18. Why does belief in God and religion decrease as intelligence increases?

I’m no rocket surgeon, but even I understand the importance of enlisting the help of intelligent people when seeking answers to difficult questions.

To that end, there’s a well documented inverse proportional relationship between IQ and religion. Generally speaking, the higher your intelligence, the less likely you are to believe in God or value religion.

Some examples…

1998 survey of American Academy of Science members revealed that only 7% had a belief in a personal God.

survey of the Royal Society found that only 3.3% believed in God.

The relationship between countries’ belief in a god and average Intelligence Quotient, measured by Lynn, Harvey & Nyborg (red line is mine).

The 2008 report Average intelligence predicts atheism rates across 137 nations finds a negative correlation between national IQ and disbelief in God across 137 countries. Their research cites other collaborating evidence, such as: a decline in religious belief among aging adolescents, declines in belief as populations get smarter, and 43 other studies that investigated similar questions and found negative correlations 93% of the time. Looking at their chart (right) it appears we humans begin to question God when our IQs exceed 90. If we extrapolate this trend, we can theorize that most of us would be atheist if our IQs were above 140 or so.

Survey says… Atheists are better informed

A 2010 Pew survey reaffirmed these findings when it found that atheists and agnostics were better informed than most believers. This wasn’t an IQ test, but it does suggests that atheists and agnostics are not rejecting religion based on ignorance, but on a more comprehensive understanding of religion.

Stay stupid, stay saved!?

Such findings lead us to some very strange conclusions about God. For example, the more intelligent He makes you, the less likely it is that He cares to save you. And if you want your religion to remain important to you, you should remain as ignorant as possible, since it’s well documented that the more you cultivate your intelligence, the less likely you are to remain religious.

However, just because you believe, that doesn’t mean you’re stupid (in fact, most non-believers are former believers). As skeptic Michael Shermer says, “Smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for non-smart reasons.” Smart people become attached to preconceived notions for a variety of reasons, and find smart ways to defend them.

Defending anti-intellectualism

As a Christian, I struggled to understand the logic behind these trends. I would reason that scholarly talk of evolution and naturalism were just the “vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called” (1 Tim 6:20).

But haven’t the “vain babblings” of science eventually proven to be far more accurate and useful than any science contained in the Bible? For example, hasn’t medicine proven to be far more effective at treating disease than the Bible’s prescription of prayer?

Conclusion

Perhaps religious ideas flourish in the IQ range that most of us find ourselves in, just as the idea of Santa flourishes in the IQ range that young children are in. Only… we never outgrow religion because our IQ doesn’t grow out of this range. Maybe the smartest of us can see above and beyond what the rest of us see, just as adults can see above and beyond the myths of Santa.

I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suggest that the most intelligent among us should be the more capable of seeing truth in religion or God. If a particular religion is true, all the most intelligent individuals should flock to it. (And if they’re all drawn to different religions, then we still have a problem.) But if these individuals tend to move away from religion, then perhaps this should tell us something.

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95 Responses to 18. Why does belief in God and religion decrease as intelligence increases?

  1. nrhatch says:

    This post confuses Religion and God.
    Intelligent people do dismiss the myths of Religion . . . but that does not mean they are atheists:

    • nrhatch says:

      “Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.” – Albert Einstein

    • You’re right, I did kinda lump God and religion together on that one (I’ve since re-titled it). I guess I have difficulty separating the two. In my mind, if someone believes in the possibility of an intelligent force outside of nature, or life after death, they’re still thinking religiously.

      It’s kinda like if a Scientologist left Scientology, but maintained a belief in Xenu. I’d still see them as religious. They may have scaled back in their beliefs, or come up with a new definition of Xenu, but they still they have a certain level of religion influencing their thinking.

      But there certainly does seem to be a large segment that drops “religion” while remaining agnostic about God.

  2. nrhatch says:

    Religion is based on hearsay . . . being brainwashed into accepting on faith the myths and beliefs created by others.

    Spirituality is a direct personal connection with the spirit within us all.
    It doesn’t rely on faith, it is experiential.
    It’s noticing the miracles and mysteries and synchronicities.
    It’s listening to the still silent voice within.
    It’s getting in touch with our intuition.

    For my first 11 years, I attended Christian churches, absorbing the subtle and not so subtle brainwashing of the flock.
    At age 11, I rejected the God of Christianity as being too far fetched ~ ridiculous nonsense.
    For 25 years I self-identified as an Atheist.
    No God. No higher power. Nothing but what I could sense with my senses.

    And then one night that all changed.
    I heard the still silent voice of spirit for the first time . . . and realized that the higher power is an inner power.
    We learn to access it by using it ~ not by believing in something we cannot sense.
    We need not attend church or listen to church leaders spouting off from the pulpit.
    We just need to sit in silent awareness and tap into the Spiritual Internet.

    God is the breath within the breath.
    God dwells within me, as me.

    • Interesting. I’ll tell ya what — I do have questions related to the spirit, but I don’t want to get too far off topic here. Let me ponder it for a bit (and consult my still silent voice) and I’ll make it the subject of my next post. :-)

    • nrhatch says:

      I did not mean to sway you from your stated mission ~ 500 Questions about God and Christianity.

      I just wanted to point out that many people (even very intelligent people) have rejected the personified and paternalistic God of the Christian religion without abandoning the notion of some other higher Spiritual power.

      It’s always been one of my pet peeves when Christians equate a lack of faith in the dogma and teachings of the Christian Church as synonymous with a lack of faith in God. They are NOT one and the same thing.

      God is NOT a Christian, Jew or Moslem. No religion owns God.

      You might be interested in this:

      So . . . don’t feel compelled to tailor YOUR posts to suit me by addressing Spirituality. I just wanted to clarify that people can believe in “GOD” even if they have abandoned the Religion definition of that word.

      • nrhatch says:

        To learn more about John Shelby Spong’s views: Why Christianity Must Change or Die: A Bishop Speaks to Believers In Exile.

      • Awesome, thanks. And no worries – it’s something I wanted to tackle early-on anyway. I’m sure we’ll disagree on that one, but I wouldn’t mind someone proving me wrong. Might be a while though, I’m headed out on vacation for a few weeks to celebrate my 40th!!! I’d better figure out this meaning of life thing quickly, I’m running out of time, lol. :-) Peace!

      • ryu says:

        That is because it is easier to reject one god, by proving that it is wrong. It is much harder to get rid of the whole idea of a higher power. People are still to insecure to reject the feeling of hopelessness.

    • And the sad thing is that nrhatch does not realise that his spirituality is the exact same beast that he rages against in his comment. And for the same reasons that he gives, it is all brainwashing and made up nonsense. Show us evidence of this spirituality, give us it’s form and address so that we can know it in the light of day.

    • R. Robinson says:

      So you went from uniformed, callous and ignorant Christian to the foolish emptiness of Atheism (which obviously did not work), to worshipping yourself as the God of your life. Perhaps if you just sincerely repented of your sins and really received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and then began a serious quest to understand the word of God, you could find genuine happiness. Yours is a common story that I hear often of those who never came into a real sincere knowledge or relationship with Jesus Christ. Because you never really were saved, you never found satisfaction. Sitting in a church does not make you a Christian any more than sitting in a McDonald’s makes you a hamburger. You must taste both and allow them to become a part of you in order for their to be a change. This from a follower of Jesus and one who has been profoundly changed by a personal relationship with Him, 37 years ago…. R. Robinson, Christian Author.

      • Anonymous says:

        There is one single fact that makes your entire argument ridiculous, and that is that your country of birth will dictate your particular “saviour”, suggesting that the entire experience of being “saved” is purely neurological. I also find it very interesting that the religious are unable to see the faults in their own logic.

      • NOLDAR says:

        I enjoy the inability of a self proclaimed ‘author’ to distinguish between ‘their’ and ‘there’

      • R. Robinson, You are one deluded person. god isn’t real. deal with it.

      • Anonymous says:

        Atheism only appears “empty” to those who are unable to understand the intricate complexities and dynamics of this wonderful universe. Far easier to hold a belief of a magic sky daddy, accessible to a 5 year old in 3 seconds flat, than it is to study physics, chemistry and biology to any meaningful level. Ignorance is bliss – but only for the ignorant. For the rest of us it’s just a bit annoying.

