reinforcement?

    “Truth does not demand belief. Scientists do not join hands every Sunday, singing, yes, gravity is real! I will have faith! I will be strong! I believe in my heart that what goes up, up, up must come down, down. down. Amen! If they did, we would think they were pretty insecure about it.”
    — Dan Barker —

  14. So please help me understand then… You’re mistrusting and terrified of a being you don’t believe exists…? (I suppose that WOULD be different than run-of-the-mill paranoia, but I wouldn’t know what to call it!)

  15. Are there many different kind of ‘intelligence’? – Arguably, yes.
    Are there some discrepancies in measuring intelligence? – Very probably, yes.
    Are the facts presented in this post unashamedly forthright about moral superiority? – Clearly, yes.
    Are we glad it sparked a debate? – Sure.
    Are we surprised people who do not agree with the facts presented in this post are either arguing emotionally or quoting passages from the Bible? – No.

  16. Well, first off, the statement “If religion is true” is itself a gross and bizarre over-generalization that it is almost pointless to attempt to address it.. Which “religion” are you referring to exactly? To insist on lumping them all together as though in essence they are all indecipherable from one another is a fairly obtuse straw-man.

    But why do people believing the same things feel the need to band together at least once a week? If you’re asking about people who all share a belief in the Bible, then sure “reinforcement” could be a way of describing it, though I would hasten to say that it usually involves an overall ethos that is markedly different than just gathering together and talking about how idiotic the people are who don’t believe what they do….

    Maybe you don’t get together and sing
    “hymns for atheism” (although it might interest you to know that nowadays there ARE in fact people forming “atheist congregations” where they actually this very sort of thing…) but the fact that you devote so much time to not only “reinforcing” your fellow atheists, but in fact intentionally engaging the “theists” in a continual barrage of derision, is, I would argue, quite telling…

  17. My dear reader, I never claimed to be paranoid – you said I was.
    Now, in my reply I simply pointed out that the writer of this article could be thought to be mistrusting or otherwise inclined to negative thoughts concerning religious fanatics. – Please disabuse me if I am becoming unreasonable.
    It is therefore, however, that I am afraid I fail to see where the line “You’re mistrusting and terrified of a being you don’t believe exists…?” comes in. Please read the article again, and be so good as to read archaeopteryx1’s comment on your query.

  18. Which ‘religion’ are you referring to exactly? – Logic would dictate that I’m referring to any that band together once a week.

  19. Christopher Hitchens said it best with his poetic eloquence when he was asked why he could not keep his atheism to himself, he replied “Because the religious won’t allow me to. Because every time I open up the paper there’s another instance of theocratic encroachment on free society which I won’t put up with – up with which, I will not put!”

  20. oh yeah, good ol’ chris hitchens…. Now THERE’S an example of a guy who doesn’t have a skewed concept of God/faith…(!?!)

  21. 2. As for the word ‘paranoid’, what replacement would you suggest?
    3. As for Hitchens’ reasoning, “The essence of the independent mind lies not in what it thinks, but in how it thinks” he’s talking about an ‘independent mind’, not intelligence per see.

  22. Logic would also dictate that grasping at straws in order to demonstrate one’s belief system’s “inherent intelligence” is a pretty pitiful maneuver, but I suppose logic was never really involved in this foray….

  23. There is no manoeuvring here, we’re all pretty straight forward kinds of chaps and chapesses. ;)
    As for your other concerns. Please read my top comment.

  24. Okay…. Why don’t you start with “theocratic encroachment on society”? Explain that one to me…. I find that notion to be rather hilarious, to be perfectly honest.

    I don’t know where you live, but I’m in the States, and if this country was in fact anything REMOTELY close to some kind of alleged “Christian theocracy” than I seriously doubt we’d be seeing things like Madonna doing strip teases in a mock satanic ritual…. ;-)

  25. Thank you, my child – may the Great Flying Spaghetti Monster bless and keep you safe!

  26. I agree we’re not there yet, but only thanks to the rational among us – the Religious Right is trying at every opportunity to undercut the second amendment of our Constitution, and flood American society with Judeo/Christian propaganda – I give you the 10 Commandments on the wall of the Supreme Court! And before you come back with the old saw that that wasn’t intended to be religious, only an example of early law, let me remind you that the Amrrurite ruler, the great lawgiver, Hammurabi, was an actual, verifiable, historical figure upon whom the fictional Moses was modeled, yet I don’t see any reference to his laws on the wall of the US Supreme Court.

  27. Oh dear…. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. What IS the most important point to emphasize in a response to that? Is it the fact that such actions are demonstrably NOT representative of any religion’s stated belief system? (Islam included?) Is it the fact that acts of terrorism are basically by definition not “theo-cracy” but more like “theo-anarcy”? I mean good grief… I’m sure we couldn’t find examples of atheists who committed crimes of mass murder, right? And if we could, would that therefore stand as reason to believe that atheists are thereby all some kind of existential threat? Lame….

    Not to mention… (ahem) Charlie Hebdo? That’s about as legit an incident as good ol’ 9/11. But perhaps that’s veering into an end of the pool a little too deep for your liking….

