Sunday, January 7, 2007

With Whom Shall You Side?

Is there an intellectual elite that, in sharp contrast to “Kansas values,” rejects the supernatural, religion and even God himself? Do high levels of education result in a loss of piety? Are believers putting their faith at risk by attending a prestigious American university? In fact, the answer to all those questions seems to be yes. Reading "The God Delusion," by Dr. Richard Dawkins, I was amazed by the statistical evidence indicating that education and intelligence have an inverse relationship with religiosity. In study after study, the most distinguished, renowned minds rejected religion and embraced atheistic naturalism. As you read the following quotations and selections, remember that this doesn’t actually prove the veracity of atheism. However, it raises an interesting question: Do you want to be on the side of eminent intelligentsia, or on the other?

Let us commence with Nobel laureates. Dr. Dawkins writes that a “…systematic study by Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi ‘found that among Nobel Prize laureates in the sciences, as well as those in literature, there was a remarkable degree of irreligiosity, as compared to the populations they came from’.” Surely, the prevalent atheism among Nobel laureates must mean something, given atheism’s infrequency among the general public. Could education, knowledge and intelligence lead one toward a faithless worldview?

Dr. Dawkins continues, “A study in the leading journal Nature by Larson and Witham in 1998 showed that of those American scientists considered eminent enough by their peers to have been elected to the National Academy of Sciences (equivalent to being a Fellow of the Royal Society in Britain) only about 7 per cent believe in a personal God. This overwhelming preponderance of atheists is almost the exact opposite of the profile of the American population at large, of whom more than 90 per cent are believers in some sort of supernatural being.” Again, I feel compelled to highlight this incredible discrepancy. Is it possible that these eminent scientists have a stronger grasp on reality—on what is possible—than the average person off the street, who might or might not have a solid education in science?

I have mentioned the Larson and Witham study in earlier writings. I think it is significant because of the NAS scientists’ outright disbelief in the divine; we’re not talking about wishy-washy agnostics here. Indeed, of the respondents to that survey, 72.2% expressed outright atheism, as compared to 20.8% agnosticism.

Dr. Dawkins’ next case in point is equally dramatic. He refers to research in progress from R. Elisabeth Cornwell and Michael Stirrat, which studies religiosity among the Fellows of the Royal Society. Dr. Dawkins again:

“All 1,074 Fellows of the Royal Society (FRS) who possess an email address (the great majority) were polled, and about 23 per cent responded (a good figure for this kind of study). They were offered various propositions, for example: ‘I believe in a personal God, that is one who takes an interest in individuals, hears and answers prayers, is concerned with sin and transgressions, and passes judgement.’ For each such proposition, they were invited to choose a number from 1 (strong disagreement) to 7 (strong agreement). It is a little hard to compare the results directly with the Larson and Witham study, because Larson and Witham offered their academicians only a three-point scale, not a seven-point scale, but the overall trend is the same. The overwhelming majority of FRS, like the overwhelming majority of US Academicians, are atheists. Only 3.3 per cent of the Fellows agreed strongly with the statement that a personal god exists (i.e. chose 7 on the scale), while 78.8 per cent strongly disagreed (i.e. chose 1 on the scale). If you define ‘believers’ as those who chose 6 or 7, and if you define ‘unbelievers’ as those who chose 1 or 2, there were a massive 213 unbelievers and a mere 12 believers.”

Dr. Dawkins hastened to add that there was, “…a small but significant tendency for biological scientists to be even more atheistic than physical scientists.” Apparently, those scientists who deal with life and its natural processes—the individuals most likely to find God’s fingerprints—haven’t yet discovered them.

Now, Dr. Dawkins turns to Dr. Michael Shermer, a distinguished defender of science whom I have quoted on several occasions. Dr. Dawkins writes, “Michael Shermer, in How We Believe: The Search for God in an Age of Science, describes a large survey of randomly chosen Americans that he and his colleague Frank Sulloway carried out. Among their many interesting results was the discovery that religiosity is indeed negatively correlated with education (more highly educated people are less likely to be religious). Religiosity is also negatively correlated with interest in science and (strongly) with political liberalism.” Once again, our emerging trend is unmistakable.