  3. nrhatch says:

    Happy 40th Birthday!!!

    Here’s my birthday present to you.
    A quote.
    About time . . .

    What I wouldn’t give to be 70 again! ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes (age 92).

    • rautakyy says:

      I think most intelligence tests do not actually test intelligence, but rather the cultural education one has accumulated. For example an intelligence test meant for a member of the western society would not tell anything of the relative intelligence of a native of the Amazon. So, if people who see themselves as atheists statistically do better in IQ tests, it tels us that better informed people are less prone to believe fairy tales. Surprice, surprice…

      If a very well informed person decides to hold on to the idea of a god, or gods, or what ever form of spirituality that person can still hope to think as plausible after the blindfolds of religious world view systems have fallen, it is just that person clinging on to their cultural heritage. Holding on to your cultural heritage is healthy, if the cultural heritage is healthy. That can easily be determined by ethical process of asking wether the gods or spirits demand one to act or inact in an unethical way.

      I know people who do not believe in any gods, but are part of their traditional church, because they do not want to remove themselves from their cultural roots.

      • Rautakyy! Always nice to hear from you.

        I can certainly see why people would keep going to church, there are a lot of cultural and other benefits one loses without it. I remember witnessing the baptism of a young man a few years ago; afterwards he got a standing ovation from our entire congregation. I can’t help but think how no one applauds you when you become an agnostic/atheist. It’s a rough road. But hey, and least your Sundays are free!

      • Josh says:

        Identifying patterns and using aptitude to solve problems are cultural?

  4. rautakyy says:

    Yes. Here in Finland most people belong to the lutheran church, but they never spend their sundays at church. The finns are your basic pagans. They know very little about religion or faith. They go to church if there is a funeral, a wedding or a pabtism to attend to. Nobody goes to a church just to hear a sermon.

    Well, maybe there still are some very old grannies, who sometimes attend to church just because it is sunday. Oh and yes there are some small fundamentalist movements that have these summer festivals. One of my former co-workers relative had a small country shop near one of these, and he said the fundies allways buy him out of beer, tobacco and condoms. I guess it is nice to know, that the fundamentalist christians are acting relaxed and responsibly about their sexuality, when they gather in herds to be promiscuous. I only wish they did not try to meddle in politics.

    Keep up the good work. I await your next question impatiently. I have to say, what I like about your blog, is the simple honesty. If there is a god or gods that have set rules for us to follow, it is their honesty and the hide and seek attitude, that defines our humans relationship to them. One may become very acknowledging in theology, exegetics, or philosophy of spiritualism. Yet, in the end the least thing we should expect from a benevolent god, that has a special interrest in humanity, would be the clarity of message. I am not trying to define what a god should be, rather asking if there is one, what is its morals? The fact that we can not define a god, does not make a god non-existant, but it shows us, that it is as much a part of our personal lives as the Andromeda. We may accept it is there or we may deny it. Either way it makes no difference. But we may be better humans towards each other and the envarioment regardless of the existance of Andromeda or god. There is better evidence about the Andromeda, then there are about any gods. That is why I call myself an atheist, though one can never be absolutely sure about anything not proven.

  5. Thanks Rautakyy, It’s always interesting to hear a non-American point-of-view. Sometimes I think we’re on our own little planet over here (Americhrist?), we defintaly do things a bit differently.

    Will post again soon, been busy reading up on evidence for the existence of the spirit/soul, it’s fasinating stuff. I’ll be touching on near death experiences, out of body experiences, the brain, alien abductions, and flatulence. Somehow they all ended up being related.

    • rautakyy says:

      Super! I once had a out of body experience. It was after blood letting. The grandmother of my father was a bloodletter, and I just had to experience it, especially so, when by coincidence, I befriended a couple of bloodletters. An old master and his student. (Traditionally they were all women, but this old man had taken it up, because he wanted pass on the vanishing cultural tradition.) Anyway, the “ritual” took more than few hours in a sauna and after she had done I felt really strange and light headed. Then for a moment it felt as if I was watching myself from the roof. It was just a momentous feeling, but it is easy to understand why someone spiritually inclined would explain it by an existance of a spirit or soul. To me it seemed rather obviously subconscious effect of the immense strain on my physique and the sheer lack of fluids. If the situation would have been emotionally charged who knows what I would have experienced.

  6. Anonymous says:

    It amazes me that here we are in 2012, with all this knowledge about how the world works and we still believe in an imaginary creature in the sky. Just because you make a connection with your inner self does NOT mean that it’s god your talking to. It’s just a case of “I don’t understand how simple psychology/biology works, therefore I believe in the christian god.”

  7. Random says:

    “God sent His son, they called Him Jesus, He came to love heal and forgive
    He bled and died to buy my pardon
    An empty grave is there to prove my saviour lives”

    And yes He bled and died for us mockers too and He said Father forgive them for they Know Not What They Do

    And He was seen by more than 500 witnesses after His resurrection.
    (read 1 Corinthians 15:6)

    “For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead” – Acts 17:31

    Why then do you question the testimonies of these men, whom are written in the records of history as men who have risked their lives, fought ferocious animals in coliseums (1 Corinthians 15:32), suffered hunger thrist and all kinds of dangers (read here for the list2 Corinthians 11:23-28).
    These are good men, righteous men who put their lives on the line so that the gospel can come to you and me today and you laugh them off as myths and fables.

    But the word of God is true:
    “Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe” – 1 Corinthians 1:21

    • mark says:

      “He was seen by more than 500 witnesses after His resurrection” Show me one recorded piece of evidence outside the bible that backs this story up please.

      • Sane says:

        I second the request for back up of the story. Don’t the Christians realise that the resurrection was only a description of the winter sun that became very muddled via the Chinese whispers effect through the generations.

    • David Salter says:

      You are judging the value of ancient “evidence”, with modern standards. Ancient people had a very different grasp of reality. You only have to look as far back as 1000 years to the middle ages, to see all the ridiculous things they believed in; monsters, spirits, men who lived in the clouds and sailed around the sky in giant ships, men who lived in the sea, and one hilarious example; they really believed that just over the horizon lived men with the heads of dogs (they were always “just over the horizon”, wherever you lived).It is clear, that with this kind of disregard for critical thinking, religions were rife, and ridiculous stories were commonplace. And religious scriptures were obviously embellished with godly attributes to give them more reverence – maybe even subconsciously – so was possibly not deceitful – just inaccurate.

    • Anonymous says:

      Using the bible to counter hard, stone cold, unbiased scientific evidence does not convince us “mockers” of anything. Considering the bible as evidence is just as subjective as believing in the religion as a whole. I do not know you, or know of your intelligence – but what you just posted only reinforces the “abominable atheist”‘s opinions about religion. We are not laughing scripture off as myths… We’re THINKING. Rational thought and critical analysis is like a disease to religious circles. The religion was designed to stifle questioning in order to keep populations under control, and in some ways, to encourage virtuousness. On an ending note, here’s a small example of the oh-so-despicable curiosity :
      Why would the disciples even persuade us of the “truth” by saying more than 500 people witnessed the resurrection? Aren’t we supposed to always believe the word of God through faith – which is formally defined as believing something or someone without proof or evidence? It seems like somewhat of a desperate attempt to convince us of something since it would be naïve of anybody to suggest a resurrection may just provoke some skepticism… Another thing – 500 sure is a convenient number, isn’t it? Same as 10 – the number of commandments. Human minds latch onto nice, even numbers.

  8. Anonymous says:

    This is not a relevant study, one simple factor: People tend to be more religious in countries which are poorer and where education, literacy or so is quite a big problem and therefore people have much lover “intelligence” in those really poor countries. Is it any wonder?

    Also usually in those very poor countries only one main religion prevails, so this is also the reason why they score so low.

    On the other hand, there is also many religious imigrants from those poor countries, who are not adopted well on the West.. a relevant study should sort all those things out somehow.

