The correlation between religiosity and intelligence.

May 21, 2009 | By | 7 Replies More

Gad Saad of Psychology Today reports that really smart people tend to be not religous.   I know that this topic is going to stir up a lot of emotion, but it is quite clear that our smartest scientists tend to not follow religions.   Not that there aren’t lots of blisteringly smart believers out there, some of them first-rate scientists.   The trend says that Nobel Prizes mostly go non-believers.


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Category: Education, Religion

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (7)

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  1. Hank says:

    While I certailny don't think ALL religious people are idiots, an obvious paraphrasing of John Stuart Mill comes to mind:

    "I never meant to say that the Conservatives are generally stupid. I meant to say that stupid people are generally Conservative. I believe that is so obviously and universally admitted a principle that I hardly think any gentleman will deny it."

    – John Stuart Mill in a letter to the Conservative MP, Sir John Pakington (March 1866)

  2. Karl says:

    I guess then that any atheistic scientist that changes from atheism to intelligent design or creation beliefs must be a real moron.

    Fred Hoyle

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Karl: No one doubts that there are numerous exceptions to the correlation. There are many brilliant scientists (and non-scientists) who are devout followers of an organized religion.

  3. I think it may be that smarter people tend not to be "Joiners" more so than less smart people, and you have to be willing to sign on to perhaps too many conditions in order to be religious. There is probably a higher correlation to that aspect than a rejection of supernaturalism as such.

  4. Lisa Rokusek says:

    Question: How do we define religion, and thus, religiosity? I am not sure it is as clear cut as some like to think it.

    Some, including this site, would include atheism/agnosticism as a religion.

    "Religion is any specific system of belief about deity, often involving rituals, a code of ethics, a philosophy of life, and a worldview."

    So I guess it all depends on how things are defined, yes?

    Not all religions create simpleminded answers – some religions actually foster intelligent, thoughtful questions.

    One might make a better argument regarding the correlation between painting with the broad, simplistic brush of overgeneralization and intelligence.

  5. Erich Vieth says:

    Lisa Rokusek reminded me to follow her link (above) to many definitions of "religion." Many, indeed! Thanks, Lisa.

  6. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    When I was a child, (perhaps 4 or 5 years old) I noticed one summer that almost every afternoon we would get a thundershower. I developed a simple beleif that a single living monster cloud would come around every day trying to zap little kids playing outside with its lightning bolts. I had decided the cloud was alive, intelligent and malevolent.

    As I grew older, I found keen interest in learning about the weather and the science behind it. By the time I was 9, I understood it well enough to make some local forcasts. In addition, I no longer feared large clouds.

    The point is, that when you try to explain something without first understanding it, you make yourself susceptible to fallacious beliefs.

    So a person with no interest in know how something works will accept the simplest explanation for anyone they determine is an authority. IN the age of specialization, generally intelligent people are just as easily accepting of bogus beliefs that addres question outside their specialized body of knowledge.

    So you may find a college physics professor who believes in homeopathic medicine, A physician who believes that reforming the financially inneficient and management heavy health insurance system will reduce their income. Not to mention profession politicians who believe that the economy is centered around a few of the wealthiest people on the planet.

    There also seem to be a lot of egotism involved. It seems that most people refuse to admit their errors. This makes it very difficult for them to accept new ideas.

    This principle applies to religious beliefs, scientific and pseudo scientific beliefs as well. When someone believes an over simplified layman description of a scientifically validated theory, the the principle often gets mangled in the process.

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