Thursday, June 12, 2008

...but the fastest growing religion is "Jedi"

[LINK] This study suggests that intelligent people are less likely to believe in God. I don't really think it's that simple. Yes, they've shown that IQ is going up (I am not so sure of that!) and church attendance is going down, and I hate to say it but the Church of The Flying Spaghetti Monster has presented a parody of just this sort of statistic by demonstrating that global temperatures have increased over the years with a reverse correlation to the number of pirates worldwide. (Sister Angel Hair of the Pastafarian persuasion (a.k.a. Blueberry) says "May You Be Touched By His Noodley Appendages")

OK, OK, this is less far-fetched than the pirates, and there really might be a relevant correlation, I just think it's hard to prove.

I do think that in general, a lot of people with high IQs are curious, questioning, and maybe a tad skeptical -- but just as many are deeply religious, like to follow traditions whether religious or not, and some are even evangelical or fundamentalist! I have heard many more people confess their atheism at Mensa gatherings than I've heard in random gatherings of people, but it's very likely to be because people at Mensa gatherings have no reason to keep things like that hidden, there are no social repercussions. It's an open and free situation. People are quite willing to frankly discuss any topic you'd care to bring up.

I also firmly believe that as people are exposed to global cultures (whether through personal travels, books, movies, TV shows, or NPR) they are likely to come to the realization that there are more "realities" out there than they one they were raised with from their cradle to their current four walls. It is simply not satisfying enough to believe everything that you were taught by parents, teachers, and spiritual leaders. Those people were fallible and we have all been let down by their versions of the truth. When it comes to religious leaders in particular, they are so elevated (sometimes even considered to be divine!) that when they fall, they fall hard. They crash and burn. And your faith can go with it if they were the stewards of it.

Even without fallen idols and disappointing heroes, once the same cold light of reality shines upon your own myths as harshly as it shines on the myths of others -- you often re-evaluate everything that you believe(d).

And there are "true believers" (a.k.a Koolaid drinkers, a.k.a Sheeple) in every group you'd care to assemble, no matter what "gods" they believe in -- could be a supernatural being, a sports team, a candidate, or a band. Whatever thing is guiding your life, you could make the case that there's your god. It isn't right or wrong -- it's dangerous, yes, if you follow bad leaders or causes or let someone else do your thinking for you -- but it's human to look for paths in life.

I'm pretty sure humans are evolving. Not saying it's positive or negative, but we are bending the curves in any case (just like the global temperature numbers are, by the way) (and if I wonder of those two statistics are related? I'm thinking that if we don't evolve quickly, we are going to do ourselves in)

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DrDon said...

This is a good post Blue. I'm also skeptical of anything that mentions correlations with IQ. There are only 2 accepted IQ tests, the Stanford-Binet and the Wechsler scales. The Stanford is widely believed to be less valid with adult populations so the Wechsler is the scale of choice and currently these types of psychometrics can only be administered by licensed psychologists or and individual being supervised by a licensed psychologist. So when studies talk about trends in IQ, I often wonder where the data comes from. Was there some mass testing of the American populace of which I'm unaware?

Often these studies rely on truncated versions of true IQ tests like vocabularly scores and other short, simple metrics like the ones you can find online. But many of these have not undergone the rigorous analysis required to confirm that a test is both reliable and valid. In any event, unless someone is basing their quoted IQ scores on a standardized instrument, that score means absolutely nothing to me.

Of course, even if IQ scores were increasing, is this simply a shift of the Bell curve or a skewing? The difference is important. Well, important if you assume the IQ means anything in the first place and that is a highly dubious assumption.

I know the dangers of generalizing from personal experience but I've known my share of supposedly high IQ folks and, by and large, they've shown no more aptitude for successful living than their average counterparts. We'd probably be better off as a society if we forgot all about IQ, G.P.A., etc., and focused on developing peoples interests and maximizing whatever skills they do have.

DivaJood said...