    • David Salter says:

      You could be right, or the confounding variables you suggest could be irrelevant, but one thing I am certain about is that to be religious requires supreme disregard for evidence. Evidence which shows us what is most likely to be true, rather than what we hope to be true. The religious mind is able to either ignore all the evidence that suggests that their particular theistic belief is extremely unlikely, or they are ignorant to the fact that the evidence exists.

      Another point to bear in mind is that atheists nearly always demonstrate a greater knowledge of all religions than theists.

      • wildheart says:

        Religion in no way, shape or form requires you to believe in something which there is evidence against. It only requires that you believe in something there isn’t evidence for. There’s a big difference.

        • David Salter says:

          It depends entirely on who you speak to. A “young earth creationist” has to disregard the scientific fact that the light we see from distant galaxies has already been travelling for billions of years, making it extremely unlikely that the universe is less than 10,000 years old, and to do this he has to cling to the obviously desperate idea that “the creator” created the light already on its journey.

          A religious person who thinks that there is a god who listens to his prayers, and sometimes answers them, is ignoring the more plausible explanation of confirmation bias when he believes that his prayer was answered, and never questions why a supposedly benevolent god would answer his frivolous prayer to get a promotion at work, or find a parking space, or score a goal, whilst at the same time ignoring the prayers of thousands of starving children who will die today all over the world.

        • David Salter says:

          Another thing. The whole idea of “evidence against”, is a complete fallacy, which is something that religious people don’t seem able to grasp. Right this minute, I have just invented a new god in my head. Let’s call him the “purple-headed slug god”. There is absolute no way you could produce any evidence that would prove that he doesn’t exist. Does that make it reasonable to believe that he does exist? Obviously not, to a rational person anyway.

          You cannot prove the non-existence of anything, because everywhere you look, the thing you are looking for could be somewhere else.

          What we can say is that there can be evidence that “strongly suggests” that it is “extremely unlikely” that a particular god exists. But a person’s understanding of this idea is dependent on his knowledge of reality, ie how much of what that person believes he knows about the world around him is likely to be true, and how much of it is likely to be false, and I suggest that a person who is easily fooled by their own irrationality, and their own confirmation bias, is likely to have a lower IQ than a person who is a bit more thorough regarding what he accepts as good information, and at the same time, is more likely to believe that a particular god exists.

    • And which study was irrelevant? All of them? From the Intelligence report I linked to in my post…

      A number of studies find negative correlations between intelligence and religious belief. A review of these carried out by Bell (2002) found 43 studies, of which all but four found a negative correlation. To these can be added a study in the Netherlands of a nationally representative sample (total N=1538) that reported that agnostics scored 4 IQs higher than believers (Verhage, 1964). In a more recent study Kanazawa (in press) has analysed the data of the American National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, a national sample initially tested for intelligence with the PPVT (Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test) as adolescents and interviewed as young adults in 2001–2 (N=14,277). At this interview they were asked: “To what extent are you a religious person?” The responses were coded “not religious at all”, “slightly religious”, “moderately religious”, and “very religious”. The results showed that the “not religious at all” group had the highest IQ (103.09), followed in descending order by the other three groups (IQs=99.34, 98.28, 97.14). The relationship between IQ and religious belief is highly significant (F (3, 14273)=78.0381, pb.00001).

  9. Anonymous says:

    Atheists are bitter people

    • I wouldn’t say they’re ALL bitter, but believers do tend to be a bit more optimistic and hopeful (kinda goes with the territory), while atheists are a bit more stubborn (also goes with the territory).

      But many are kind and generous, like Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Michael Shermer, and Neil Derasse.

  10. Ronald says:

    Atheists are bitter people because they see the world full of problems due to religions. And I am one of them… Religions make me sick.
    For example; you can only be an American president if you say you are religious. That’s pathetic!
    Or what about the Pope and his ban on condoms? How many people got HIV because of this?
    Or what about the fact that Christian and Muslim colonizers straightjacketed Africa with the notion of homophobia??? In most African countries you will go to jail for 5, 10, 15 years or even for life! Check: http://nicojah.com/gay-arabs-gay-africans
    (yes, I know that even in some US States it’s illegal, but people in these states have a very low IQ)
    Dear Religious People, please make the hurting stop! Then I can start being not so bitter. Thanks!

  11. Anonymous says:

    I have no problem with religion as I see it as an intoxicant. It’s simply a tool for the admonishment of the ignorance we all feel when we don’t understand or feel fearful of our true selves and/or relative realities. And throughout history, a tool used by the powerful to placate their thirst for even more power and dominion over their lesser equals.

  12. Brad says:

    Of course there will be a correlation between percieved intelligence and belief in God – those who engage in higher education are told over and over that the bible is full of errors and religions are foolish. Faith is drummed out of you in school. Evolutionary theory is taught as fact, for example. Surely there are many ignorant religious people out there, but there are also flaws in our educational system that has its own faith called materialism. Since it pertains somewhat here, my IQ is 138 and I teach at a university, and I have seen firsthand the nonsense we can teach at this level; we all have to learn to think for ourselves, and question authorities even in the universities.

    1st Corinthians 1:22 talks about the Jews requesting a sign, the Greeks seek after wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness… but the foolishness of God is wiser than men… for you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh… are called.

    There is a lot of talk on this blog about evidence, but I wonder how many of you have actively sought evidence for the existence of God? How do you explain, for example, prophecies about Israel being destroyed, becoming a wasteland, people being exiled, inhabited by enemies, then the return of the Jews to Israel 2000 years later, language intact, and the land becoming fruitful again?

    http://www.evidencetoconsider.com/scripture/israel-prophecy

    Considering the weight of the matter, eternal life, it would be wise to spend an equal amount of time looking for evidence FOR God’s existence and seeking Him as you do studying reasons against His existence.

    • David Salter says:

      Firstly, we are talking about IQ, not about how many exams you have been indoctrinated to pass. IQ is a measure of ones ability to think for ones self, so it is no wonder those who poses the skill of critical thinking, are able to see religion for what it is; wishful thinking, feel-good stories for the gullible masses, and useful for those who desire to control them.

      I was looking for evidence for a god when I was 15. Even then I had a very rational mind, even with a comparatively limited understanding of the world, and the one question I could not answer was this: If there is a god, then why are are there so many different religions? Because if a person could really obtain reliable information about the universe through revelation, then surely all religions would have got the same information, and would not be killing each other over religious differences. That leaves the only other sensible explanation, that these people are dreaming stuff up, and triggering an emotion response to that idea by some unknown neurological means, which they mistakenly attribute to a magic man in the sky.

      Prophecies often have a remarkable ability to become self-fulfilling, it is human nature, aka confirmation bias.

      Your IQ is 138, mine is 155, point proven.

      • Brad says:

        David, your point is most certainly not proven. I think the evidence shows that IQ does change greatly over time and with education (see quote from Steven Ceci, below).

        You started looking for evidence at 15 with a flawed premise, that ‘if a person could really obtain reliable information about the universe through revelation, then surely all religions would have got the same information’. If there is a God, and a Satan, and verses about spiritual hosts of wickedness are true, there would be plenty of incentive for them to deceive mankind. And if all religions do not all have the same information, then one religion may still possibly have the correct information. So do not expect all religions to be in tune, that is a naive and short-sighted hope.

        Then you take this naive hope and when it is dashed, you come to the “only sensible explanation”, that all religions must be wrong, and people are dreaming it up. I submit that your IQ is no measure of your powers of reasoning; you could have and still could investigate the most likely candidate religions to ascertain their validity. And one way to start would be by not dismissing potential evidence with waves of the hand like “confirmation bias”.

        I’m happy for you that you have a higher IQ than I do; maybe it’s time to put it back to the unfinished work you started when you were 15.

        ***
        In answer to the question “can IQ change” >>>
        Stephen Ceci, professor of developmental psychology at Cornell University:

        Absolutely. And there’s plenty of evidence documenting this.

        An article in November in the journal Nature by Price and her colleagues is one example. It had 33 adolescents, who were 12- to 16-years-old when the study started. Price and her team gave them IQ tests, tracked them for four years, and then gave them IQ tests again.