However, let us not immediately discount the possibility that the (several) studies which Dr. Dawkins cites in his book are anomalous. Perhaps for every one survey that finds an inverse relationship between intelligence and religiousness, there are three that chart a direct relationship; maybe Dr. Dawkins is “counting the hits and ignoring the misses.” Alas, this emphatically is not the case. Dr. Dawkins once more:

“On the subject of religion and IQ, the only meta-analysis known to me was published by Paul Bell in Mensa Magazine in 2002 (Mensa is the society of individuals with a high IQ, and their journal not surprisingly includes articles on the one thing that draws them together). Bell concluded: ‘Of 43 studies carried out since 1927 on the relationship between religious belief and one’s intelligence and/or educational level, all but four found an inverse connection. That is, the higher one’s intelligence or education level, the less one is likely to be religious or hold “beliefs” of any kind’.”

Staying on the subject of Mensa for a moment but reverting back to this article’s statistical roots, let us look at the relationship between the general public’s religiosity and that of Mensans. An American study (the reliability of which I cannot guarantee) upon which I stumbled laid out the following religious belief figures:

Non-Mensans: 83%

Mensans: 56%

Those reported results, while not as dramatic, represent a continuation of our unmistakable pattern.

This information, largely culled from Dr. Dawkins’ wonderful tome “The God Delusion,” which I give my very highest recommendation, probably comes as a shock to some. But it shouldn’t. Consider some of the absurdities contained within the popular religions of today. Let us use Christianity as an example. I will cite just a handful of glaring absurdities.

* A speaking serpent.

* Adam dying at the age of 930.

* Lazarus overcoming brain death in order to return to life.

* Jesus overcoming brain death in order to be resurrected.

* The very notion that we—a single species of animal, on one planet, which is part of a single solar system, which is part of one galaxy, which itself is part of a single galaxy cluster in the universe, which itself might be part of a multiverse—can speak with the creator of the cosmos.

Surely, it is only natural that the most educated, the most intelligent and the most knowledgeable among us would reject such silliness in favor of scientific naturalism. Atheism and intelligence seem to have a direct relationship so, to conclude, I again must ask: Do you want to be on the side of eminent intelligentsia...or on the other?


Anonymous O really? said...

You are my friend quite frankly are arrogant and obviously haven't considered other things in teh Bible...But first I will tell you why there ia high correlation between intelligence and a belief in atheism...first of all intelligence tests are made by humans so they arenot perfect because we are not perfect..(ask Plato) when you are considered so intelligent by others you come to believe such a thing which in fact to even believe in such a thing as human intelligence is arrogant at best... if God is perfect no wonder what He may do seems preposterous! WE CAN'T UNDERSTAND HIM.. because we are not perfect..SCIENCE IS NOT PERFECT EITHER....anything human created is not perfect. The widom of this world would be foolishness with GOd..I mean if GOd could create the universe (lets assume) how could he not make a snake talk? How could he not take that speaking ability away? Also apparently snakes had legs in the BIble before the science they find remnants of leg bones in most species of snakes...People who are not deemed as genius by human iq tests are also those who are not so infiltrated with the "truths" of this world that science treis to cram down your throat..After all..all of your science cannot prove there is NO can't. science cannot prove how it even cam to be what it is? How did science get here..who or what made the things that humans would one day study..with all the intricacy of nature (proven by science) it would seem to me that something of far superior intelligence than myself created such a cycle and such a planet to host such a cycle... Also look At Einstein he had a faith in God.. considered one of the best scientists of the 20th century.. so I'll choose the side of God...until Science can create a new planet in our solar sytem just like ourselves or until science can create the universe again and end it as well. May God bless your hardened hearts....In Jesus name..Amen

12:40 AM EDT  
Blogger Tommy said...

O Really, I will prove to you that your God does not exist.

Oh God of the Bible, here me. You are the most worthless piece of shit in the universe if you are real, but I deny your existence, so you are the most horrible fictional character ever. Either way, you totally suck.

2:39 PM EST  
Blogger Tommy said...

Well, your God has not struck me dead yet O Really. I guess he does not exist.

2:39 PM EST  
Blogger Tommy said...

But in all seriousness, I just love the defense mechanism that Bible believers have created for themselves.

If something in the Bible is totally absurd or nonsensical, all the Bible believer has to say is "Well, it just seems absurd because your intellect gets in the way of truly understanding God."

Yes, if there really was an all powerful god who wanted to make snakes talk, then I suppose it could. Then all that God has to do is make snakes talk today. Surely God can still make snakes talk, right O Really?