I used to study with a man who was an Orthodox Jew and also a nuclear physicist who taught at University of Illinois at Chicago. He was a brilliant man, and he was also deeply religious. His faith was profound. We studied Judaism/Torah with him. Rakah used to say that anyone who believed in God but denied science was an idiot. And he said that anyone who believed in science without a sense of a higher power was also an idiot. We asked him (my ex-husband and I) how he could reconcile the Torah's version of creation in seven days with science - he said the Torah was a metaphor, and that a day was not a 24 hour period. He said that science was filled with undiscovered mysteries, and that is why scientists needed faith of some sort. He was so far from being a kool-aid drinker, it was amazing.

My own belief in a higher power comes from being a sober alcoholic - because 20 years ago, I used to drink when I didn't want to, and now I don't drink even when I do want to. This is not via will-power. Still, I am unable to explain this faith to someone who is not an alcoholic. So I don't try.

Atheism is a kind of faith as well, but the faith is not in a supreme being (nor is mine, for that matter.) And yes, the atheists I know tend to be highly intelligent people. But intelligence is not limited to atheists.

But ultimately I go back to something I said at drdon's place: if a person has a strong foundation and belief, be it in a higher power or atheist, then there is no need to attack another's belief system. So it all goes back to fear.

Blueberry said...

DrDon: I agree with each one of your points, and very well said. Mensa uses the tests you mentioned and some more, they must be standardized tests. It took hours to get through all that. SATs changed their format (or something like that) and are no longer considered an reliable indicator of IQ.

As for what my score means... I think it means I'm eccentric and have a chart to prove it. It doesn't make me any better than anyone else, or better suited for... what-have-you. It definitely does NOT bring more success or happiness... in fact, if anything, there is data to show that high IQ people are more likely to be depressed -- but again, that might be another bullshit statistic.

During the last presidential election, there was a viral email circulating about state IQs and how the states voted -- and even though it showed that the lower the IQ the more likely it was to vote Republican, I called total bullshit. When did they do the testing? And how many people moved to other states? Total crap. As much as I'd like to think it's true, it's crap.

Diva: I've been attending a Unitarian Universalist church for a few years, and it is helping to broaden my views on religion in general. Humans are very complicated, and religion and rationality are like the heart and mind. You can't reconcile them or separate them, and neither of them are fully functional. I think we are bound to keep trying to balance them out within ourselves, and continue to look for answers, and hopefully to keep asking questions... important questions.

And fear... wouldn't it be nice if we could remove it from religions? Replace it with love and tolerance? More likely to bring about world peace than IQ smarts.

Blueberry said...

...and I should add that what I mean by True Believers, Koolaid Drinkers and Sheeple, is people who blindly follow their gods (whatever the nature of them might be) without ever questioning their beliefs or holding their gods to high standards.

It's fine to believe, or not believe, but keep questioning. We're just not there yet...

...but it IS alright to stop asking "are we there yet?" ;-)

DivaJood said...

I am in complete agreement with you Blueberry - it's the need to question that gets buried in religions that club people with fear.

Tim Russert just died - heart attack at 58. He was a class act.

Blueberry said...

I am shocked over Tim Russert. Too young, and didn't know he had a heart condition. wow... unbelievable. I wonder if he knew.

Mando Mama said...

Oh that's too ironic. I come over hear to get away from the Tim Russert thing, and lo, there he is. I am so, so sad. I understand Russert was managing a condition of plaque in the arteries, one I'm so pleased to have running through the veins of my own family.

Still not sure how anyone just drops dead of a heart attack in a studio of what is arguably the largest media group in the country.

Anyway, this is a really great post. Diva makes a good point. ULtimately, it all comes down to fear and how people manage their fear or wield fear over others. How faith and fear got tangled up with one another? That's where power enters the equation. OyvehmaRIA it's SUCH a mess. That's why I'm an agnostic. I don't know what the hell I believe so you can't scare me! HA! ;-)

Taking my sad-assed self to sleep.