        The fluctuations in IQ were enormous. I’m not talking about a couple points, but 20-plus IQ points, one way or another. These changes in IQ scores were not random — they tracked very nicely with structural and functional brain imaging. Suppose the adolescent’s verbal IQ really went up during that time; it was verbal areas of the brain that changed.

        There are quite a large number of other studies showing IQ can change. Many of the changes in IQ are correlated to changes in schooling. One way that school increases IQ is to teach children to “taxonimize,” or group things systematically instead of thematically. This kind of thinking is rewarded on many IQ tests.

        There’s also a number of studies showing that the brain changes after several kinds of regimen. London Taxi drivers whose brains are scanned before and after they start driving, and learning to navigate London’s maze of streets, show changes in the brain as they use more navigational skills. Even young adults who take a juggling course show brain changes.

        If you put it all together, and the evidence is quite compelling, that life experiences and school-related experiences change both the brain and IQ. This is true of adults and children.

        • David Salter says:

          I don’t doubt that IQ changes; I was tested at 35, and I am now 45, and I have read about 100 books since then on all subjects from religion, evolutionary biology, micro-biology, cosmology, physics, neurology, politics and economics – as well as spending as much time every day as most people watch TV, watching lectures on Youtube. And I have learned to play several more musical instruments since then, as well as obtaining a professional qualification as an electronics engineer – so do you think my IQ has increased or decreased?

          Regarding the flawed premise: Did you know that the early scriputres did not mention the existence of a devil? I suggest you look into the early scriptures, as well as the Dead Sea scrolls, to see what was left out (that we have evidence for), as it leaves no doubt that the whole collection of ancient scribblings was contrived by a council assembled by Constantine for a political purpose. That being said, your “rather convenient” call to a satanical being as a reason for so much religious disagreement, does rather indicate why such an entity was invented in the first place.

        • David Salter says:

          I find most religious people, pin their hopes of a divine creator god, afterlife etc, on one single thing about the universe (small “u” is intentional) that they just can’t get their head around. And that is how can the universe be so perfectly suited to life considering all the other possibilities.

          A far more plausible explanation than magical ghostly beings is this:

          Firstly, you have to gasp the concept of infinite space-time, and what that implies. I am sure you will not have a problem with this concept, as you will no doubt claim that your god has infinte power (which is obviously an oxmoron if you claim that a devil exists), and that “he” (assuming spiritual beings have the ability to be male and female, in the same way that evolved animals who rely on sexual reproduction do) has always existed for all time (so that you can avoid any awkward questions like “Who made god?”).

          So, accepting that we agree on the concept of infinity, the plausible explanation for the universe is thus:

          Our universe consists of a finite space-time that exists in an infinite “master” space-time. Being infinite, the mere slightest possibility that a quantum fluctuation can cause energy and dark energy to separate out and exist as two separate entities (still having a combined energy of zero), and result in a universe, means that there are already, and have always been, an infinite number of universes that exist, each with a random selection of physical laws that determine the nature and structure of said universe. This being said, there only needs to be the tiniest possibility that the physical laws can arrange themselves so that galaxies, stars and planets are able to form, and the tiniest possibility that at least one of those planets contains the right combination of elements to allow one single self-replicating molecule to arrange itself by pure chance (this has been shown to be possible with as few as 500 atoms in a a particular arrangement) – then all you see around you will be an inevitable consequence of this sequence of events (as elaborated by Darwin) – which admittedly has a probability that is so immensely tiny that it cannot be calculated – but the tiniest imaginable possibility becomes a certainty as soon as you factor in an infinte space-time.

          So, which do you think is more plausible? A magic sky fairy, who nobody can agree on, who has infinite power, yet not infinite enough to defeat his nemesis sky-fairy devil.

          OR
          Simply the existence of an infinite space-time, in which the tiniest possibility of a quantum fluctuation can occur – and all the inevitable consequencies that follow.

          • Brad says:

            Hi David. I applaud your efforts to educate yourself.

            You disbelieve that Satan exists, which is no surprise since you don’t believe in God either – but the idea of an adversary is evident in the form of the serpent in the garden, in the first chapter of Job, in Isaiah 14 and in Ezekiel 28.

            You vaguely point to some evidence that the whole idea of Satan is false; does that mean you do not believe in evil either? What makes a man want to molest young children? What was behind Hitler’s hatred of the Jews? What is it that takes hold of killers like Ted Bundy when they say that something possessed them at the time of the rape and made them kill?

            I’d agree that Constantine had his political purposes, but he had to work with what was in existence, first-hand testimonies from the apostles; and Constantine was quite successful in that he managed to for once and for all strip Christianity of all Jewish flavor and law, including the Saturday sabbath and the seven yearly feasts. Modern Christianity could better be called “Constantinian Christianity”.

            But to your last question, would I rather simply believe in a all-powerful God who created the universe with certain fine-tunings which make life possible in this universe,

            OR,

            believe in a multiverse, an infinite number of universes, in fact so infinite that we live in a rarity of rarities, a universe that is tuned for life… I’ll put my money on God.

            As you know (this is for the benefit of others), our universe has been found to be tuned for life, against the odds; the strong nuclear force, the cosmological constant, the ratio of electrons to protons, and 30 or so other values that have to be perfectly balanced for carbon to ever form inside of stars, or for galaxies to even form after the big bang.

            The chances of our universe having this fine-tuning are one part in 10 to the 37th power. That’s far more than the number of calculated stars in the universe. This is where the idea of a multiverse came in handy, if we can imagine enough universes, then maybe “by pure chance” one of them will be tuned for life!

            But as soon as you open that “infinite number of universes” can of worms, David, you can’t stop; so there would be even an infinite number of universes that support life, and even an infinite number of universes where you and I are engaged in this discussion. Where does it stop? To what lengths are you willing to go to keep God out of the picture?

            • David Salter says:

              I am an engineer, because I have an overwhelming urge to understand how things work down to the tiniest detail, almost to the point of obsession. I assume I was born this way, as it was evident before I was 2 years old. Are you now going to tell me that there is a “god” of “overwhelming urges” that are neither good or evil?

              Why does there have to be a bad “god” that makes people do bad things? Why can you not understand that around 20% of humans are born with a brain disorder that makes them a sociopath (many of them hide it very well) – there are demonstrable physical structures in the brain that cause people to act as if other people are not “people”, but simply objects for them to make use of. They feel no empathy or sympathy. But surely, “god” must have made these people this way – explain this please.

              And regarding the infinite universes; I explained it extremely thoroughly. The “shape” of the universe has been measured recently (according to Prof Lawrence Krauss), and this tells us whether the universe is closed or open. Closed means that it is a shape that wraps in on itself, so that if you travel in a straight line for long enough, you end up back where you started. This is one type of infinite universe. Our universe is open – meaning it is flat; you don’t arrive back where you started because it goes on forever. Our little bit of matter that has been flying through this space for the last 13.7 billion years, is in fact a finite size, but it exists in an infinite space – meaning that all the infinite number of universes out there are separated from each other by infinite space – so they can never meet.

              Notice I said that this was derived from measurement. This is the big difference! Scientists don’t just dream stuff up and say “Yeah, I like the idea of that”

              Whereas, in your message you say: “But to your last question, would I rather simply believe in a all-powerful God “, this is where your lack of understanding shows; we don’t get to choose what we “rather” believe. Whereas, with religion, you can choose whatever you want to believe. Cherry-pick the Bible for the bits you like, leave out the unfavourable bits like keeping slaves, stoning people for working on the Sabbath, ‘cos clearly THOSE bits are really silly. But a talking snake, yeah, that’s cool.

              And in discussion of the infinite universe you ask “Where does it stop?”. Clearly you don’t get it.

              I sincerely think that in our lifetime, religion will be proven to be a mental illness. We already have strong evidence that suggests that people with a certain structure in their temporal lobes are more likely to be religious, and it won’t be long before it is proven experimentally. But as ever, the religious masses will close their eyes, stick their fingers in their ears, and say they don’t believe it.