  28. No, I wouldn’t “come back” about anything to do with the 10 Commandments being put up anywhere, because it’s honestly an utterly silly and pointless issue. I don’t deny there are indeed religious folks following some kind of false “dominionist” mandate (which is nowhere in the Bible, btw) who are always making noise about getting back to being a “Christian nation”, and bla bla bla ad nauseum. That’s a real thing, for sure, but in the grander scheme of things, it is really just a bunch of meaningless noise. They aren’t succeeding, trust me.

    If you REALLY want to get up in arms about the people who ARE succeeding in their religious propaganda, then wake up and recognize that our world is being radically shaped FAR more by the teachings of a guy like Aleister Crowley than it is by Moses… You want a false prophet to go after? Learn about him, cuz he’s believed in to a much greater degree by those in power right now than is the man who heard from God on Mt. Sinai….

  29. Now THERE’S an example of a guy who doesn’t have a skewed concept of God/faith…(!?!)” – By that, I take it to mean that it isn’t skewed in the direction in which you would LIKE it to be skewed —

  30. (wow…. maybe I should’ve taken bets on how long it would take before the tried and true spaghetti monster bit was rolled out…) Do you seriously have nothing more original than that?

  31. “Magik.” With a k. I find it strange that so much fuss is made over things like plaques of the Ten Commandments, when no one seems to be up in arms about things like the MASSIVE pagan monuments which are absolutely ubiquitous in places like Washington D.C. I mean dang, you got pagan “religion” staring you right in the face, everywhere you look, but for whatever reason, that’s not “theocratic encroachment”…(!?)

    You tell me, how “logical” it is, to be more afraid of people who follow the guy who taught “Love you enemies”, or the people who follow the guy who said “Do whatever you want, that’s the only law”…..?

    Or perhaps, the underlying reality is, you are in fact already adherents of the latter’s philosophy, without even realizing it, because it doesn’t even require the trappings of “religion” to make true believers….. ;-)

  32. 2. I don’t have a word for it, but I think religion evolved from a different cause. God is an explaination that gives meaning to things. Religion evolved because of man’s search for meaning.
    In some religions, some Gods are to be feared, true, but it’s not one of the more important attributes.
    God was thought up to give meaning to the world. That’s why you see people confusing between nihilism and atheism.
    3. I stand corrected

  33. They aren’t succeeding, trust me.” – I truly wish I could, but the bills introduced by the Republican Right, on the first day of the new session of Congress, belies your faith. Then too, we have Supreme Court Justice Scalia, who says publicly, “The Devil is a real person!” – this is the highest court in the land!

  34. I should’ve taken bets on how long it would take before the tried and true spaghetti monster bit was rolled out…)” – Get thee behind me, Anti-pasta!

  35. how ‘logical’ it is, to be more afraid of people who follow the guy who taught ‘Love you (sic) enemies’” – Would that be the same 3-in-one god who told the Israelites to commit genocide and slaughter all of the Caananites, including not only the children, but ripping open the bellies of pregnant women to get at their unborn (all the while, despising abortion), while keeping the young virgins for themselves? I can just FEEL the love dripping from those bloody swords!

  36. I don’t have a word for it, but I think religion evolved from a different cause.” – Me too:

  37. So a person is not allowed to be involved in government or civil service of any kind then, if they hold beliefs that differ from yours? That hardly seems “democratic”. I believe the devil is a real being. You of course disagree, but does this really make me someone worthy of being thrown into a mental hospital in your opinion…?

    But anyhow. Sure, there are “conservative” bills still being introduced into congress, bla bla bla. I’m at the point now where I don’t see partisan politics as being much more than a lot of political theater, designed to give the impression to the public that anything is actually “debated” before being put into action. The congress doesn’t rule the country, nor does the POTUS, and neither does the Supreme Court for that matter. All those branches now are in fact full of folks who answer to a higher power still, and it sure ain’t the god of the Bible!

  38. People are free to hold whatever beliefs, including delusions, they wish as long as they don’t try to impose them on me or on innocent children, and if politicians hold religious beliefs, they’re free to do so until they attempt to pass laws or adjudicate, based on those beliefs, in a society in which our very Constitution guarantees secularism – then they’ve crossed the line.

    Are you aware that the concept of “the devil” and “hell” was not even a prevalent belief within the Judaic belief system until after the Alexandrian conquest of the Levant in the 300’s BCE? Your religion evolved, just like everything else. Your flood was plagiarized from an actual Mesopotamian Euphrates River flood that occurred in 2900 BCE; your “Tower of Babel” was a Mesopotamian ziggurat; Moses was a literary composite of the Akkadian leader, Sargon (found floating in a basket) and Amurrite ruler Hammurabbi, the famous lawgiver; your gospels were written 45-75 years after life of the main character of the story, by anonymous authors who never met him – your entire book of nonsense evolved from bits and pieces of other cultures and other religions, so believe what you like, just leave innocent children out of the mix, keep religion out of politics and your hands off of the US Constitution.

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