7/15/12

Are Liberal Atheists Smarter than Conservative Christians?

A Christian Response to "IQ and the Values of Nations"
By Anthony Maylath

Introduction   

    The London School of Economics (LSE) recently released controversial research that concludes atheists are smarter than those who are religious (Kanazawa, 2009). The article uses a school of thought called evolutionary psychology to provide theoretical framework that basically states that mankind is continually evolving into smarter beings and that liberalism and atheism are results of becoming smarter.
   
    The results of LSE’s research might sound troubling to any bible-believing Christian. The research seems to indirectly indicate that Christians are not smart enough to comprehend that God does not exist. The inference is somewhat of an insult to all Christians. However, upon close examination, the results of LSE’s research should not trouble any Christians for two primary reasons: (1) the interpretation of LSE’s regression model is erroneous, and (2) the model itself is too broad and does not capture specific phenomena that occur between Christians and other religions. Once these two factors are explained, we will see that LSE’s article should not concern Christians because it may not fully explain how IQ causes certain beliefs.

“Scientific” Results

    I put the word “Scientific” in quotes because economics is not an exact science. The methods used in LSE’s research follow the scientific method and is used by many businesses and universities. However, the results econometric models yield can often be unclear, difficult to interpret, and prone to statistical errors. However, I will do my best to explain LSE’s regression (cause and effect) model in light of biblical Christianity.

Mathematical Background

    LSE’s regression model basically shows the cause and effect relationship between IQ (intelligence quotient) and another variable. The study examines how IQ affects four different dimensions: tax rates, income inequality, belief in God (“yes or no” question), importance of God (on a scale of 1 to 10), and level of polygamy. This paper will only focus on the religious aspects of LSE’s analysis.

     Before we dive into the numbers, let’s have a basic lesson is statistics. For each variable two tests are done: a correlation and a regression (cause and effect analysis). These two tests seem to be the same but are slightly different. Correlation, unlike linear regression, only measures how often two things occur together. Say John has a high grade point average. Also assume that grade point averages and SAT scores are correlated. Therefore, if John has a high grade point average, then he probably has a high SAT score. Notice that the two variables can be swapped. However we do not know if high SAT scores cause high grade point averages or if high grade point averages cause high SAT scores. The model is ambiguous with respect to cause. On the other hand, the linear regression model explicitly defines what the cause is.  In LSE’s regression model IQ is always the cause.

The Numbers

    LSE’s results were that the belief in God and the importance of God are both strongly correlated with lower IQs. The regression revealed that for every point in national average IQ there is a 1.119%  decrease in a nations belief in God, and for every point in national average IQ there is a 0.2024 (out of ten) decrease in the importance of God in a nation.

Interpretation

    These results may sound alarming to a bible-believing Christian, but since LSE’s model is so broad, it does not capture the whole situation. There are two main arguments I bring against this model: (1) biblical Christianity is radically different from all other religion and therefore should be treated differently, and (2) less religious people typically have smaller families and do not have church responsibilities (Kanazawa, 2009); therefore, less religious people have more time to develop their academic skills.

Controlling for Other Religions  

    I would make the argument that biblical Christians gravitate towards critical thinking, knowledge, and wisdom while all other religions do not. This fact is clear in the bible. We see a notable example of critical thinking (an aspect of intelligence quotient) in Acts 17. “Now these [the Christians in Berea] were more noble minded than those in Thessalonica[...], examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed” (Acts 17:16, NASV). In this example, we see that a critical analysis towards scriptures is not only encouraged, but it also led to faith in Christ.

    Moreover, we see that many great scientists throughout history have been Christian. Two of the most notable Christian scientists were Johann Kepler, considered to be the founder of modern astronomy and Isaac Newton, the beloved founder of modern physics. Kepler and Newton were not merely nominal Christians; rather, both were earnest in their faith.  Kepler attended seminary, studied biblical genealogy, and believed that the earth was only 7000 years old. On the other hand, Newton was a committed to the faith from a very young age and published several works on biblical prophesy (Morris, 1997).

    I suspect that most other religions do not encourage study and critical thinking the way that Christianity does. For example, the Qur’an is extremely hostile toward unbelievers, which means there is little room to question authorities (Qur’an 9:123). Furthermore, the Catholic Catechism teaches that only clergy can correctly interpret the bible, which discourages the layman from its study. Please do not misunderstand me. I believe those associated with the Catholic church can be saved; however, some of Catholic doctrine is not consistent with scripture. “[Catholicism] puts the priest between the Christian believer and the knowledge of God as revealed in the Scriptures, and makes him the sole interpreter of truth” (Boettner, 1962). Despite the fact that Catholicism and Islam are the two larger religions that seem to discourage critical thinking, LSE’s model does not possess a mechanism that separates biblical Christianity from these and other religions. Therefore, it is possible for IQ and biblical Christianity to be positively related because the possibility that people with low IQs join other religions waters down the fact that smart people choose Christianity.   

Advantages that Atheists Possess

    It is clear that atheists possess two distinct advantages over theists with respect to IQ. Firstly, as LSE’s research mentioned, atheists tend to have smaller families than theists. A smaller family would mean more time for other things, such as work and education. Since both work and education may have a positive impact on IQ scores, it could be considered an advantage. Secondly, less religious people do not have as many obligations as more religious people. Church, baptisms, missionary trips, prayers, and ceremonies all take time and usually may not add to skills that would improve IQ scores. Therefore, since less religious people once again have more time, they can use it to pursue careers and education which may increase IQ scores.

