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Intelligence & Religiosity
Posted: 11 October 2006 03:32 PM   [ Ignore ]  
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Just finished the letter; thank you very much Sam Harris. I was surprised, however, that he didn't mention intelligence once.

It is my experience that the capacity to understand equals the capacity to be rational.

Intelligent people are able to extract themselves from dogmatic situations because they can easily perceive the limits of ancient dogma when compared to the accumulated understanding of the manifest universe.

In many ways, the variation of intelligence is at the root of the existence of religion itself. Complex physical and moral observations that were easily perceived by a few have been distilled into more accessible forms, which over years became the worlds religions.

If intelligence variation is at the root of religion, what hope do we have to shake the world of dependance on religion? If it takes a certain level of perceptive ability to perceive and understand the facts of the natural world, and most people simply don't have this ability, is a solution even possible?

I realize that discussing intelligence in this fashion is just as inflammatory as Sam's writings, as I am essentially saying that religious people are less intelligent than the non-religious. However, if indeed I am correct, or even partially correct, the conversion Sam is advocating must include frank discussions of how the capacity to understand the increasingly complex rational perspective that Sam believes should take the place of religion shapes the challenges of a rational society.

That all said, of course there are many very intelligent people who hold religious beliefs. You, dear reader, may indeed consider yourself both intelligent and religious. If so, consider yourself proof that intelligence does not always equal rational, which unfortuntately only increases the challenges we face.  :D

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Posted: 11 October 2006 04:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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Sometimes I do wonder about the intelligence level of the devoutly religious.  I am, for example, currently engaged in a debate on another site, and when challenged to point out errors of fact in the Bible, I referred to Leviticus 11:6 “And the hare, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you.”

I pointed out that hares do not chew a cud. This is a false statement. It is an error, period.

My opponent’s reply was:

Was there a hare at one time that chewed it’s cud? Must have been, since it’s referred to and the Jews, who were from an agrairian society, didn’t think anything about it. If anyone would have know about the actual lifestyles of animals, it would be early man.

What can you say to someone so impenetrable?  And this is hardly the only time I’ve encountered such a reaction by a Christian when confronted with inconvenient information in the course of a debate.  Facts and evidence just roll off.  No amount of evidence will make a dent in the armor of ignorance, dogma, and indoctrination.  No mental gymnastics are too athletic for them to use in justifying their preconceived ideas.  I weep for the future of my species when I encounter so herculean a capacity for self-deception and wishful thinking.  But once someone becomes a slave to an ideology, it makes them stupid.

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I am the very model of a Christian Evangelical
I’ve no need for courtesy when fighting things heretical
I know the bible word for word; you’ll find me pedagogical
I have my faith so I’ve no need for ideas that are logical
Atheists and Pagans fall before my wit satirical
They’ll burn in hell just as they should; their cries will be so lyrical
I’m always right, you’re always wrong, my reasoning’s dogmatical
For I’m the very model of a Christian Evangelical

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Posted: 11 October 2006 05:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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I did notice that Harris’ new book contains no words that would need to be passed by or looked up by anyone with a 6th-grade education. The book is also, interestingly, under 100 pages long. Hmmm.

On the other hand I’d better not say too much, since I was a Christian for most of my life.

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Philosophy may in no way interfere with the actual use of language; it can in the end only describe it. For it cannot give it any foundations either. It leaves everything as it is.
Ludwig Wittgenstein

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Posted: 11 October 2006 06:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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[quote author=“Billy Shears”]I pointed out that hares do not chew a cud. This is a false statement. It is an error, period.

Billy my boy, think again. Do not be so easily decieved.  Hares perform a function named cecotropy. Cecotropy is the process by which rabbits will reingest part of their feces directly from the rectum. Yes….that word was “reingest.” Tain’t God smart.

The Lord’s servant must not quarrel, but be gentle towards all, able to teach, patient, in gentleness correcting those who oppose him: perhaps God may give them repentance leading to a full knowledge of the truth, and they may recover themselves out of the devil’s snare, having been taken captive by him to his will.
2 Tim 2:24-26

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Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matt 11:28-29

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Posted: 11 October 2006 06:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religiosity_and_intelligence
There is little research directly linking IQ with higher or lower levels of religiosity and spirituality.

http://www.bookrags.com/Intelligence_quotient
Several studies have investigated the relationship between intelligence and the degree of religious belief (excluding humanism), with most showing that intelligence averages decrease significantly with the “importance of religion” an IQ testee rates as apt. Many studies chiefly show the same results (despite time of study, location, etc.). Charles Murray, author of The Bell Curve, chronicled the attitudes and beliefs of the Elites (elite in regards to I.Q.) in regards to religion spanning from Ancient times to the Modern Day and across the globe in his book, Human Accomplishment. He wrote that Elites in the First World, post-1950, are mostly hostile towards religion.

http://www.halfsigma.com/2006/06/religious_peopl.html
I’ve become addicted to analyzing the General Social Survey . . . One of the clearest trends I observed is the inverse correlation between religiosity and verbal IQ (the GSS includes a verbal IQ test). In other words, people who are more religious tend to be less intelligent. . . To demonstrate this, here are some charts which show, for a particular viewpoint, the percent of people with that viewpoint who have high verbal IQs. . . 