    • Thanks Brad,

      I agree, it’s just as likely that someone could become indoctrinated by a secular institution as a religious one. And just because a teacher says evolution is a fact, doesn’t mean it’s true. Likewise, just because the Bible claims to be God’s Word, doesn’t make it true. All such claims should stand or fall based on all the available evidence. If a man has evidence for evolution, let him demonstrate it, and if God’s knowledge is superior to man’s, let Him demonstrate it (see Question #14).

      I am interested in the arguments for the existence of God. As you suggested, prophecy is frequently used as evidence in favor of God, and while I haven’t gotten into prophecies about Israel yet, I have already explored prophecy in general (#32), and specific claims of fulfilled prophecy from Isaiah 53 (#37) and prophecies about the city of Tyre (#43). Still, I’d much rather God show off His knowledge by telling us what we’d later confirm through science, rather than relying on sketchy and controversial prophecies that have so much potential for abuse.

      If eternal life is on the line, then it is wise to spend some time looking at the evidence, which is why I’m doing this. However, we shouldn’t let the threat of eternal damnation bias our opinions, lest we become motivated by fear, and fail to see the truth because of a fear fallacy.

      Take care!

  13. Brad says:

    Thanks for the reply, 500. You state:

    “If eternal life is on the line, then it is wise to spend some time looking at the evidence, which is why I’m doing this.”

    Really? Then definitely, pick the Israel prophecy for your next subject, and for a change, look at it objectively, because every position I’ve seen you take on this blog so far has been biased against the existence of God.

    And I don’t think of it as being motivated by fear, but by truth. The fact is that we will all die, so one should take a good serious look into the situation we will all face, and the arguments on each side.

    And the way I see it, if you are right, we will all die and cease to exist, and no harm done by your posts.

    But if you are wrong, you’ve led many people away from faith, and eternal life, in spite of your good intentions and pleasant manner. So I propose that you have a responsibility to attempt to present a more balanced view.

    • I too would like to think it’s a love of truth that motivates me. In fact, I put myself at great personal risk trying to pursue any truth outside of Christianity.

      Look at it from my point of view: The Christian risks nothing. Right or wrong, he gets to live a life filled with many comforting delusions, and is even supported by a network of believers who share the same delusion. In the end, if he’s right, he goes to heaven to be with his family and friends forever. And if he is wrong, he just goes to sleep forever, none the wiser.

      But the ex-Christian risks EVERYTHING. He must face life head-on, believing that there is no afterlife, no loving God, and no ultimate justice. He may lose friends and family, who now see him as a lost soul who has turned away from God, who will only be happy once he returns to the delusion. They might even look down upon him, accusing him of things like leading “people away from faith, and eternal life.” And what does he gain for all his toil? If he’s right, nothing but a momentary glimpse of reality. And he’s wrong, God sends him to hell for all eternity for drawing the wrong conclusion (regardless of his deeds). Why would ANYONE want to doubt?

      I do NOT wish to be an atheist. I WISH I could study the Bible and find convincing arguments and evidence that I could use to convince others and myself. But because I desire truth above all else, I have to follow the evidence wherever it leads.

      But moving on, there are a lot of prophecies regarding Israel; is there a particular one you find compelling? What I mean is, if you had to put your best foot forward, is there one you could point to with confidence and say, “THIS prophecy is SO compelling that ONLY a God with foreknowledge of the future could deliver a prediction so specific”? I promise I will look at it objectively.

      My next question would be, can God still predict the future? Because on May 7th there’s a Mega Millions lottery here in California. If God exists and speaks to His followers, it shouldn’t be a problem for one of them to predict these 6 numbers and prove to me and everyone else here that he’s real. Or do we all need to drudge through 2500 year old prophecies? ;-)

      • Brad says:

        I don’t think you’d be convinced if a believer won the lottery; in fact, if God wrote across the sky in fire “I am God and I exist”, most athiests would find an alternate explanation. I think God maintains a balance – if we want to ignore Him, we may, and if we seek Him, we will find Him. And scripture is clear that prayers don’t work when we “pray amiss, that you may consume it upon your lusts” (James 4:3), so I can’t see winning the lottery as something a believer should focus on.

        I can see your view, and I’ve read your about page, and it’s clear that you’ve paid a price for your position; but you are also getting a lot of moral support from others who are looking for reasons to reject God. I look at the questions you bring up, and I get the distinct impression you’re picking the most easily refutable subjects rather than the ones that would lead one to consider that God truly does exist.

        There are numerous prophecies about Israel, and we have to choose just one? They work as a theme;
        There is the destruction of Israel, Israel becomming a wasteland, the people of Israel to be exiled, Israel to be inhabited by enemies, the exiled people to one day return, and the land of Israel to once again be fruitful – these prophecies tell a story. http://www.evidencetoconsider.com/scripture/israel-prophecy

        What are the chances that the Jewish people would be scattered for two thousand years, and then one day return to their homeland, take up their original language, practice their original religion, and thrive in the desert, surrounded by enemies? What accounts for the high number of Jewish nobel prize winners?

        There are many more prophecies if we were to look at messianic prophecies that have been fulfilled; some rabbis tell their followers not to read Isaiah 53, for example, because it is obvious it is about Jesus, who is not a welcome messiah in Judaism, which only serves to underline its significance; but there is much more prophetic evidence if we start to analyze the texts thematically for parallel and chiastic structures. If your attitude is adjusted right, you will start to see riches of evidence and a word that comes alive.

        But if I had to pick one single prophecy that is timely, I’d go with the prophecy that Jerusalem will become a heavy stone, a burden for the world: http://www.certainsigns.com/certain-signs/jerusalem-a-heavy-stone.html

        Regards -

        • Thanks Brad,

          As I mentioned, I have taken up the topic of Isaiah 53 (#37), which I assure you was not an “easily refutable subject.” I had no idea what to expect, and re-reading Isaiah 53 for the first time in a few years, I thought I could see Jesus in almost every line! But this is easy to do when you’ve been programmed to read Jesus into it. Looking closer and considering what critics (including Jewish Rabbis) had to say, it became clear that it was always intended to be about Israel, and was later hijacked by Christians.

          On the topic of Israel, I will say that it’s always seemed to me like the restoration of Israel occurred as a result of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Because of what the Bible said about Israel, millions (if not billions) of Christians and Jews supported its restoration, especially following WWII. So did God cause this or did we? It’s impossible to say.

          Verses like, “I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone, a burden for the world” can take on many different meanings in hindsight, which is why it’s important for a prediction to be specific and something that cannot become self-fulfilling (which is difficult to accomplish, and one of the reasons prophecy stinks as proof of God’s existence).

          I remember in the 80s, there was a lot of talk about how there would only be “one generation” between the restoration of Israel and the return of Jesus. Reading prophecy IN ADVANCE of an event is much more difficult, but as far as many Christians understood it, this is what the Bible predicted was going to happen. Of course, it didn’t, so today, we point to other verses (like the “heavy stone”) in hindsight and say, “Ah, yes, but THIS one was fulfilled!”

          But I think you underestimate non-believers. I think many of them would be more than willing to believe if only given a little evidence. After all, look how many people believe strange things without any evidence at all! Imagine what they would believe with just a little evidence!

          As for the lottery, it’s not about financial gain, I don’t even play the lotto. My eternal life, and the eternal life of anyone who may read this, is worth far more than money. Since selecting these 6 numbers (in the correct order) is highly improbable and cannot be self-fulfilling, I would HAPPILY accept this as evidence. It may not be enough evidence for some, but that’s perfect, since God doesn’t seem to keen on making it too obvious that He exists (or was this just an idea that was invented to cover up for the fact that God — and all other gods — are invisible?).

          The point is, you can’t do it, NO Christian can do it. Not because God has a laundry list of reasons why He can’t predict numbers, but because it’s likely man made Him up. So today, we Christians are stuck making excuses for God, even though He was perfectly fine with confirming His existence through prophecy in the past.

          If God no longer does prophecy, does He still answer prayers? Because I would also be willing to accept healing an amputee… or calling down fire from heaven. But I’m pretty sure can’t do these, either. He only does them in stories. :-(

          • Brad says:

            Thanks for the reply, 500. I’ll take a look at #37. Somehow I’m not surprised you even rejected that one. For now, I have to get back to work.

