Religious people are, on average, less intelligent than atheists, researchers claim.
Religious people are less intelligent on average than atheists because faith is an instinct and clever people are better at rising above their instincts, researchers have claimed
With the number of people with a religious belief on the rise – it’s predicted that people with no faith will make up only 13 per cent of the global population by 2050 – numerous studies have explored the relationship between religious convictions and IQ.
And now, in a new paper published in Frontiers in Psychology , researchers say that diminished intelligence among people of faith could be because they largely rely on intuition.
“It is well established that religiosity correlates inversely with intelligence,” note Richard Daws and Adam Hampshire at Imperial College London.
Surveying more than 63,000 participants online who indicated whether they were atheists, religious or agnostic, each person had to complete a 30-minute set of 12 cognitive tasks that measured planning, reasoning, attention and memory.
Overall, the research found that atheists performed better overall than the religious participants even when demographic factors like age and education were taken into consideration.
While strength of religious conviction correlated with poorer cognitive performance, the data did show that there were only few small differences in working memory compared to tasks that required reasoning.
As such, rather than having poor general intelligence, the researchers say that religious people’s lower IQ test results may be a result of bad performance on tasks only where intuition and logic come into conflict.
“These findings provide evidence in support of the hypothesis that the religiosity effect relates to conflict [between reasoning and intuition] as opposed to reasoning ability or intelligence more generally,” the researchers concluded.
The theory — called the ‘Intelligence-Mismatch Association Model’ — was proposed by a pair of authors who set out to explain why numerous studies over past decades have found religious people to have lower average intelligence than people who do not believe in a god.
Another study carried out in 2013 by University of Rochester also found “a reliable negative relation between intelligence and religiosity” in 53 out of 63 historic studies.
On why Religious people are, on average, less intelligent than atheists, the researchers (Edward Dutton and Dimitri van der Linden) had this to say
“A negative correlation between intelligence and religion makes sense if religion is considered an instinct, and intelligence the ability to rise above one’s instincts”
“If religion is an evolved domain then it is an instinct, and intelligence — in rationally solving problems — can be understood as involving overcoming instinct and being intellectually curious and thus open to non-instinctive possibilities,” explained Mr Dutton.
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