Thursday, August 06, 2009

Religion and intelligence: Atheists are smarter? Oh, sure.

Religion and intelligence: Atheists are smarter? Oh, sure.

Friend Regis Nicoll notes a 1986 study that supposedly shows that atheists are smarter. As the "new atheist" movement gets ink and hits the airwaves, we could have predicted more of this.

A friend writes,
More poor science here. All that they can point to is a negative correlation between belief in God and level of education. Additionally, they appear to point to a stronger correlation between self-identification as a 'scientist.' They cannot say from this that "higher IQ causes atheism." Other potential explanations are that there are subtle, and not-so-subtle, influences that take place during the higher educational process that is aimed at eliminating faith.

Indeed, I have known a number of people who point to college professors talking about evolution as a negative turning point in their faith. During grad school I heard professors state directly that more educated and intelligent people know there is no God. The underlying message is, if you believe in God you are ignorant, uneducated, and dense.

Unfortunately, many students are unprepared to question the authority of these professors who are socializing them to be an "intellectual elite" according to their own standards.
What's missing from most such "studies" is the recognition that when the elite culture is materialist atheist - or materialist atheist for all practical purposes, despite insincere claims - people who really espouse those views, whether or not they are more intelligent, will be far more likely to get ahead.

Intelligence has nothing directly to do with outcomes like that. In any society, there is a pool of intelligent people - people who know how to do things - who can be, and are, recruited for all kinds of new and interesting enterprises - good or bad. And there are people who can't, especially if they don't agree with the cause in question. And a number of the latter will die. As we have discovered over the last 250 years.

Evolutionary psychology: Forget that. If you want to be attractive, be NICE!

After reading this typical ooga! ooga! evolutionary psychology story about credit cards, I was hardly surprised to "learn" that
What men want is controlled by "evolution" and is thin women:

Despite another recent study that found modern men are more interested in intelligent, educated women than in decades past, in the new study men tended to base their attractiveness ratings on women's physical features, giving stellar marks to those who looked thin and seductive. Most of the men in the study also rated photographs of women who looked confident as more attractive.
The big problem with modern education is that we must spend so much time learning what ain't so that we hardly get any time to learn what might be so.

A psychologist friend offered some suggestions about studies of this type:
This is the modus operandi of academic psychologists with an evolutionary bent in writing up their research.

1). Tell a story about evolutionary history

2). Report the data from an empirical study of behavior (obviously conducted in the present time)

3). Tell another story about evolutionary history

4). Conclude that the behavior observed ... indicates something hardwired, applies to everyone, and has relevance to real-world situations

And so what is the truth?

1. A study was conducted. [Frm Denyse: Hmmm.}

2. Pictures were used, not people. [From Denyse: Many men have decided not to marry a woman after listening to her seriously for two minutes. And vice versa, believe me.]

3. The data are necessarily limited to what people find physically attractive [From Denyse: Yes, attractive in a given environment today. Thinness, lauded by study participants, is a valued quality ONLY in societies where people get lots to eat whenever they wish, so they can merely choose not to eat. In less wealthy societies, thinness signals impending disaster. In many societies today, people still prefer to be fat, hence the current public health uproar about the worldwide epidemic of obesity.]

4. The subjects knew they were taking part in an experiment. [From Denyse: Which means that they were factoring in what elite opinion expects. That's really important. How many guys claim to prefer a thin girlfriend to a plump one - unless they know they are being monitored, and anyway no actual girlfriend is in sight?]

My friend writes, "Of course this study necessarily ignores the fact that ideas about attractiveness have changed enormously throughout history, but that's okay, we'll call it hardwired anyway. In other words, they ignore known history in favor of fairytales about eons ago."

Yes indeed. Body piercings have become a rage in Toronto.

In my view, the key to being attractive is, be nice. Niceness is underrated. Yes, it is bland, but it works, if all you want is a seat in the dress circle or some face time with an important official. Cinderella and Snow White weren't wrong about everything.


Evolutionary psychology: Good news, at last, for credit card companies!

"After eons of evolution, men are hardwired to overspend and max out credit cards to attract mates, a study last year concluded."

Of course it did.

You can be sure that the study would not have concluded that the countless generations of men who drove hard bargains out of necessity - for whom it was a matter of honour as well as necessity to do so - were our far more representative ancestors.

Ooga ooga.