It is impossible to prove that there is no God, and even though I consider myself to be an atheist, I will concede that there is a chance that such an entity exists. But I know with 100% certainty that the God of the Bible is not a real entity.

2:45 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess these folks aren't as smart as you or they think they are.

And as for Tommy - all you have proved is that you are an ASS and that God is patient, long-suffering, and has one hell of a sense of humor.

The person you need to be afraid of is the one who created the atomic bomb, oh, yeah, that was an atheist scientist.

12:43 AM EST  
Blogger Tommy said...

No anonymous, what scares me are religious fanatics armed with nuclear bombs. You know, the ones who think that they are carrying out the divine will of a non-existent deity.

8:47 AM EST  
Blogger Drunken Tune said...

o really? looks very intelligent when HE TYPES IN ALL CAPS FOR A WHILE AS IF HE IS YELLING AT YOU. If you're stupid, just use a few line breaks here and there. Then we might listen to what you have to say.

There are several easy proofs for your god's nonexistence. Here's one: God says that he will grant all prayers several times in the bible. With our prayers we can even move mountains. Thousands of people prayed to god on September 11th, but god did not grant their prayers, even though he could have, for they are very much dead.

[1] Either he wanted them to die, and disregarded their prayers,
[2] or god is impotent, and cannot work,
[3] or god is an insane demon,
[4] or god had a master plan, and disregarded the prayers anyway.

Yet, since the bible tells us that [1] god answers all our prayers, even if he wants us to die or has a master plan,
and since the bible tells us that [2] god is all-powerful,
and since the bible tells us that [3] god is all-good,
then the god described in the bible cannot exist.

11:15 AM EST  
Blogger Lui said...

Did it ever occur to you, Oh Really, that our imperfect minds created God in the first place, instead of the other way around? Strange that you consider every other possibility except that one, as if it somehow had more intrinsic merit.

"in science they find remnants of leg bones in most species of snakes..."

That's called "evolution", and it has nothing to do with the Bible. As for talking snakes: pure fiction. If you a) actually believe such fairy tales to be fact, and b) are an adult, then nothing else I say will much matter.

"Also look At Einstein he had a faith in God"

Rubbish. He used the word God as a stand-in for the awe and wonder of nature. He emphatically did NOT believe in a personal God, so you can count him out. You can stay on God's side if you wish, just don't think that science backs you up.

2:39 PM EST  
Blogger Lui said...

I meant to say, "as if God as a real entity had more intrinsic merit".

2:40 PM EST  
Anonymous Still Learning... said...

neither argument can prove anything. it takes faith to be a thiest or an athiest. either way, one has to have faith (or hope) that they aren't wrong. but if the athiest is wrong, he will regret it. if the thiest is wrong, then he might have lived his life for a "non-existent" entity, but nobody will ever prove him wrong b/c they will cease to exist. i just couldn't understand how some people can hear two or three points for either argument and base their lifestyle on that... they have more balls than me. i, persoanally, would love to hear intelligent arguments from either side b/c i haven't totally made up my mind after reading volumes. i would definately prefer the christian worldview, but i'm about as objective and open-minded as they come, so i will continue to pray that God helps me understand while i study the sciences and listen to everybody's opinion. one day, hopefully, i will have my answer.


thank you all

10:29 PM EST  
Anonymous Seth said...

WHAT? Atheism requires NO faith. That's the point. Atheism requires evidence and there is no conclusive evidence for the existence of god, hence we don't believe in god. There is also no conclusive, overwhelming evidence against god's existence; but then neither is there conclusive evidence against the existence of Set, Zeus, Santa Claus or intelligent fundamentalists. That doesn't mean they exist. Atheism requires faith in yourself because you stand in the face of almost overwhelming theism, that's not the same as believing a work of fiction to be fact. Can you imagine if a court of law ran on the same principles as theism?

6:59 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unlike the intelligense of atheism, religious belief just requires mindless devotion. I'm sure if dogs could talk we'd find they were staunch christians. In the mean time, perhaps 'o really' can get back in his kennel, or hump his lord's leg or whatever he does.

8:41 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anthony said...

Not a bad piece of writing there.

I extend a formal invitation for you to view

1:15 PM EDT  
Blogger Passoca said...

Hello man.
I am a brazilian cientist and professor that have read several Dawkins books. I apreciate your SIDE
Até mais, abraços

10:13 AM EDT  

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