Intelligence makes you atheistic? Or does fundamentalism make you stupid?

De Gustibus est Disputandum

Ah, my old buddy Satoshi Kanazawa is once again causing all manner of mischief. I really like Satoshi. He’s a genuine intellect of the old-school variety. And, he’s consistent! Satoshi and I agree on everything, and don’t agree about shit! Seriously. We consistently formulate oppositional perspectives on things like the origin of preferences, religiosity, and the relationship between cultural choices and psychological states. We wind up in the same place, but we get there on a very different path. Most recently, Satoshi explains the negative relationship between religiosity and IQ by arguing that intelligence as a general evolutionary trait is associated with novel orientations such as irreligiosity, liberalism, and monogamy (echoing a major theme in some of his previous works).

What is interesting is that in his paper in the latest issue of Social Psychology Quarterly, Satoshi reverses the modeling of religious effects examined in my own paper in the latest issue of Social Science Research on the influence of religion on verbal ability (what he calls “verbal intelligence”, but we’re using the same GSS data).  Satoshi justifies his use of verbal ability as an independent variable predicting religiosity and other factors based on an evolutionary theory–smart people are more receptive to varied ideas, and eventually this matters in a grand evolutionary framework.

In contrast, I argue that verbal ability is a product of social interaction, and that people learn more from interacting with novel ideas and diverse others. Sectarian and fundamentalist religious communities restrict this interaction, and the cognitive redundancy and limited diversity of social interactions retards the verbal ability of fundamentalists and sectarians.  Adopted sectarians and people raised as fundamentalist who were biologically from other traditions would exhibit a similar pattern of verbal retardation. The enormous positive effects of age on verbal ability identified as a learning factor by Wilson and Gove (using these same data), suggest that learning matters a great deal.

Still, Satoshi is probably on to something.  General intelligence may well have an impact on the valuation of religious rewards. But, we don’t have any evidence of that, yet.

4 Responses to “Intelligence makes you atheistic? Or does fundamentalism make you stupid?”

  1. James Says:

    Can you reword that a little differently? It didn’t quite make sense to me.

    What I did catch though was that your friend thought that being around many different ideas causes you to be smarter, while you thought that seeking out these things is a sign that you’re smarter. Am I right?

    • sherkat Says:

      Yeah, and you have it backwards. Satoshi thinks that there is something psychological–innate intelligence–which influences religious proclivities. If you’re smart, you don’t do religion. I think that religion influences whether or not you have a large vocabulary (I make no claims about innate intelligence), largely because people situate themselves in social networks full of other dullards.

  2. aketzle Says:

    Could be both are true. That seems likely to me.

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