Pharyngula

Who’s smarter than who?

Oh, no, I’m torn — I’m an atheist who thinks IQ tests are over-rated and over-interpreted, and here’s a Danish study that claims that atheists have IQs that average 5.8 points higher than theists’.

Actually, I’m lying and I’m not really torn at all. I don’t buy it. I think IQ tests are loaded with bias that favors a particular kind of thinking, the kind that signals success in academia, engineering, medicine, and so forth, and doesn’t necessarily reflect any specific biological property. It’s fair to say that atheist values parallel the values rewarded by IQ tests, but the simple-minded interpretation that it reflects an actual measure of greater intelligence is unwarranted. Unless, of course, you accept the tautology that intelligence is whatever it is that an IQ test measures.

I do confess that I suspect there may also be a selection effect: simple-minded people are going to be attracted to simple-minded answers, and you really can’t get much more simple-minded than “god did it”. Also, in the absence of a strong godless tradition in the US, your pool of atheists is going to be populated with people who have put a lot of thought into their beliefs, while the pool of theists is going to contain people who have thought about their ideas and a much larger group of people who have simply blindly accepted indoctrination.

Anyway, it’s a much more complicated situation than can be encapsulated in a magic IQ number.