Lower IQs Lead to Faith in God?

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One of my co-bloggers, J.L. Hinman, author of the very fine Metacrock’s Blog recently showed me some data which some atheists are using to support the claim that atheists are smarter than Christians. He pointed me to a website where it measured the average IQ of a country and correlated it to the statement from a Pew survey of the percentage of people who said that religion was “very important” to them. Thus, in Angola, 80% of the people said that religion was very important to them, but the average IQ was a lowly 69. In Bangladesh 88% of the people said that religion was very important to them and their IQ was higher but still only an average of 81. Meanwhile, the three highest IQ countries were Korea, Italy and Germany with average IQs of 106, 102 and 102, respectively. In those countries, the percentage of people who thought that religion was very important to them were 25%, 21% and 27%, respectively.

What conclusion can be reached from these statistics? Well, some might conclude that religion makes people dumb. After all, if it is in countries where people find religion important that we find the people with the lowest IQs, it may be reasonable to conclude that religion is one of the causes of that lessening of IQ scores. I don’t think that’s a legitimate conclusion, and here’s why: The graph is a straight correlation that does not take into account other factors. I can personally think of several reasons why the IQ of a country like Angola is low. Could it be, for example, that IQ is affected by poverty? Consider, for example, this:

Contrary to “The Bell Curve” findings, a new study by researchers at Columbia and Northwestern Universities suggests that poverty and early learning opportunities — not race — account for the gap in IQ scores between blacks and whites. (The study will be published in the April [96] issue of Child Development.)

Adjustments for socioeconomic conditions almost completely eliminate differences in IQ scores between black and white children, according to the study’s co-investigators. They include Jeanne Brooks-Gunn and Pamela Klebanov of Columbia’s Teachers College, and Greg Duncan of the Center for Urban Affairs and Policy Research at Northwestern University.
As in many other studies, the black children in the study had IQ scores a full 15 points lower than their white counterparts. Poverty alone, the researchers found, accounted for 52 percent of that difference, cutting it to 7 points. Controlling for the children’s home environment reduced the difference by another 28 percent, to a statistically insignificant 3 points — in essence, eliminating the gap altogether.

In other words, a major factor in terms of a person’s IQ is the poverty in which they were raised. Is Angola poor? You bet. Looking at the chart, what are the places where the IQ is the lowest (70s or less) you see many poor countries: Tanzania, Uganda, South Africa, Senegal, Nigeria, Mali, Kenya, Ivory Coast, Guatamala, Ghana and Angola. Most of these countries are poor African countries — several of which appear on the UN’s list of least developed countries…

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