        • David Salter says:

          There are many ways a god could communicate with us to show he existed; like maybe one day we wake up and everyone on the planet had the exact same dream in the night (ignoring time differences for now). If I had had the same dream, then I would be convinced. Or he could re-arrange the stars in the sky to spell out a message. If he really did exist, don’t you think it would be in his interest to confirm his existence, and allow all the billions of people who have the “wrong” religion to correct their ways? If this did happen, I would then ask him why he chose to be so elusive, and why he played pranks on us like planting dinosaur bones in the ground in order to fool us into thinking that life evolved from a common ancestor, or why he gave me such an analytical brain, able to understand all the laws of the physical world so that I can design and build things that really work (thereby confirming that my knowledge is correct) – but not presenting me with convincing evidence of his existence, but instead presenting me with a large amount of contradictory evidence, thereby, in effect, choosing to make me an atheist.

          Then I would ask why he ignores the prayers of thousands of innocent children who are suffering and dying of starvation every day, whilst answering the prayers of privileged, well nourished white people, who wish to get a promotion at work or win the lottery. Because if he really does exist, and has the power to provide for these people, but chooses to ignore them, then he is not worthy of worship. And if he does not have the power to do this, then why call him god?

          • Amen. If He wants to lay low and not give himself away, why come in person, walking around on water, raising people from the dead, and healing thousands? Didn’t this destroy the faith and free will of those who witnessed these events? Apparently not, they crucified him anyway. And this isn’t exactly the behavior of a God who doesn’t want people to know He exists.

            The real irony is that God Himself seems to recognize that we humans are unable to distinguish between the real god and made-up gods. So what does He do? He demands that false gods prove themselves by demonstrating their knowledge of the future or making some visible display of power (Isaiah 41:21-24). So that’s all I’m asking for, either a specific prediction about the future, or even a small demonstration of His existence (#7). Because I’m really not sure if God exists or is just imaginary. :-(

            • Brad says:

              500, there are a multitude of prophecies that have been fulfilled; I’ve already mentioned several that go hand-in-hand regarding Israel. And the one from Zechariah 12:1-3 calls Jerusalem a heavy stone, a burden for the world – is Jerusalem not the point of contention that the world revolves around? Palestine claims Jerusalem as their capital. So does Israel. The world wants to divide it. Terrorism springs from every corner of the world with this as a point of inflamation. No one has been able to solve this problem.

              If you take each single prophecy and search the web for criticism against it, of course you will find reasons to reject it, and you will swallow those reasons whole, because you have a strong bias against the existence of God. But if you are open-minded, the evidence is there; part of the problem is you must have an open heart, and actively seek Him in prayer and in His word.

              And, surely God could come down and do miracles, and a portion of mankind would believe, but there are times and seasons for everything – He has his plan, and if He can create vast galaxies, it might be a better plan than we can recognize or understand with our relatively puny minds. I can appreciate that you and Salter are very proud of your powers of logic and reason, but not every problem in this world is solvable through human logic and reason.

              And, Salter, how do you know whose prayers are answered? For all you know, many of those starving children received help, and many of those white people were ignored. And if you want convincing evidence, then you are not willing to step out in faith, and you demonstrate your own stubborn heart, as well as your fear of and disregard for anything that does not fit into your neat little box of human reason.

              Guys, if you truly want to experience God, you’ll have to reach outside of yourselves, and outside of your comfort zones.

              • Saying things like, “not every problem in this world is solvable through human logic and reason” or that we need to “reach outside ourselves” to find the answers is just the kind of subjective, fuzzy-logic that justifies faith in all kinds of nonsense. There’s no need to PROVE anything, it doesn’t even need to be logical or reasonable, it just needs to FEEL true.

                (It’s interesting to note that some new studies show that people who rely on instinct to answer questions tend to be more religious than those who rely on logic, see: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/336/6080/493.)

                If people must believe BEFORE they can see the truth in prophecy, then these prophecies must not be very objective. It sounds more like potential recruits are being primed with the power of suggestion to confirm a particular bias. In an upcoming question about belief in Biblical inerrancy, we observe this same sort of thinking; nonbelievers see lots of errors in the Bible, and apologists basically admit that unless you’re already a believer, you’re not going to be able to confirm your own inerrancy bias. Again, you need to believe it before you can see it. I think the same thing happens with prophecy. So either this is all part of God’s plan, or people confirm their own biases.

                Still, even after all of that, I’m not entirely opposed to the idea. If God really has predicted events that avoid all the logical pitfalls mentioned under question 32, then I’ll happily admit where the Bible has nailed it.

                You and Dave both seem like intelligent folks, thanks for the conversation. :-)

                • Brad says:

                  500, I appreciate the conversation also.

                  And, yeah, for some reason God wants us to believe it before we see it; keep in mind the magnitude of creation He has already provided us with, which in itself should serve as some kind of evidence He exists, at least in my opinion. I look at the stars, and they are witnesses of His handiwork. I look into my wife’s eyes, and see a soul that was not put here by chance.

                  Hebrews 11:6 is memorable in this regard: “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”

              • David Salter says:

                I think we can safely assume that the thousands of starving children, who then subsequently die of starvation, did not get their prayers answered.

                And how can you assume that I have a “stubborn heart”, or a “fear” of anything that does not fit a preconceived belief? I have spent my life reading and figuring out how things work so that I can come to a conclusion that is void of confirmation bias. The fact that I came to my conclusion AFTER the research, rather than before, suggests that there was no preconceived idea – just a curiosity to understand the difference between real and imaginary.

            • David Salter says:

              Just a small point regarding “of those who witnessed these events?”. The first gospel (Mark I think) was written about 70 years after any of this was supposed to have happened. The rest were written decades after this – and each separated by many years, so the authors of subsequent gospels had aleady read the previous versions, and were able to add bits of their own, or miss out the bits they didn’t like – that is why there are so many differences between them. I think one or two of them forget to mention the bit about the virgin birth – rather pertinent don’t you think? So how can the gospels be called eyewitness accounts, when there is only a slim chance that even the very first one had any first-hand input?

              Another interesting point is, if there really was a man walking around and performing “miracles”, then why was none of this recorded at the time it happened? We have real historical documents recording the actions of other prominent people of the time, but nothng on the so-called messiah that can independently verify anything written in the Bible.

              • Brad says:

                Way off, David; 70 years after any of this happened would mean 30 A.D. plus 70 years would be 100 A.D. Even Wikipedia, which is not a great source for Christian research, dates the gospel of Mark at between 65-73 A.D. Traditional Christian scholarship dates Mark at 50’s to early 60’s. Keep in mind these gospels are first-hand accounts. Also, tradition holds that they were written in Greek, but there is evidence that they could have been written in Hebrew initially.

                And there are some interesting bits about Jesus in the Jewish talmud, this first one mentions magic, which could be taken to mean some kind of miracles:

                “Jesus the Nazarene [who] practised magic and led Israel astray.” (from b. Sabbat 116b and b. Sanhedrin 107b).

                And this:

                “Our rabbis taught: During the last forty years before the destruction of the Temple the lot ['For the Lord'] did not come up in the right hand; nor did the crimson-colored strap become white; nor did the western most light shine; and the doors of the Hekel [Temple] would open by themselves” (Soncino version, Yoma 39b).

                This last one is fascinating because the temple was destroyed in 70 AD, so if we walk back the forty years mentioned, we get to 30 AD, when Yeshua/Jesus was crucified. The “lot not coming up in the right hand” refers to the Yom Kippur practice of using two stones to decide which goat would be sacrificed. Chance dictates it would be in each hand roughly and equal number of times over the years, but for 40 years it was always in the left hand of the priest. “Nor did the crimson strap become white” refers to the bloody cloth they tied to the scapegoat and to the temple door – it turned white to signify the sacrifice had been accepted – but not after 30 AD. I don’t want to make a superlong post but the temple doors would open by themselves is also significant – how strange is that? Now anyone can enter to God’s presence, not only priests.

