Dear Fellow Atheists and Agnostics:
Shortly after Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope Francis, comedian and agnostic Bill Maher tweeted this to much fanfare:
Although it may be humorous and satisfying to assert that a Pope or anyone else who believes in a God is unintelligent, such a conclusion is patently false. As rational thought grounded on empirical observation is our life blood, let's apply it here.
Although numerous studies have found a negative correlation between intelligence and religiosity (at individual and national levels1,2,3), it is not a particularly strong relationship (only a few points difference in IQ favoring the non-religious). More importantly, this aggregate relationship says virtually NOTHING about the actual intelligence of any given religious (or non-religious) individual, albeit a Pope or a politically incorrect comedian. To assume as such is to commit the ecological fallacy.
It is not uncommon for extraordinarily intelligent people to hold beliefs that are at odds with their education and intelligence. Although some let their smarts shine through in all aspects of their lives, others cordon off certain domains from their critical thinking and evidence-based reasoning. It's called compartmentalization, and it's not necessarily a sign that one is globally stupid. To conclude as such is intellectually lazy, snobbish, and quite frankly quite stupid.
I love ya Mr. Maher, but you're the one evidencing a lack of intellectual depth here.
1Lewis, G. J., Ritchie, S. J., & Bates, T. C. (2011). The relationship between intelligence and multiple domains of religious belief: Evidence from a large adult US sample. Intelligence, 39, 468-472.
2Lynn, R., Harvey, J., & Nyborg, H. (2009). Average intelligence predicts atheism rates across 137 nations. Intelligence, 37, 11-15.
3Nyborg, H. (2009). The intelligence-religiosity nexus: A representative study of white adolescent Americans. Intelligence, 37, 81-93.
Copyright © 2013 Barry X. Kuhle. All rights reserved.
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