Fair use prevents me from simply posting the entire article, but the full paper is available in volume 37 of Intelligence
, which is available at most university libraries or via public libraries either in their stacks or online access. Ask your local librarian.
The present study examined whether IQ relates systematically to denomination and income within the framework of the g nexus, using representative data from the National Longitudinal Study of Youth (NLSY97). Atheists score 1.95 IQ points higher than Agnostics, 3.82 points higher than Liberal persuasions, and 5.89 IQ points higher than Dogmatic persuasions. Denominations differ significantly in IQ and income. Religiosity declines between ages 12 to 17. It is suggested that IQ makes an individual likely to gravitate toward a denomination and level of achievement that best fit his or hers particular level of cognitive complexity. Ontogenetically speaking this means that contemporary denominations are rank ordered by largely hereditary variations in brain efficiency (i.e. IQ). In terms of evolution, modern Atheists are reacting rationally to cognitive and emotional challenges, whereas Liberals and, in particular Dogmatics, still rely on ancient, pre-rational, supernatural and wishful thinking.
The “g nexus” that Dr. Nyborg refers to is the “general intelligence” factor, a construct used in psychology to quantify common trends across various methods of scoring intelligence. Basically, there is an assumption that there exists a factor in human cognition that drives intelligence which may be phenotypical and an indicator of brain efficiency. While the g factor hypothesis generated a fair bit of controversy in the early 1980s, most notably from Stephen J. Gould, it has since become widely accepted with the advent of much empirical research. Wikipedia
barely touches on this topic for which entire texts have been written, but I provide that link as a starting point for anyone interested in further information.
What Nyborg attempts to do (and appears to succeed) is to bring religiosity into the g nexus. Nyborg acknowledges the scientific curiosity of the “origin, development and persistence of religion worldwide” in his introduction to the research questions. He also notes the pervasive nature of religion across global boundaries as a human condition, anthropologically relevant to understanding human cognition in general given the presence of religion in both developing and developed nations and given the diverse range of superstitions and beliefs which exist.
Nyborg describes his research thus:
The present study examines the working hypothesis that
dogmatism reflects a neurologically less than optimally evolved low g brain that seek supernatural guidance in ambiguous or life threatening situations. The study begins with two sets of a priori assumptions. First, high g people have a brain based biological capacity for solving complex problems, and for acting rationally when confronted with fundamental questions about existence, human nature, underlying causes, or the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”. Second, low g people lack this protection and are therefore unfairly ordained to live in a prerational world based on poorly validated evidence and little accumulated insight. They accordingly often find themselves in cognitively, emotionally, or morally challenging situations and have to use plan B, that is, to call upon easily comprehensible religious authoritative guidance and to submit more or less uncritically to culturally given stereotyped rituals. Frustration with their life may also make them seek redemption or faith in an after life.
Nyborg also describes Six testable syllogisms about g which defined the empirical program:
Premises 1 and 2:
Cognitively complex people typically resort to reason, science and data to reduce uncertainty,whereas people lacking this cognitive protection often resort to ancient supernatural beliefs and claims. Ergo: High-IQ people gravitate towards atheism and/or science, and low-IQ people become religious.
Premise 1 and 2+premise 3:
Denominations differ in cognitive complexity. Ergo, 2a: Cognitively highly complex people choose Atheism/science; 2b: Medium complex people choose liberal denominations (i.e. fairly open, critical, less committed, metaphorical, cultural heritage type), and 2c:Least complex people drift towards dogmatic denominations (committed, personal relationship with Jesus, emphasis on sinfulness, fixed rules for behavior, and need for atonement).
Premise 4: Denominations of different conceptual complexity also differ in IQ. Ergo: Denominations can be systematically rank ordered by average IQ.
Premis 5: Denominations that differ in distribution score will according to Gaussian distribution theory also differ in the proportions of high-IQ individuals (i.e. with IQ≥120)—the group from which society primarily recruits its members for the upper positions. Obviously, the absolute denominational contribution of high-IQ members also depends on its numerical size. Ergo: Large denominations may offer more gifted individuals to occupy the upper religious and social positions in society than do small denominations, even if they do have relatively low mean IQs and Sds.
IQ is the most important single predictor of income. Ergo: Denominations with high IQ earn more than less favored denominations.
Premises 7 and 8:
The indicator for the heritability of IQ goes up with age as children have more chances to actively create their own environment rather than just reacting passively to parental directions. Moreover, individuals tend to gravitate over time towards a job with a task complexity that matches their own cognitive complexity level— the so-called Gravitation hypothesis. In the present context the Gravitation hypothesis gives basis for the expectation that individuals will gravitate over time towards a non-faith/faith position with a degree of complexity that matches their own cognitive complexity. Ergo: Agnostic and Atheist persuasions become increasingly more prevalent from ages 12 to 17, and the proportion of religious believers drops accordingly.
Nyborg conducted 12 sub-tests on sample sizes that exceeded 10,600,000 adolescents based on CAT-ASVAB97 test scores converted to IQ across 19 denominations which included Roman Catholic, Methodist, Baptist, Muslim, atheist, agnostic Pentecostal, and Presbyterian among others.
Results of these data show:
The data, as we can see in the lengthy and detailed methods section of his paper, aren't from Nyborg's own survey questions, questionnaires, or subjective hypotheses. They are arrived at using existing test scores used by the Department of Defense (the ASVAB test that many adolescents take every year in high school) and use to place potential service members in jobs and specialties to which they are cognitively suited
The results are clear: “white religious people trail Atheists by 5.13 IQ points. Analysis of variance on the actual number of respondents indicates that this difference is statistically significant (p=.02).”
The study itself makes no assertion of why
, but seeks only to demonstrate the correlation between cognitive function and what people are willing to accept with regard to beliefs.
Pentecostals, for instance, are among the more dogmatic of religious adherents and I don't think it would be a stretch or generalization to imagine that the vast and overwhelming majority of this denomination are conservative republicans.
Pentecostals, however, also subscribe to the most fantastic of beliefs -things that are completely without intellectual merit or expectation of being true
by those who are among the population who have higher cognitive function. Things like snake-handling, speaking in tongues (glossolalia), young-earth creationism, etc.
The prediction of the study is that this group would have a lower IQ (lower cognitive function) than more liberal groups. I actually didn't look at the table in the study before
choosing Pentecostal as an example, but it turned out that the prediction holds. Pentecostals scored an average of 101.89 as an IQ whereas atheists scored an average of 111.08.
Interestingly enough, and for those that might think so, I'm not asserting atheists are "smartest" nor is Nyborg. Indeed, the data are clear on this: The Episcopal/Angelican group scored the highest IQ at 113.43 with the Jewish denomination a close second at 112.43. Atheists actually placed 3rd and Agnostics 4th with an average IQ of 109.13.
When comparing religious denominations, Nyborg rated (by using the ratings of previous authors/studies) denominations as either liberal or dogmatic, defining both thus:
a. Liberal: fairly open, critical, less committed, metaphorical, cultural heritage-type persuasion.
b. Dogmatic: more committed, personal relationship with Jesus, emphasis on sinfulness, explicit rules for behavior and need for atonement.
Nyborg, Helmuth (2008). The intelligence-religiosity nexus: a representative study of white adolescent Americans. Intelligence
, 37(1), 81-93.