Why Are Atheists Generally Smarter Than Religious People?

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Scholars have realized for over a millennium that atheists are usually more intelligent than people who follow religion.

It is not known why this is a trend that persists, however, researchers of a brand new study have suggested that they might have an idea. They have said that religion is an instinct and that people who are able to rise above these instincts have more intelligence than people who rely on them.

It was said that intelligence in rationally solving issues may be understood as involving overcoming instinct along with being intellectually curious and so open to possibilities that are non-instinctive, according to a researcher from the Ulster Institute for Social Research in the UK, Edward Dutton.

Romans And Ancient Greeks Thought That Religious People Were Fools

In the study, Dutton said that the people of classical Roman and Greek times widely said that it was fools who tended to be religious and the wise ones were often the skeptics. It wasn’t just the ancient people who seemed to pick up on this as scientists did run an analysis of 63 studies and this revealed that religious people are often less intelligent than the people who are non-religious.

It seems that this association is stronger with college students and the public than people who are younger than college age. The association was also said to be stronger for religious beliefs instead of religious behavior, according to the analysis that had been published in 2013.

Non-Religious People May Be More Rational

The question has been why the association exists and Dutton wanted to seek out the answer. He thought that maybe it was due to the fact that people who were not religious were more rational than those who followed religion and they were able to reason better that there was no God.

Dutton more recently said that perhaps he had got this wrong as he had come across evidence that intelligence is associated positively with a certain type of bias. He pointed out that in 2012 a study that had been published revealed that students in college generally get logical answers wrong but they do not realize it. He went on to say that the bias blind spot as he called it occurs when people are unable to detect bias and flaws in their own thinking. He went on to say that if anything, there was a larger bias blind spot associated with higher cognitive ability.

The researcher posed a question to students which required them to suppress or evaluate the first solution that came into their minds to get the right answer and it seems that many of them failed.

Dutton believes that if people who are intelligent are less likely to be able to perceive their own bias, it means that in some respects they are less rational. So the next question that Dutton asked was why intelligence is associated with atheism. He suggested that the answer may lie with the fact that religion is an instinct and intelligence is needed to be able to overcome instinct.

Of course, Dutton was not the first to come up with the idea that religion is an instinct as the idea also came from Satoshi Kanazawa, an evolutionary psychologist from the London School of Economics.

General Intelligence May Have Evolved

She was involved in a study with the name of the Savanna-IQ Interaction Hypothesis and her theory tries to explain the differences in the attitudes and behavior between people who are less intelligent and intelligent people. Nathan Cofnas from the University of Oxford in the UK said that they hypothesis has been based on two assumptions.

The first is that people are psychologically adapted to be able to solve recurrent problems that were faced by ancestors in the African savanna. The second is that general intelligence has evolved and helps people to deal with problems that are non-recurrent and for which there have not been any psychological adaptations that have evolved.

This assumption means that people with intelligence should be far better at dealing with evolutionary novelty situations and things that did not exist in the environment of ancestors that unintelligent people.

This is a theory that has been modified by Dutton and his associate Van der Linden, which suggests that evolutionary novelty might be something that opposed instincts that have evolved.

Dutton and Linden have suggested that if religion has a base that is instinctual, people with intelligence would be better suited to be able to overcome it and adopt atheism. However, without knowing the nature of religious instinct, it is not possible to be able to rule out the possibility that atheism is able to harness the same instinct.

The Author Christopher Hitchens said that communism was a religion and movements such as veganism appeals to a lot of the same impulses and instincts that more traditional religion does. Both nonreligious and religious movements are said to rely on faith and identify with communities who believe.

People Often Operate On Pure Instinct Alone

The researchers also looked at a link between stress and instinct and put the emphasis on people tending to operate on pure instinct on its own when they were stressed. He said that often people turn to religion when they have experiences a near-death experience.

Researchers have argued that intelligence is said to help people rise above such instincts when they are stressed. Dutton said that if religion is a domain that has evolved then at times of stress it will be heightened; when people then act instinctively and he went on to say that there has been clear evidence of this happening. He went on to say that people who manage to rise above instincts are usually better when it comes to solving problems.

Dutton said that if another person was to pick a fight or argument with another then it would be reasonable for that person to consider hitting them in the face if they had lower intelligence. However, on the other hand, a person with more intelligence would manage to stop themselves from doing this as they would be able to reason through it and solve the issue much better in another way.

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