                More about it here:

                http://www.evidencetoconsider.com/prophecies-messianic/talmudic-evidence-for-the-messiah-at-30-ad

                This talmudic evidence is significant because the Jewish peole are the last ones in the world who would want to present evidence that Jesus is the Messiah. Yet there it is, in their own talmud.

                • David Salter says:

                  That is interesting, I have not heard of that before, but then I am not a professional theologist. Isn’t the Jewish talmud just another religious scripture though? It is quite likely that all the scriptures borrowed bits of stories from each other, as they were so spread out in time, meaning every new scripture was written by someone who had read all the previous ones. This does also illustrate the strong likelihood of confirmation bias; there will be false causation attributed to events by people expecting them th happen – a bit like the faked measles outbreak in Wales recently; only the diagnosis was increased, not the actual accurence of the disease.

                  • Brad says:

                    I’m not a professional theologist either. The Jewish talmud is the written record of what was once called the “Oral Law”. It began with teachings that the Jews say were given to Moses on the mountain, describing details and nuances of how to keep the written commandments found in the first five books of the bible – but then was added to and became a written record of the theological insights of Jewish spriitual leaders throughout time. It is highly regarded by the Jews, orthodox Jews even memorize many parts of it.

                    I’m not surprised that you would immediately launch into some kind of refutation of this as evidence, David. I think I’ll just walk away now… may you one day find the evidence that satisfies you.

  14. sonicx says:

    somehow to atheists this is in no way suprising.

  15. Brad says:

    The point of this blog post was to point out that the more intelligent a person is, the less likely they are to believe in God; I produced evidence in a post above that IQ increases up to twenty points with education (actually can go up to 20 points each way), and we all know that from high school to university, the educational system is biased against faith, and towards materialistic explanations for the creation of the universe and the creation of life. That in large part explains the graph shown at the top of this page.

    Einstein, whose IQ was higher than anyone reading this blog, said:

    “As I have said so many times, God doesn’t play dice with the world.”

    “I’m not an atheist and I don’t think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many different languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn’t know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. “

    • Yes, but we must also ask WHY the education system favors natural explanations instead of Biblical ones.

      It wasn’t long ago that Christianity WAS the mainstream scientific view in many parts of the Western world. When discoveries made in different fields conflicted with the existing Biblical worldviews, educated men were forced to adopt a different model. If the Bible was consistently confirmed through scientific discoveries (e.g. tons of evidence for a global flood, completely different DNA between animals and man, Ark sitting atop a mountain with poop from all known species, etc.), there would’ve been no need for the change in thinking.

      Einstein was indeed a genius, but he was just one man. Stephen Hawking also has an exceptionally high IQ, and doesn’t believe God is a necessary entity. Terence Tao has arguably one of the highest IQs in the world (around 210) and is an atheist. Perhaps Einstein would have a different view if he were alive today.

      The point here is that people who are taught how to think, can use those tools to prove things like creationism as well as naturalism, and applying those tools they tend to move away from religion. Our educational system isn’t being driven by some great secular conspiracy to lead people away from God. Scholars and scientists of the past just had the balls to follow the evidence where it led, regardless of what the church said.

      • David Salter says:

        Why do you not ask “Why are there always natural explanations?” Surely something must have happened by magic, if we have a magic sky god, but alas, every time throughout history, when we investigate claims of magical happenings, they turn out to not be magic.

        There will always be that “fringe” of discovery, right on the edge of our scientific undrstanding, but to claim that is where is magic happens is to fall for the “god of the gaps” hypothesis – what we don’t understand today, wll be shown to have understandable natural laws in a decade or so – so the knowledge horizon advances, and the gods get squeezed into an ever decreasing space.

      • Anonymous says:

        We’re not living in the 1500’s when the church dictated what science could do – in today’s world, you need balls to argue against evolution and materialism. People tend to move with the herd, which does not always mean towards the truth.

    • David Salter says:

      Manye people have quoted that phrase from Einstein, mistaken thinking that is means he was religious – The man himself stated the contrary, repeatedly. He was a Deist at the most, in the same was as Spinola, and quite often used the word “God” as a way of describing the laws of nature. The “God does not play dice” quote was actually in response to Hoyle (I think) because Einstein refused to believe in the uncertainty principle, as he thought the universe is completely deterministic – on which point he was later proved wrong – so even super-intelligent beiings get it wrong ocassionally!

      • Anonymous says:

        You said it yourself, he was a diest at the most – I never painted him as a bible-carrying pentacostal. A look at his quotes reveals a man in awe of the unknown creator of the universe: http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Albert_Einstein

        Yeah, even super-intelligent beings like Stephen Hawking can resort to desperate and convoluted inventions like infinite universes to explain away fine-tuning! The simpler explanation is usually the best, and I can think of nothing quite so complex as infinite universes.

        • David Salter says:

          The Occam’s Razor of simple explanations is indeed what many people use to show how ridiculously complex the idea of a “god” is – requiring further explanation like “what is the nature of god”, “who made god”, “where did he came from” etc – and you argue that he always existed, so is therefore infinite. All I am saying is that you don’t need god AND infinity, you just need infinity all on it’s own – what’s complicated about that?

          • Anonymous says:

            Oh, nothing complicated about *infinite universes*, which cannot be proven or even tested, David, nothing at all.

            Personally, I find the idea of God, which also serves to explain the creation of this universe, the big bang, and the fine-tuning inherent in this universe, much more easy to buy. You don’t need God and infinity, you just need God, David.

            • David Salter says:

              You are failing to realize that, as I explained in great detail earlier on this post, all you need for there to be an infinite number of universes is simply an infinite space-time, and the tiniest possibility of a quantum fluctuation that can separate energy and dark energy – that’s it! Sounds pretty simple so me, as any impossibly tiny possibiliy becomes a certainty when you multiply by infinity. As you will already have a grasp of the concept of infinity (claiming your god to be infinite), then all you have to get your head around is the nature of quantum fluctuations.

            • David Salter says:

              I think the clue is in your phrase “easy to buy”, as the reason for gods being invented in the first place was people needed to “understand” things, before they knew anything about how our universe really works. Physics, for some people is hard work to understand; far easier to just say “god did it”. My opinion is that religion is simply a “side effect” of consciousness.

              • Anonymous says:

                David, I don’t have any problem with infinity, but I find the idea of infinite universes contrived – it only became necessary when the extreme improbability of a life-supporting, finely-tuned universe became apparent. I don’t blame you for clinging to your materialistic explanations, after all, that is the lense through which you view the world, and the only thing you can have faith in.

                I will close with a quote from Dr. Richard Lewontin, professor of Zoology at Harvard University:

                “It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door”

                I am done. Feel free to have the last word.

                • David Salter says:

                  But if the material explanations did not exist,then we would not find them, that’s kind of the point of science’ it’s aim is to remove, as much as possible, the undeniable irrational thinking of human thinking and confirmation bias. Whereas, before we realised the extent of this error producing thinking, humans believed all sorts of crazy ideas – simply because they “felt” right – and this is the kind of thinking that still enables religious people to cling to bronze age myths.

                  There is no “clinging” on my part – as again I explained earlier – I started out skeptical of everything – and searched for reliable information before I reached a conclusion (after many decades of reading). Science is reliable because it produces demonstrable predictions that can be verified – religion does not.

                  “but I find the idea of infinite universes contrived” – again, you still fail to understand the implications of an infinite space-time – there is no leap of faith here, it is simple mathematics, that the tiniest possible improbability in an infinite space-time, will always be a certainty. ie infinity, multiplied by any number greater than zero = infinity. No leap of faith required. All that is left is to understand the nature of quantum fluctuations, as best we can – and that’s it! I really don’t see the problem, unless you have a reason to be biased against this idea.

                • Anonymous says:

                  David doesn’t “cling” to materialistic explanations. Clinging onto something would suggest that he actually has to fight something that actually convinces him to some extent in order to defend and protect his view points. Insinuating his belief is some sort of simple copout is absurd. As a matter of fact, the typical and simplistic resort is to hush one’s thinking and give in to believing God. He, among many others, don’t struggle not to believe in God. I suppose I’ll speak for myself.