Conclusion

    Indicated by LSE’s research, we saw that belief in God and the importance of God were both strongly correlated and a result of relatively lower levels of intelligence. However, this we notice that LSE’s model does not separate biblical Christianity from other religions. My claim is, if the model adjusted for biblical Christianity, we would see the opposite effects because some other religions do not accommodate critical thinking, while biblical Christianity encourages it. We also saw that less religious people may tend to have higher IQs because they have more time to devote to activities that increase IQ test scores.   

    Often, the results of scientific research can appear to cast doubt upon the Bible, but, under close examination, we may find that the findings are misinterpreted. As a believer, I challenge everyone who reads this paper to do critical research on the things that people (or even experts) say. We live in a sinful world, people lie, and occasionally even spread falsehoods because of incompetency. Because of this, we need to be like the Bereians of Acts 17 and critically analyze important issues that affect our lives.        

 

Work Cited

Boettner, Loraine. Roman Catholicism. Phillipsburg: The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1962. Print
  
Morris, Henry R. Men of Science Men of God: Great Scientists who Believed the Bible. Green Forest: Master Books, 1997. Print.

Satoshi Kanazawa. “IQ and The Values of Nations.” Journal of Biosocial Science Vol. 41 (2009): pp 537-556. Print.

7/4/12

A Few Thoughts on Being Single

By: Jonathan Harris

It has come to my attention over the last few years that both young men and women want to be in a relationship with someone of the opposite sex. Big news flash Jon! Yeah, I know. Duh. Perhaps you're one of them. I know that I am. In a way, just about everyone is! Gen. 2:18 remarks that it's not good for man to be alone. So just about every woman is designed to want to be a man's helpmate, and every man is wired to want a helpmate. This is all obvious stuff, especially to Christians, since we know why humans are wired this way. Having stated the obvious, I'd like to examine something troubling to me regarding how this obvious truth is being treated in our Christian culture. I don't know if this is something personally observable and applicable only in my limited experience, or if it's an epidemic, but I would like to offer up my perspective on it.

To put it plain, I feel like way to many men and women (especially women perhaps) feel inadequate being single (especially Christians). I've noticed conversations about other individuals indicating the unhealthy importance we place on romantic relationships. Let me illustrate. Ever heard someone say  things like: "He/She's doesn't deserve to be in a relationship." "Oh, he/she should be in a relationship with someone who will make them happy. He/She deserves it." When we use the word "deserve" it almost seems to constitute some kind of "right." If we're not careful single people can become jealous and people in relationships can become little matchmakers wanting everyone to be like them. Now I've heard these types of conversations for years, and am ashamed to say I've been a part of some of them. But I'd like to make something clear. My opinion on this shallow way of looking at romantic relationship is that it's wrong. Plain and simple. Now, let me defend this assertion.

1. Humans are complete without a romantic partner (i.e. husband/wife, boyfriend/girlfriend).

Objection: WHAT? How can you say this? You just ruined every romantic story. Doesn't the Bible say that it isn't good for man to be alone. Doesn't that mean men and women need each other?

Response: Yes, God did say that loneliness wasn't good, and woman was created to meet this need. And yes, there are romantic inclinations expressing the joy and need for a marriage partner in legitimate ways (see Song of Songs). But, this doesn't make humans somehow incomplete if they don't have that. James 1:4 gives the formula for being "perfect" and "complete, lacking nothing," and it has nothing to do with romance or partnership with the opposite sex. Think about the single people of Scripture. Think about Paul, John the Baptist, and Jesus. Were they somehow incomplete?

2. Humans are happy without a romantic partner.

Objection: But how can you be happy if you don't have someone to share all your stuff/experiences with?

Response: Paul, a single man, had "learned to be content in all circumstances" according to Philippians 4:12. I don't want to take away from marital joy, because surely there is a happiness that comes from it, and having that intimacy is a blessing, but it is not necessary. The Giver of all joy can certainly manage to give someone committed to Him more joy then they could ever have with someone else if He so desired. Didn't Jesus himself remark in the Sermon on the Mount that in heaven "[we] will be like the angels, neither [married] nor given in [marriage]?" So, the most blissful place ever contains no romantic relationships. Got it. Another overlooked fact is that with marital joy also comes a lot of concessions and compromises (any relationship does), and those aren't always happy.

3. Some humans are more valuable to the Lord's cause without a Romantic partner

Objection: Aren't two always better than one? The very picture of a relationship is a yoking, meaning that the two are better equipped together for a special task.


Response: This is very true. For some people it is helpful to have someone by their side to help them along. I would say this is true for most of us actually. But the truth also remains that we don't have to voluntarily yoke ourselves to someone. We can still accomplish a task without someone else even if it's more difficult. In fact, for some of us we're even more efficient. Read what Paul says in 1 Cor. 7.

Now as a concession, not a command, I say this. I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

If you read the whole chapter you'll find that Paul is referring to the gift of singleness. Some people can get more done for the kingdom of God without being in a relationship.

Final Thoughts

I think as a result of these truths we ought to be careful as Christians when talking and interacting with single people. Couples sometimes treat single people as if they have a disease, and the right cure is their friend or neighbor whom they can't wait to introduce to them for the purpose of matchmaking. This isn't appropriate. Single people have an advantage in that they aren't constrained by a relationship. They have freedom to do things people in relationships cannot. We should never push someone into doing something with these incorrect motivations. We, instead, must value single people and the contribution they give to the church. If you are a single person, as I am on some level (I'm not married, though I have a wonderful girlfriend), you need to thank God for it. Thank God for the opportunities you have. I know of a number of young men and women who would make excellent wives and husbands but aren't in any kind of a relationship at the moment. There's absolutely nothing wrong with this! It's not a problem we have to correct. And if you are single, please don't conform to that pressure. God in His time, and if He wants to, will give you a partner. If He hasn't done that for you yet, just focus on him and living your life. You aren't missing out on anything!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...