Friday, February 23, 2007

Intelligence and Religion

Half Sigma got me into the General Social Survey, which "is a survey used to collect data on demographic characteristics and attitudes of residents of the United States" (Wikipedia.)

One of the data taken by the survey is the result of a vocabulary test. Half Sigma has been using this as a proxy for intelligence, which is of course imprecise, but still interesting. Anyway, I've been playing around with Berkeley's GSS analysis tool. I'm sure there are some variables I should have controlled for, but I'm a computer programmer, not a statistician. :-)

Here are some things I've come up with:

People who score higher on the vocabulary test are much less likely to believe that the Bible is "the word of God," to be "fundamentalist," to believe "God concerned with human beings personally," to consider church "very important," or to believe that "atheists shouldn't hold public office."





7 comments:

beepbeepitsme said...

RE: "People who score higher on the vocabulary test are much less likely to believe that the Bible is "the word of God," to be "fundamentalist," to believe "God concerned with human beings personally," to consider church "very important," or to believe that "atheists shouldn't hold public office."

Now that's interesting. Going to check out the site now.

BTW, I have a Social Responsibility and Awareness Questionnaire on my site at the moment, if anyone would like to take the test.

ted said...

These are some excellent results -- most fascinating. Thanks!

Laura said...

I'd like to see degree of religiosity crosstabbed with the ability to read complicated stacked bar charts ;)

I'll have to play with this, it looks like a lot of fun. I'm not a 'statistician' per se, but I do work with statistics an awful lot. This would be a fun diversion.

littlefoxling said...

JA,

These numbers aren’t as good as they seem at first glance. If you take the first question as an example, even for people who scored a 10, the majority seemed to think that the Bible was at least inspired. Now, you will argue, but the trend is for increased intelligence to correlate with decreased religiosity. But, that is not necessarily relevant. For example, suppose we modeled religious belief as follows: people who are not educated believe in religion on ground of dogma. People who scored a 10 make a rational choice as to religion. In that model, the atheists still come out loosing because the majority of even the most educated are not atheists. It may be true that the very uneducated don’t have the option be atheists, but of those that do have the option, most choose to reject anyway.

Moreover, this shows correlation, not causation. Perhaps those that went to better schools (better vocabulary) were the same that were brainwashed by those same schools to be atheists.

jewish philosopher said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jewish philosopher said...

I am a member of American Mensa, the national high IQ society, and according to our members survery (March 2006) 4.06% are atheist, 6.83% agnostic, 8.68% no religion. Beyond that, we seem to have every denomination, pretty much in proportion to the US population. I've been amazed how many letters the Mensa journals get defending young earth creationism and right wing Christianity in general.

It just isn't true that smart people are especially secular.

I do have an impression that leading scientists tend to be atheists, however I think that a mindset of "nature is all there is" encourages a career in science. If I had remained an atheist, I might well have gone into science.

Jewish Atheist said...

littlefoxling:

These numbers aren’t as good as they seem at first glance. If you take the first question as an example, even for people who scored a 10, the majority seemed to think that the Bible was at least inspired.

I know. I just think the correlation between intelligence (or at least vocab) and less religion is interesting.


JP:

It just isn't true that smart people are especially secular.

It's clear from the data in this survey that smart people are MORE secular than less smart people. Your personal anecdotal evidence is not as strong as a decades-long survey. Moreover, Mensa attracts weirdos and smart fundamentalists tend to be wierdos. I qualify for Mensa as well, but I don't see the point of joining.