The Corner

Piety and Smarts

What do I think of Richard Lynn’s paper, several readers ask? I honestly haven’t had time to read it. I have to head off to NRO’s sound studio, where our staff of highly-paid technicians, producers, and sound engineers are sitting drumming their fingers impatiently, waiting for me to show up & record this week’s Radio Derb.

Here’s the abstract for Lynn’s paper:

Evidence is reviewed pointing to a negative relationship between intelligence and religious belief in the United States and Europe. It is shown that intelligence measured as psychometric g is negatively related to religious belief. We also examine whether this negative relationship between intelligence and religious belief is present between nations. We find that in a sample of 137 countries the correlation between national IQ and disbelief in God is 0.60.

All I can say in vague and general terms is that Lynn’s results should be judged fairly and dispassionately; that any counter-results that anyone comes up with should be judged the same way; that the evidence and counter-evidence should be weighed in open debate; and that if, after all that, there’s general agreement that what Lynn says is true, then we should adjust our view of the world accordingly. Nobody should be scared of the truth.

Also that Lynn et al. are arguing a correlation, which is as much as you ever get in the human sciences. There are always going to be outliers. At r = 0.6, in fact, there will be a lot of outliers: plenty of dumb atheists, plenty of smart believers. The founder of this magazine was an extremely intelligent man; I don’t think his worst enemy would deny that. He was also a religious man.

As I have noted before, though, the inclination — or perhaps the ability — to see the world as a collection of cold empirical facts is uncommon, to the degree of being a bit freakish. Most people see the world, especially the human world, as a moral drama. That’s how we’re wired. That’s why the human sciences are such uphill work, and generate so much heat, and why even the most coldly physical sciences took an awfully long time to get off the ground.


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