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Sunday, June 11, 2017

Sunday Science Blog

Why Are Atheists Generally Smarter Than Religious People?

 For more than a millennium, scholars have noticed a curious correlation: Atheists tend to be more intelligent than religious people. It's unclear why this trend persists, but researchers of a new study have an idea: Religion is an instinct, they say, and people who can rise above instincts are more intelligent than those who rely on them.

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Rational Nation USA said...

Hmm? Certainly never would have thought of it like that. Especially since I've personally known a very many smart religious folks.

Shaw Kenawe said...

The operative word in the post is "generally." So it's not surprising that people who are religious can be smart. It's people like Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Jr., and Franklin Graham that make religious people look stupid, and people like Neil deGrasse Tyson and Stephen Hawking that make atheists look brilliant. (Also Einstein.)

Flying Junior said...

Not to play the devil's advocate or anything of the like, but...

Upon what do you base your idea that Einstein was an atheist? It may well be that he was not a traditional Jew or Messianic Jew. He was doubtless not a Christian. But atheist? I never heard that. If I may be permitted my own unsubstantiated statement, I would think that it would be only a small minority of theoretical physicists, plasma physicists and astronomers that firmly disavow a belief in God.

Certainly many of the world's greatest musicians have been associated with the church. Albert Schweitzer perhaps? Louis Vierne? Marcel Dupré? Mozart? Beethoven? Mendelssohn? Bach? Franck? Widor?

Eugenics is bullshit in any form. Each person makes their way in this world. They are responsible for their own individual triumphs and failures. You might as well say that white people are genetically superior. William Shockley, anyone?

There is human variation. But nothing is to be gained by pigeon-holing people.

anymouse said...

Makes good sense to me, actually. Scientific minds use logic and reason to understand how things work. Many (certainly not all, however) religious minds use superstition and legends found in a book (a Holy book to them, I understand but still 'a book'.)
Of course there are no absolutes, but overall, it makes perfect sense to me. That doesn't make the religious types bad people necessarily, just not a very curious lot, usually.
Curiosity is the bread and butter of intelligence.

Shaw Kenawe said...

Hi F.J.,

Based on what I've read about Einstein, I understand he was not a religious person:

“It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.” -- Albert Einstein

I should have written that Einstein was probably an agnostic, not an atheist. But he surely did not believe in a personal god, one who concerns himself with our own thoughts and daily actions, or one who worries how women and men cover their heads in order to show respect for a deity, or how one conducts his or her sexual life.

Mr. Shaw Kenawe is a graduate of physics from MIT. One of his favorite quotes is from Steven Weinberg, Nobel Laureate in physics: "One of the great achievements of science has been, if not to make it impossible for intelligent people to be religious, then at least to make it possible for them not to be religious. We should not retreat from this accomplishment."

Another favorite quote by Professor Weinberg: "The effort to understand the universe is one of the very few things which lifts human life a little above the level of farce and gives it some of the grace of tragedy."

Shaw Kenawe said...


If people practiced their beliefs and minded their own business, we wouldn't have the many problems we've had with religious fanatics throughout human history. Unfortunately, religion often breeds fanaticism, as we well know, and that has led to the horrors we have witnessed in our own lifetimes.

In my lifetime, I've seen families torn apart because children in those families fell in love with people from religious sects different from their parents and whose children married out of their religious sect. I've witnessed that even in differing Christian sects! A famous example is in the Kennedy family. Jack Kennedy's sister Kathleen "Kick" Kennedy married a Protestant, and her parents never acknowledged or attended the marriage! I've seen many estrangements in families caused by differences in the way people worship their one God, Allah, Jesus, Yahweh, or their many gods in Vishnu Sahasranāma.