  16. Jonathan says:

    The above posts are very long and I’ve only skimmed through most of them, so forgive me if I’m repeating something that’s already been stated. But I’d like to present a few points that I don’t think have been stated yet:

    Which is more valuable intellect or wisdom? Hopefully you have seen the movie Good Will Hunting. (If not, it’s a must see! Or, at least read the plot summary on Wikipedia.) It’s a great example of the limitations of intellect in and of itself. Will was extremely intelligent, but not too wise.
    I think it’s observable that not all highly intellectual people are wise. Likewise, not all wise people have high intellect. Admittedly, this does not sway the argument toward there being a God, but I do think it reveals that possibly you have a bias towards intellect that might be irrelevant to the discussion… something to ponder.

    Likewise, “…knowledge puffs up while love builds up.” 1 Cor. 8:1. In my experience, intellect tends to lead to prideful and arrogant behavior. Admittedly, I struggle with this. My ego tends to get bloated when I feel like I’m the smartest person in the room. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there are plenty of sincerely humble yet intelligent folks out there, but there tends to be some truth to some stereotypes. I think intellect is important, but I believe there are superior characteristics worth evaluating.

    Another point: God, as I understand Him, wants us to depend on and trust in Him. We can seek to trust Him or follow our own self-sufficiency. For example, God promised Abraham and Sarah a son, but at first, instead of trusting, Abraham (and Sarah) took matters into their own hands and Abraham did have a son, but not THE promised son. My point here is that self-sufficiency moves us away from God. Dependency moves us closer to God.

    I think it’s plausible to state that in general the higher one’s intellect, the more likely that individual is to be self-sufficient. Maybe your data is really just stating that those who are more self-sufficient are less likely to believe in God, and those people happen to also have higher intellect. [You could even have logical fallacy here, but I’m not an expert in that field and it’s not relevant to my point anyway.]

    So assuming you agree that those who are less self-sufficient are more likely to depend on God, you could be thinking I’ve just proven the agnostic/atheistic point that God is simply a crutch for the weak. Yes and no. The God of the Bible is a God for the underdog. The Bible is full of examples, inheritance going to the second son (which was unfathomable in that culture), favoritism of the youngest son (e.g. Joseph), David and Goliath, “blessed are the meek,” gentiles sharing in the covenant of the Jews, etc.

    Giving this, to me it’s neither surprising, nor damning to my beliefs, that those with higher intellects are less likely to believe in God. It actually fits well with God’s characteristics.

    [If I have time later, I’ll address the “Stay stupid, stay saved” point.]

    • David Salter says:

      It appears you equate wisdom with believing that there are invisible beings in the sky.
      Do you think that wisdom and intellect are mutually excusive? And regarding the “Good Will Hunting” film (one of my favorite films BTW), I agree that great intellect without EXPERIENCE is not wisdom, but surely, a young, inexperienced person with a great intellect will grow to a greater wisdom than those with a lesser intellect, simply because he will extract and learn so much more from every moment of life.
      Sorry to generalise, but your point of view is quite classic of people who see the world through god-shaped glasses.

      • Jonathan says:

        No, wisdom does not equal seeing invisible things in the sky. [For the record, I never have nor have claimed to have seen anything invisible, in the sky or elsewhere. If it were invisible, how could I have seen it? Duh :)]
        Nor do I claim that wisdom and intellect are mutually exclusive. (Not even sure how you came to that conclusion from my post.) As a crude definition I could say wisdom is the proper application of intellect + experience + intuition/judgement. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wisdom – this definition is sufficient.
        I think you have missed my point. The question is, is it valid to just measure intellect, as implied by the original question? What other important characteristics are the survey excluding to consider?

        You say a great intellectual will grow to greater wisdom than those with lesser intellect. Here’s my challenge to you: What if the person with great intellect is lazy and unmotivated and the lesser intellect is passionate and self-motivated? I challenge you to research the typical traits of successful business people. You’ll find that intellect is surprisingly lower on the list. In this top-ten list by Forbes, intellect did not even make the cut.

        I take no offense in that you think I see the world through God-shaped glasses. I hope you don’t take offense in the fact that I think you see the world through “non-God-shaped?” glasses. I’m not well versed in philosophy, but I’m going to say that it’s not possible for any person to claim he or she has a honestly objective point of view. How can you (or I) be certain that any of our beliefs are unbiased? (This is a philosophical quandary, I don’t expect an answer. Unless you are a philosophy major and already know. Something for me to research later. You can too if you want.)

  17. Anonymous says:

    Honestly, my only reason for Atheism is probability. There are only three basic tenets of science that cannot be proven. Nearly every other word printed in a religious text is without proof, and many religions clash, while science is always provably accurate upon those assumptions. Assuming that every choice is binary (for this purpose, we’ll say that everything either occurs/works, or it doesn’t), that leaves science at a 1/8 chance of being real, whereas any given major religion that I have evaluated has resulted in somewhere below a 2.3E-52 probability, at which point, I assume irrationality and leave them. As a result, scientific reasoning is simply infinitely more realistic than religion.

    I honestly find religion to be roughly the equivalent of a fine arts major in college. There isn’t anything wrong with it, but it serves no purpose, and due to the ease of the work relative to other subjects (and the resultant lack of critical thinking), it has become a refuge for the mentally unskilled. Admittedly, though, the one positive thing about religion being the norm throughout most of the world is that it helps to distinguish people who lack these skills from the people who have them. When atheism becomes the norm, we won’t have that ability, and the people with no logical skill will be mixed in with those who do. While I would love to see a world free from inaccuracy, and I would as soon advocate religion as book burnings, there are many benefits to the simplicity of the current situation.

  18. DontBeIgnorantWEAREGODandweCANLOVEandstopTHERape says:

    I’ve got simple answer here! God didn’t want smart people in Heaven! Because then he couldn’t lie, fool, and control them. Lol God is clearly evil….Thank god he isn’t REAL!

  19. Pingback: Christianity and education - Christian Forums

  20. Science FTW says:

    Please rectify the graph associated with this paragraph “The 2008 report Average intelligence predicts atheism rates across 137 nations finds a negative correlation between national IQ and disbelief in God across 137 countries. Their research cites other collaborating evidence, such as: a decline in religious belief among aging adolescents, declines in belief as populations get smarter, and 43 other studies that investigated similar questions and found negative correlations 93% of the time. Looking at their chart (right) it appears we humans begin to question God when our IQs exceed 90. If we extrapolate this trend, we can theorize that most of us would be atheist if our IQs were above 140 or so.”

    It is grossly misinterpreted. It does not state that a person’s IQ must be 140 or higher to no believe in god. Rather it states that as a countries percent of atheists increases that the mean IQ of that nation increases. This stands to reason that as there are more people in the country that don’t believe in god, the overall IQ of its people increases. This does not relate to an individuals IQ by any means. It simply states that persons living in a country with higher % of atheists are better at scoring higher on IQ tests.

    As to the validity of IQ tests, it is true that many are culturally bound but there are parts that are considered “culturally unbiased”. One such test is the block design subtest of the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale. This test is the ability of an individual to recreate a design presented to them with blocks that are half white and half red. Many people like to believe that the test become invalid if they are administered in countries that they were not developed, but the fact of the matter is that IQ tests have been around long enough to have been normed in nearly every country.

    Sincerely,

    An atheist psychology grad student

    • David says:

      It’s a shame the author of this is not as smart as the people he is citing, otherwise he would realise that 10 isolated examples do not constitute a trend, and intelligence without wisdom is often ignorant about the philosophical questions. It is still true that “generally”, smart people question authorative religious dogma, and dumb people accept it without question.

      • Anonymous says:

        … Maybe this is by design?

        1 Corinthians 1
        18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,
        “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
        And the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.”
        20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.

        26 For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28 and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, 29 so that no man may boast before God.

        • David says:

          Sorry, but every time someone throws scripture at me during a discussion on the existence of magic sky fairies, I can’t help thinking of the prophets in Monty Python’s Life of Brian – hilarious! But far from being simply an anti-religious pisstake, it is actually quite an intelligent explanation of how relions get started in the first place.

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