I do not predict what further research on the question may uncover. As nearly as I can tell, an equally good alternative explanation for the data so far is that scepticism may be equally distributed up and down the intelligence scale but the more intelligent people realize they can tell the truth about the matter with fewer repercussions. It would be rash to leap to any exact conclusion about an individual’s intelligence knowing only his stance on religion. The Jesuits, for example, are noted scholars. (Still I’d rather deal with the Bene Gesserit, and particularly after they learned all those tricks from the Reverend Mothers.)

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Posted: 11 October 2006 06:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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[quote author=“TheChampion”][quote author=“Billy Shears”]I pointed out that hares do not chew a cud. This is a false statement. It is an error, period.

Billy my boy, think again. Do not be so easily decieved.  Hares perform a function named cecotropy. Cecotropy is the process by which rabbits will reingest part of their feces directly from the rectum. Yes….that word was “reingest.” Tain’t God smart.

The Lord’s servant must not quarrel, but be gentle towards all, able to teach, patient, in gentleness correcting those who oppose him: perhaps God may give them repentance leading to a full knowledge of the truth, and they may recover themselves out of the devil’s snare, having been taken captive by him to his will.
2 Tim 2:24-26

This process may serve a similar purpose, but it’s still fundamentally different in many respects, and rabbits and hares do not chew a “cud” which ruminants such as cows regurgitate from their stomachs to chew again.  This is why rabbits and hares are not classified as ruminants.

But I give you some credit for a much better attempt at rebuttal than my oponent in the other debate made.

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I am the very model of a Christian Evangelical
I’ve no need for courtesy when fighting things heretical
I know the bible word for word; you’ll find me pedagogical
I have my faith so I’ve no need for ideas that are logical
Atheists and Pagans fall before my wit satirical
They’ll burn in hell just as they should; their cries will be so lyrical
I’m always right, you’re always wrong, my reasoning’s dogmatical
For I’m the very model of a Christian Evangelical

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Posted: 11 October 2006 06:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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Intelligent people are able to extract themselves from dogmatic situations because they can easily perceive the limits of ancient dogma when compared to the accumulated understanding of the manifest universe.

That ability seems more a function of humility than intelligence.  The ability to consider that one’s finely honed ideas could be in error is one that many highly intelligent people appear to lack, especially when their error is pointed out by someone they consider less intelligent.

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Posted: 11 October 2006 06:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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[quote author=“cpl”]

Intelligent people are able to extract themselves from dogmatic situations because they can easily perceive the limits of ancient dogma when compared to the accumulated understanding of the manifest universe.

That ability seems more a function of humility than intelligence.  The ability to consider that one’s finely honed ideas could be in error is one that many highly intelligent people appear to lack, especially when their error is pointed out by someone they consider less intelligent.

Truer words were never spoken.  And the more committed to his/her beliefs someone is, the harder it is to admit error.  This is why the process of shedding belief, when it does take place, is usually a very gradual one.  It’s hard to shake off deeply held beliefs, and few people do it without a struggle.

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I am the very model of a Christian Evangelical
I’ve no need for courtesy when fighting things heretical
I know the bible word for word; you’ll find me pedagogical
I have my faith so I’ve no need for ideas that are logical
Atheists and Pagans fall before my wit satirical
They’ll burn in hell just as they should; their cries will be so lyrical
I’m always right, you’re always wrong, my reasoning’s dogmatical
For I’m the very model of a Christian Evangelical

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Posted: 12 October 2006 01:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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[quote author=“Billy Shears”]What can you say to someone so impenetrable?


“Would you be willing to serve as a subject for some psychological experiments?”

Byron

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“We say, ‘Love your brother…’ We don’t say it really, but… Well we don’t literally say it. We don’t really, literally mean it. No, we don’t believe it either, but… But that message should be clear.”—David St. Hubbins

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Posted: 12 October 2006 01:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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[quote author=“SkepticX”][quote author=“Billy Shears”]What can you say to someone so impenetrable?


“Would you be willing to serve as a subject for some psychological experiments?”

Byron

HAH!

thats great.

