“Biblical literalism or low IQ: which came first?”

The Gene Expression science blog has an interesting post today:

♦ Biblical literalism or low IQ: which came first?

It’s a meta analysis of existing data culled from various sources which indicates that people who hold onto literal biblical interpretations tend to have lower IQs, and people of certain denominations have lower educations. For example, Unitarians, Episcopalians, and Methodists tend to have less literal biblical interpretations and higher education levels, while Southern Baptists and Pentecostal tend to have the lower IQs and education.

This correlation doesn’t surprise me. Regardless of the validity or truthfulness of the Christian Bible, it’s “easy” to just say “it’s all true” and treat each distinct component as truth. It doesn’t take much thinking or reason to accept what you’re told by authority–we’re fundamentally geared to do so, as humans. Even the cognitive dissonance which is required to believe the Bible literally does not take much thought–in fact, living with cognitive dissonance requires one not to think much about the contradictions and paradoxes that create the dissonance.

But, forgetting religious validity, still, it takes a much more thoughtful person to reason about something presented as fact and appreciate nuance, interpretation, incorporate conflicting data and change your belief and thinking based on new or newly interpreted data! People with lower mental faculties and/or less experience with the challenges of education tend to prefer certainty and order and abhor uncertainty and intellectual conflict that demands resolution, and will tend to believe unquestioningly what they are told by those they look to as authorities in order to preserve order and provide guidance on what to do in their lives.

Religious belief in general doesn’t respond to IQ or education as there are a great many educated intellectuals who hold onto religious beliefs. Though, most Nobel Prize winners in the non-arts have been atheists, and in the past when religious belief was compulsory (lest you were burned as a heretic) many of history’s intellectuals were as close to Deists as the cultural religious attitude would allow.