Oh, no. Richard Lynn, the fellow infamous for trying to link intelligence and race, is in the news again, this time trying to claim a causal relationship between atheism and intelligence.
“Why should fewer academics believe in God than the general population? I believe it is simply a matter of the IQ,” Lynn told the Times Higher Education magazine. “Academics have higher IQs than the general population. Several Gallup poll studies of the general population have shown that those with higher IQs tend not to believe in God.”
I am always so tempted to simply accept this kind of claim — it’s wonderfully self-serving, obviously — but I can’t. I’ve known lots of religious people who really are brilliant, and I also know lots of atheists who were sincerely religious once upon a time, and there was no sudden increase in their native intelligence when they abandoned faith. And yes, I also know a few knee-jerk atheists who aren’t unbelievers because they’ve reasoned their way to that position. We live in a world with a range of intellectual abilities in different people, but anyone can be religious or infidel.
The difference is not in intelligence. It’s on the foundation of their education. Intelligent people who are indoctrinated into a faith can build marvelously intricate palaces of rationalization atop the shoddy vapor of their beliefs about gods and the supernatural; what scientists and atheists must do is build their logic on top of a more solid basis of empirical evidence and relentless self-examination. The difference isn’t their ability to reason, it is what they are reasoning about.
This is one of the reasons we godless need to be militant in expressing our ideas: there are children out there right now who have the potential for genius, but their talents are being shunted into the futile wasteland of religiosity. Yes, there are a lot of atheists in the topmost ranks of successful scientists, but it’s not because they are intrinsically smarter than someone who believes in gods — it’s because they more easily embrace the mode of thinking that is most productive and successful in scientific fields, and are less burdened with absurd presuppositions. Let’s stop handicapping our kids.