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Posted: 12 October 2006 02:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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This thread confuses me. Are atheists more intelligent or more humble? Are they both intelligent and humble? Are they humble because of their intelligence? Can one proclaim to be humble and intelligent with a straight face? Is humility like silence, that once spoken it disappears? Please explain to this dumb proud Christian (I know that must sound redundant) I need some insight from the people who know that they are really smart and at the same time know that they are really humble.

humbly… (of course I mean arrogantly),
frank

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Posted: 12 October 2006 02:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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frankr, I couldn’t follow it either. I got lost in a haze of sweeping generalities without evidence. Here is a story about one man demonstrating an ideal in humility, but it would be a mistake to claim that scientists always act this way.

I do remember one formative influence in my undergraduate life. There was an elderly professor in my department who had been passionately keen on a particular theory for, oh, a number of years. And one day a visiting American researcher came and he utterly disproved the old man’s hypothesis. The old man stood up, walked to the front, shook his hand and said “My dear fellow, I wish to thank you. I have been wrong these fifty years.” We all clapped our hands. That was the scientific ideal of somebody who had a lot invested, a life time almost, invested in the theory and he was rejoicing that he had been shown wrong and that scientific proof had been advanced.—Richard Dawkins

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Posted: 12 October 2006 02:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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I think in large part, the intelligence-religiousityconnection has to do with indoctrination and dogma. High level scientists and otherwise intelligent people are still taught from birth about the seperation of science and religion, and how they each represent a different bailiwick.

A quantum physics researcher that goes to church on sunday simply believes that his research may somehow work into gods plan. Its fairly easy to see this.

Despite how intelligent these people may be, they have been taught to be incapable of seeing the contradictions of logic in the religious arena, much ini the same way their schooling has allowed them to see discover logic n their mathematics. They have been given the apologetic answers to the contradictions of words, such as in the bible, as well.

A question about those studies linking intelligence and religiosity: Is it not feasible (gross generalization here) that a large portion of the link is the “south”, and the “bible belt” populations? I mean we typically think of them as lower IQ regions, and they lap up religion harder than anybody because its a stronger part of their culture. Is their inability to see the contradictions a result of low IQ and social conditioning from religion?

Adam

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Posted: 12 October 2006 02:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]  
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frankr, no straight faces here…

I need some insight from the people who know that they are really smart and at the same time know that they are really humble.

Hats off for such a well-constructed snipe hunt. LOL

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Posted: 12 October 2006 02:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]  
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[quote author=“auryn0151”]. . .
A question about those studies linking intelligence and religiosity: Is it not feasible (gross generalization here) that a large portion of the link is the “south”, and the “bible belt” populations? I mean we typically think of them as lower IQ regions, and they lap up religion harder than anybody because its a stronger part of their culture. Is their inability to see the contradictions a result of low IQ and social conditioning from religion?

Lower IQ, due to their accent? I’ll admit that I might laugh at a joke or two about this sort of thing, but I would hope we can engage in a more serious discussion, and that we could if not lose our preconceived bias, at least temporarily put it aside.

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Philosophy may in no way interfere with the actual use of language; it can in the end only describe it. For it cannot give it any foundations either. It leaves everything as it is.
Ludwig Wittgenstein

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Posted: 12 October 2006 05:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]  
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That ability seems more a function of humility than intelligence.

Humility in the Christian context is used to keep the “sheep” in the “flock”. Beware of any situation where an individual’s unique ideas or attributes are systematically suppressed. Humility is not an attribute that will help anyone escape dogmatic programming.

The ability to hold and consider multiple conflicting perspectives in your thoughts is the skill that allows someone to make informed decisions about what is likely to be true. This is a function of mental capacity, or intelligence.

Humility, as defined, is a noble attribute, but it is not what allows me to look into the sky and see a universe of stars and galaxies, and not the campfires of the dead; humility is what allows me accept that I did not make the discoveries that offer me that universal perspective. Humility offers me perspective on the diversity of human ability, without feeling the need to rank or qualify those humans.

In my original post I never used the word “smart” or called anyone “dumb.” My most specific phrase is:

The capacity to understand the increasingly complex rational perspective.

If you are raised to rationally, its not hard to be rational, which includes the ability to consider multiple conflicting human perspectives. If you are not raised rationally, becoming rational is a major re-education, akin to learning a new and fundamentally different language than what you were raised speaking.

The rational perspective is simply more complex than the mythic perspective of the religious,  which means that being rational requires more mental discipline, and far more self-awareness (which leads to real humility).

It is simply harder mentally to be rational, especially if you are trained from birth to be specifically irrational, and hold in high suspicion the attributes of rational thought.

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