Monday, July 21, 2014

Lies, Myths and Misinformation: Smart People Are Atheists

Are more intelligent people atheists? Bill Maher certainly thinks so:
“We are a nation that is unenlightened because of religion. I do believe that. I think that religion stops people from thinking ... I think religion is a neurological disorder ... I am just embarrassed that it has been taken over by people like evangelicals, by people who do not believe in science and rationality.”
So does Richard Dawkins, unsurprisingly:
“By all means let’s be open-minded, but not so open-minded that our brains drop out.” 
And of course the atheists network calls itself “the Brights”, presumably in contrast to those who are not.

I’m referring to an  article by Steve J. Williams of Honolulu Church & State Examiner entitled Of 10 highest IQ's on earth, at least 8 are Theists, at least 6 are Christians. Williams starts this way:
“Have you ever heard the claim “all smart people are atheists”, or maybe its inverse: “people who believe in God are dumb”? It’s quite a pervasive urban legend, and one which I’ve known is false for a long time, but I didn’t realize just how false until the other day. I recently decided to do a quick cataloging of the ten highest IQ’s on earth, and discovered that it’s nearly the exact opposite of the truth!”
I’m not particularly interested in debating whether intellect alone, let alone the IQ metric, is a significant indicator of worth, spirituality or human usefulness. What does interest me is that here is another popular bromide that, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, many Christians may well have believed to be true that turns out — like the one about “most of the wars in history” being “caused by religion” — to not only be flat-out wrong but spectacularly easy to debunk.

Admittedly Williams’ non-scientific method (a quick-’n-dirty cataloguing of the top ten IQs) isn’t definitive, but a more in-depth statistical analysis suggests that the ratio of theists to atheists with +128 IQs may be greater than 11:1.

But I’m not at all sure that spiritual discernment is directly related to IQ in any way that matters. After all, “the world did not know God through wisdom”, and consequently “it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe”. And the Psalmist can say without embarrassment, “I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation”. Compared to that sort of spiritual knowledge, a person’s cognitive ability in relation to the population at large doesn’t seem all that significant.

In that case, who really cares which side can legitimately brag about having the most smart people? I sure don’t. If it turns out that in addition to appealing to the poor, the “poor in spirit”, “those who mourn”, publicans, sinners and those “in need of a doctor”, the Lord's message also appeals to the dull, the semi-sensate and the intellectually sub-standard, I will happily take my place with the latter.

The important point is that there is a lot of evidence out there that doesn’t merely falsify what we are persistently told in the media, it suggests the precise opposite.

In addition to being “harmless as doves”, believers are to be “wise as serpents”.

That God-enabled discernment is something we ought to apply to what we read and hear.

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